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A weekly culture and ideas podcast brought to you by the Times Literary Supplement.
Jill Lepore traces the history of conspiracy theories and the conditions that allow them to thrive; Tim Crane talks us through whether we have free will or not, and why it is still a problem; Michael Caines looks at non-traditional approaches to criticism

CONSPIRACIES OF CONSPIRACIES: How delusions have overrun America, by Thomas Milan Konda
THE STIGMATIZATION OF CONSPIRACY THEORY SINCE THE 1950s:  ‘A plot to make us look foolish’, by Katharina Thalmann
THE AMERICAN CONSPIRACIES AND COVER-UPS: JFK, 9/11, the Fed, rigged elections, suppressed cancer cures, and the greatest conspiracies of our time, by Douglas Cirignano
REPUBLIC OF LIES: American conspiracy theorists and their surprising rise to power, by Anna Merlan
A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE SAYING:The new conspiracism and the assault on democracy, by Russell Muirhead and Nancy L. Rosenblum
HARVESTER OF HEARTS: Motherhood under the sign of Frankenstein, by Rachel Feder
THE HUNDREDS, by Lauren Berlant and Kathleen Stewart
TUNNEL VISION, by Kevin Breathnach
The Limits of Free Will: Selected essays by Paul Russell
Aspects of Agency: Decisions, abilities, explanations, and free will by Alfred R. Mele
Self-Determination: The ethics of action – Volume One by Thomas Pink For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Following the discovery of a strange book, Sarah Green revises the story of the late nineteenth-century poet Lionel Johnson, whose legacy was distorted in the 1950s by a criminal with a taste for fancy bedding; in the US, of 70,000 cases that went to disposition in 2016, more than 99 per cent resulted in conviction. What does this tell us? Clive Stafford Smith explains why American justice is a mirage; since 2015, Refugee Tales – part walking pilgrimage, part protest, part collection of narratives about those unjustly treated by Britain’s immigration system – has become an annual event. David Herd tells us what ground remains to be covered

Doing Justice: A prosecutor’s thoughts on crime, punishment, and the rule of law, by Preet Bharara For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Nick Groom ponders the fate of the beleaguered British countryside and shares new theories about the economics of the natural world; En Liang Khong takes us through the increasingly global phenomenon of Japanese manga (which translates as “pictures run riot”); Damian Flanagan on Mishima, a writer who yearned to transcend time and identity

Green and Prosperous Land: A blueprint for rescuing the British countryside by Dieter Helm
Who Owns England?: How we lost our green and pleasant land and how to take it back, by Guy Shrubsole
Manga, and exhibition at the British Museum in London
Star, by Yukio Mishima; translated by Sam Bett
The Frolics of the Beasts, by Yukio Mishima; translated by Andrew Clare For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Nature for sale,
When Irving Sandler wrote his seminal history of abstract expressionism, he neglected to mention Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan and Elaine de Kooning – Jenni Quilter joins us to put these artists back in the frame; Laura Tunbridge discusses the interconnected, complicated and often contradictory myths and realities that link Chopin, Schumann and Brahms; finally, the TLS's music editor Lucy Dallas takes us through a selection of other pieces on music in this week's issue, including new histories of the blues and the poetic pop of Kate Bush and the Pet Shop Boys

Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler: Five painters and the movement that changed modern art, by Mary Gabriel
Fryderyk Chopin: A life and times by Alan Walker
Schumann: The faces and masks by Judith Chernaik
Brahms in Context, edited by Natasha Loges and Katy Hamilton
(with Liebeslieder Walzer, Opus 52, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra)
Up Jumped the Devil: The real life of Robert Johnson by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow
The Original Blues: The emergence of the Blues in African American vaudeville, by Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff
One Hundred Lyrics and a Poem by Neil Tennant
How To Be Invisible by Kate Bush For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Unromancing the Romantics,
It’s the centenary of the birth of Iris Murdoch, the novelist-philosopher who dominated the literary pages for much of the twentieth century. Where do we stand on her now? Michael Caines and Frances Wilson discuss; This was the week that the US women’s football team won the World Cup. Devoney Looser, the roller derby queen of academia, enjoys “a brief opportunity to revel in America’s better strengths”. For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Loving Iris Murdoch,
Do the kids – in these times of identity politics – still read Updike? The answer is “probably not”. But should they? Claire Lowdon makes the case; Toby Lichtig discusses Chelsea Manning, the US Army data analyst turned whistle-blower, and a new documentary on her life; Eric Rauchway considers the prevalence of pro-Nazi feeling and policy in 1940s America and beyond

