New Editor wanted at Granta and Charles Moore’s lavish book launch

Book news.

John Freeman, the Editor of Granta magazine, will leave to teach creative writing at Columbia University following the publication of their next issue: “Travel”. Sigrid Rausing, the magazine's publisher, is currently on the look out for a replacement.

Over 150,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the UK government take “decisive action [to] make Amazon pay its fair share of UK corporation tax”. The petition drafted by Frances and Keith Smith, independent booksellers from London, was inspired by Margaret Hodge’s questioning of representatives from Google, Amazon and Starbucks last November.

In a throwback to the heyday of publishing, Charles Moore’s authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher was launched at a lavish book party in the Banqueting House in Westminster. David Cameron and George Osborne were in attendance. Jeffery Archer was spotted buying a copy of the book at the temporary stand on the evening, so eager was he, and a number of others, to get hold of a copy.

John le Carré has published his 23rd novel: A Delicate Truth. The team behind Skyfall and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy have made a short film to celebrate. Watch it here.

Finally, for the discerning voyeur, 25 rare photographs of famous authors.

World Book Day in Bucharest, Romania. Image: Getty Images.

Book talk from the New Statesman culture desk.

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Intelligent life on earth: why we need Radio 4's Book of the Week

When a book on quantum gravity came on air, it sounded like a brief return to something that has declined so much over our lifetimes – knowledge as part of a function of a media flow.

It sounded like the densest of abridgements: five days of excerpts from Reality Is Not What It Seems: the Journey to Quantum Gravity by the Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli (week beginning 28 November, 9.45am). Swarms of quantum events where time does not exist. Cosmology, meteorology and cathedrals of atomism. Leucippus of Miletus and lines of force filling space. Very few of us listening could have understood what was being said. Instead, we just allowed it to wash over, reminding us that there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.

Perhaps once or twice, as the week progressed, token attempts were made to check that everybody was keeping up (“So, the number of nanoseconds in a second is the same as the number of seconds in 30 years”) – or to encourage listeners to picture themselves as part of an experiment (“Imagine I’m on Mars, and you were here . . .”). But generally it was utterly airtight, the reader, Mark Meadows, doing a good job of keeping his voice at a pace and tone uncondescendingly brisk, flattering us that nobody was scratching their head (“The speed of light determined by Maxwell’s equations is velocity with respect to what?”).

It was my favourite radio book reading of 2016. Not because I learned a single thing I could repeat, or might realistically mull over, but because it sounded like a brief return to something that has declined so much over our lifetimes – knowledge as part of a function of a media flow.

It’s that old idea that something might be there for your betterment. When we were exposed to just four channels on television especially, and forced to stay on them, we got into astronomy and opera and all sorts of stuff, almost against our will. (Rigoletto? Jesus. Well, there’s nothing else on . . .) The programme was marvellously and unapologetically impenetrable, as the days and chapters piled up relentlessly (“We are immersed in a gigantic flexible snail shell”). What this adaptation comprehended was that we don’t actually want someone explaining Einstein to us. What is much more compelling – more accurate and clever – is simply to show what it’s like in other people’s brains. 

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 08 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit to Trump