What do I think of the London Review? I’m glad you asked…

I ought to take more surveys, because they force me to concentrate and have a way of turning postable.  It’s fun to try to figure out how many hardcovers I’ve bought recently and whether I buy gin often enough to qualify for “not that often but sometimes”, and it’s weird to see into the minds of the marketing people who care about it.  Here’s a paragraph I turned in describing what I think of the London Review of Books:

I think it’s great.  I value very highly the LRB’s attention to serious issues and works of philosophy, history, and politics.  Where else would I read about prosopography?  My main point of comparison for the LRB is the New York Review, and in this respect I think the LRB is superior.  If I am not mistaken, this is because the LRB selects more scholarly books for review and occasionally allows reviewers greater space.  I also appreciate the occasional departure from usual form represented by authors such as Eliot Weinberger or a diary on fan fiction.  Thanks!

To be fair, I should say that the NYR strikes me as wider ranging and superior in its coverage of American politics and culture.  It also has more pictures!

If I had to choose one, I’d probably go with the LRB.  In addition to what I said above, I like the LRB’s archive and the electronic version a lot.  I also have access to both magazines at my institution, so it’s not really such a terrible prospect.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you can look forward to a post on Nicholson Baker’s essays sometime, and maybe even a series on my preposterously uninformed reading of Roger Penrose’s The Road to Reality.


A grim piece in the London Review of Books titled “Ghosts of the Tsunami” really got to me.  Mistaking it for a piece of political reportage, I almost didn’t read it. It turned out to be a bunch of wild ghost stories surrounding the disaster that struck Japan less than three years ago.  Tucked in the midst of it is a vivid but brief sketch of Japanese religion that maybe offers a foothold for the reader.  Otherwise, though it’s wrapped in a kind of journalistic veneer, there’s nothing detached or sceptical about the way these stories are told.  I think I’m having trouble making sense of it because it’s such an odd mixture of genre and reality, if that makes sense.  Obviously the trauma and suffering and damage of the tsunami doesn’t belong in the same category as silly ghost stories, but the piece suggests that the classic scary story is an important part of dealing with all this.

It’s an affecting article.  If you read it, I’m curious to know what you think.