Novels 1959–1965: The Poorhouse Fair, Rabbit, Run, The Centaur, Of the Farm, by John Updike (Library of America)
XY Chelsea, directed by Tim Travers Hawkins
Hitler’s American Friends: The Third Reich’s supporters in the United States, by Bradley Hart
The Unwanted: America, Auschwitz, and a village caught in between, by Michael Dobbs For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Who reads John Updike? ,
Thea Lenarduzzi on the cultural history of gesture and body language; What is Chaucer to us today? When did he become known as the "Father of English poetry", and what did he get up to when he was not writing rude and memorable poetry? Julia Boffey explains; the Stonewall uprising in New York is remembered as a pivotal moment in LGBTQ rights – fifty years on, Hugh Ryan revisits the history Books Dictionary of Gestures: Expressive comportments and movements in use around the world by François CaradecSilent History: Body language and nonverbal identity, 1860–1914, by Peter K. AnderssonThe Stonewall Riots: A documentary history, edited by Marc SteinThe Stonewall Reader, edited by the New York Public LibraryPride: Photographs after Stonewall by Fred W. McDarrahLove and Resistance: Out of the closet into the Stonewall era, edited by Jason Baumann For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Talk to the hands,
TLS contributors – including David Baddiel, Mary Beard, Paul Muldoon and Elizabeth Lowry – give their seasonal reading recommendations; TLS editors wreak havoc and suggest their own. (Visit the-tls.co.uk to read the summer books feature in full.) For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy
Summer Books 2019,
A "new" ending to a Nabokov novel and the unregarded first volume of Vasily Grossman's epic, the "Soviet War and Peace"; Rebecca Reich guides us through these and the question of whether the West is paranoid about Russia or vice versa; Laura Freeman joins us to talk about dinner with the Durrells and pond life sandwiches.BooksStalingrad: A novel by Vasily GrossmanVasily Grossman and the Soviet Century by Alexandra PopoffPlots against Russia by Eliot BorensteinThe Russia Anxiety by Mark B. SmithDining with the Durrells by David Shimwell
Russian greats and fictional eats,
If capitalism is broken, can it be fixed? And can it save the environment? Joseph E. Stiglitz discusses; as we mark seventy-five years since the D-Day landings, William Boyd considers a brilliant new "worm's-eye view" of historical events; a decade after leaving academia for the "wilderness of writing", Stephen Marche returns to report on the troubled field of the humanitiesThe Future of Capitalism: Facing the new anxieties by Paul CollierCapitalism: The future of an illusion by Fred L. BlockMoney and Government: A challenge to mainstream economics by Robert SkidelskyNormandy ’44: D-Day and the battle for France by James Holland
Ethical economics,
Anna Katharina Schaffner on the cultural history of fat and fat phobia; the TLS's travel editor Catharine Morris on why Paris will always be disappointing, the solitude of open spaces, and the problem with "Victor" the archetypal travel writer; an extract from the 2019 Man Booker International prize-winning Celestial Bodies by Jokha al-Harthi, read by the novel's translator Marilyn Booth BooksFat: A cultural history of the stuff of life by Christopher E. ForthThe Truth About Fat by Anthony WarnerFearing the Black Body: The racial origins of fat phobia by Sabrina StringsWe’ll Never Have Paris, edited by Andrew GallixThe Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel EhrlichHeida: A shepherd at the edge of the world by Steinunn Sigurðardóttir and Heiða Ásgeirsdóttír, translated by Philip RoughtonWhere the Hornbeam Grows: A journey in search of a garden by Beth LynchThe Cambridge History of Travel Writing, edited by Nandini Das and Tim YoungsCelestial Bodies by Jokha al-Harthi, translated by Marilyn Booth
Weighty matters,
The Omani novelist Jokha al-Harthi and the translator Marilyn Booth won this year's Man Booker International prize for fiction in translation, for the novel Celestial Bodies, an account of three sisters living in the village of al-Awafi in an Oman on the brink of change. A couple of days after the announcement, at Waterstones book shop in Piccadilly, the winners spoke to the Turkish novelist Elif Shafak about the novel, Arabic culture and modernisation, translation, and women’s wisdom.
To mark the bicentenary of Queen Victoria's birth, the TLS's history editor David Horspool guides us through all manner of Victorian matters, including the Widow of Windsor's mastery of soft power, how different things might have been had she been born a boy, how the Victorians amused themselves, and the Rebecca Riots; we also have a symposium in this week's paper, asking writers and thinkers – including Steven Pinker and Bernardine Evaristo – to tell us about the important books from their childhoods. To discuss this – and to share our own youthful reading – we're joined in the studio by a [insert collective noun here] of TLS editors Go to www.the-tls.co.uk/ to read a selection of articles from our Victorian special issue, and much more.Our symposium was prompted by an initiative – Books To Inspire – launched by Hay Festival Wales, aiming to compile a crowd-sourced list of titles to inspire the next generation. Find out more at hayfestival.com
