LRB Readings

Listen to LRB essays and reviews in full, either read by the author or produced by our audio partner, Audm.

On Snow

Anne Carson, 21 April 2022

21 April 2022 · 12mins

As we talked I was watching snow drift down the dusk outside, counting it, one hundred and five, one hundred and six, one hundred and seven, when out of a pause my mother said: ‘It’s funny to have no home’ – funny being a funny word for what she meant.

The Fog of History: On Olga Tokarczuk

Fredric Jameson, 24 March 2022

24 March 2022 · 27mins

We have been approaching the figure of Jacob in a spirit of reverence, with hushed voices, as in church, as though he had a religious task or mission. What we have failed to understand is that the Messiah is come, not to fulfil the Law but to destroy it! Not to perfect it but rather to abolish it altogether.

24 March 2022 · 31mins

The EU claims it runs a ‘fully autonomous sanctions regime’ in the service of ‘safeguarding EU values’. But for the most part its sanctions, and those of the UK, are applied in conjunction with US power. The structure of international finance means that even the largest banks can’t afford to provoke American ire.

10 February 2022 · 23mins

Saint Boniface used a manuscript to shield himself when attacked by robbers; the slashes it suffered make it a relic of his martyrdom. Pages of many books are marred by dirty fingerprints, wine stains or, in one case, cat urine. An angry scribe in 1420 scrawled next to a smelly lacuna: ‘Confundatur pessimus cattus qui minxit super librum istum in nocte’ (‘a curse on the wicked cat that pissed on this book last night’).

In the Superstate: What is technopopulism?

Wolfgang Streeck, 27 January 2022

27 January 2022 · 34mins

For the new conservatism, crises arise from disorder, not from a wrong order, and their handling should be entrusted to technicians in command of special knowledge, whether scientific or magical, or both (they are hard to distinguish for the political consumer). Angela Merkel never claimed to be an economist, or a lawyer, or an expert in foreign policy or military strategy. She did, however, have herself described by her communications team, and sometimes described herself, as privy to knowledge of a special kind: that of a scientist trained to solve problems by analysing them from the desired outcome backwards.

Whack-a-Mole: Anti-Vax Sentiments

Rivka Galchen, 27 January 2022

27 January 2022 · 20mins

When the cause of milkmaids’ mysterious invincibility to smallpox was unknown, they were sometimes accused of being witches. What other explanation could there be for their persistent good health?

6 January 2022 · 21mins

Ursula Kuczynski vowed to be better than her mother, an artist whose main talent was for self-regard. However, she found being a good parent harder than being a good communist, and when she had to choose between the two, she invariably chose communism.

Fetch the Chopping Knife: Murder on Bankside

Charles Nicholl, 4 November 2021

4 November 2021 · 31mins

The first true crime craze – the distant antecedent of our own docu-drama craze – proved to be an essentially Elizabethan phenomenon. I would place its high-water mark in the year 1599, when A Warning for Fair Women was staged at the Globe. Over at the Rose, a hundred yards away down Maiden Lane, three new murder plays were commissioned by the Lord Admiral’s Men.

23 September 2021 · 27mins

How can a libertarian be comfortable cosying up to sovereign wealth funds, the military-industrial establishment and the security state? One possible answer is that Peter Thiel is not a libertarian at all. The pretence is just a means of covering up his true business model, which is to rely on craven bureaucrats squandering taxpayers’ money on untested technologies. But the other possibility is that this is the essence of libertarianism.

United States of Amnesia

Eric Foner, 9 September 2021

9 September 2021 · 21mins

One might think it impossible to erase an event of this magnitude from historical memory. But Tulsa tried its best. Scott Ellsworth discovered that police reports and National Guard records had been systematically destroyed; other documents were removed from the state archives. News articles were cut out of surviving copies of local newspapers in the University of Tulsa library.

12 August 2021 · 25mins

Neither Trump nor the people around him were part of a sinister plot to subvert and ultimately take over the democratic institutions of the United States. They didn’t possess even the minimum competence for that. Trump’s presidency was a kind of vacuum of seriousness: the relationship between means and ends was practically non-existent.