Victoria at 200,
The comedian and writer Helen Lederer joins us to discuss gender and comedy and the new Comedy Women In Print Prize; Lucy Dallas considers a clutch of novels in which animals might offer a little respite from human company; the TLS’s philosophy editor Tim Cranes guides us through the riches of this week’s philosophy issue, including how the advent of biological immortality might augur “the greatest inequality experienced in all human history” and what happened when Michel Foucault took LSD in Death Valley To Leave with the Reindeer by Olivia Rosenthal, translated by Sophie LewisAnimalia by Jean-Baptiste del Amo, translated by Frank WynneThe Animal Gazer by Edgardo Franzosini, translated by Michael F. Moore“The last mortals: why we are especially unfortunate to die, when our near-descendants could be immortal", by Regini Rini – see this week’s TLS (in print and online)Foucault in California: A true story, wherein the great French philosopher drops acid in the Valley of Death by Simeon Wade
Knowing laughter,
Robert Macfarlane joins us to discuss our "peculiar times", the memory of ice, and the world beneath out feet; Margie Orford brings our attention to South Africa at a crucial moment in its history, twenty-five years since the first democratic election and as another makes its mark; Nicola Shulman offers a new theory about race in Disney's original Dumbo, from 1941Underland: A deep time journey by Robert MacfarlaneThe Café de Move-on Blues: In search of the new South Africa by Christopher Hope
Journey to the centre of the earth,
As Avengers: Endgame is released, Roz Kaveney sweeps us through the shifting cast of superheroes and, latterly, heroines that populate the Marvel Universe, considers the evolving politics of the comic-book film, and answers the question on (some) people's lips: "but why...?"; Imogen Russell Williams's introduces some of the best writing on LGBTQ themes for children and young adultsAvengers: Endgame Spiderman: Into the SpiderverseJulian Is a Mermaid by Jessica LoveAalfred and Aalbert by Morag Hood Death in the Spotlight by Robin Stevens Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L. C. RosenProud: Stories, poetry and art on the theme of pride, compiled by Juno Dawson
To infinities – and beyond,
Ruth Scurr on the master biographer Robert A. Caro, whose subjects include Robert Moses, Lyndon B. Johnson and, now, himself; Dmitri Levitin talks us through Diogenes Laertius' Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, an eccentric and often inaccurate guide to early thinkers; Why bother with literary criticism? Whither this generation's Lionel Trilling? Michael LaPointe joins us to discussWorking: Researching, interviewing, writing by Robert A. CaroAmerican Audacity: In defense of literary daring by William GiraldiHater: On the virtues of utter disagreeability by John SemleyLives of the Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius, translated by Pamela Mensch
The life-writing issue,
The novelist discusses his new book Machines Like Me with the TLS's fiction editor Toby Lichtig
Ian McEwan – an interview,
There is only one author to whom the TLS devotes an issue every year: William Shakespeare. Michael Caines talks us through the latest theories, research and reviews; Ian McEwan discusses his new novel, Machines Like Me  ‘Still a giddy neighbour’ – Shakespeare’s parish in the 1590s, by Geoffrey Marsh, the TLSThe Bible on the Shakespearean Stage: Cultures of interpretation in Renaissance England, edited by Thomas Fulton and Kristen PooleBelieving in Shakespeare: Studies in longing, by Claire McEachernReligious Conversion in Early Modern English Drama, by Lieke StellingWhat Blest Genius?: The Jubilee that made Shakespeare, by Andrew McConnell StottShakespeare’s Rise to Cultural Prominence: Politics, print and alteration, 1642–1700, by Emma DepledgeShakespeare: The theatre of our world, by Peter ConradMachines Like Me by Ian McEwan (Cape)
As we like it,
Shauneen Lambe on ephibiphobia, fear of the teenager, and why we get youth justice wrong; Alice Bloch considers new possibilities at the frontiers of sex and robotics; George Berridge explains why now is the time to take out shares in the novelist Max Porter Why Children Follow Rules: Legal socialization and the development of legitimacy by Tom R. Tyler and Rick TrinknerJames GarbarinoMiller’s Children: Why giving teenage killers a second chance matters for all of us by James GarbarinoTurned On: Science, sex and robots by Kate DevlinGrief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter, adapted by Enda Walsh (Barbican Theatre, before heading to New York)Lanny by Max Porter
Youth injustice system,
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