Why I love... the LRB
Senior editor Rob Hobson tells us why reading the London Review of Books increases his intelligence – and could increase yours, too...
Books make us cleverer. You know this, I know this. It follows, then, that reading a magazine about clever people reading clever books should create some sort of event horizon in the collective IQ of the nation.
Last month, I calculated the value of pi to 11,000 decimal places while eating a quantum sandwich. That’s how clever the London Review of Books makes me. To those people that find this claim unconvincing – those of you, for example, who work with me on a daily basis – I can only say that I’m very good at masking my fearsome intellect with a veneer of irritable insouciance.
The LRB does books. It also does politics, film and the occasional rambling essay by Alan Bennett. Why is it brilliant? Because it never takes your intelligence for granted. In an age in which we’re relentlessly force-fed exposition without being given the opportunity to interpret it in our own way, it’s one of the few publications kind enough to assume that its readers are capable of forming original thoughts.
This isn’t to say it’s impenetrable. It has embraced the digital world, with a blog and Facebook page, and does the bitesize nugget as well as the intimidating 5,000-worder that delicately sinks a stiletto heel in the back of US foreign policy.
But it also has a healthy sense of the absurd, as we discover in a piece on the greatest newspaper headlines of all time. You’ll be unsurprised to hear that 'Naked dwarf porn double found dead in a badger hole in Wales' ranks highly, although for me it can’t compete with the ineffable majesty of the Times’ announcement that Michael Foot, then leader of the Labour party, would be chairing a committee on European disarmament: 'Foot heads arms body'.
Sadly, one of the LRB’s best-loved features was discontinued in 2011. No longer will we subscribers be able to enjoy the wittiest, oddest personal ads in the English language, most of them seemingly concocted at 3am by inebriated professors. I’ll finish with an example but, if you’re inspired to read more, an anthology is available.
I hate you all. I hate London. I hate books. I hate critics. I hate this magazine, I hate this column and I hate all the goons who appear in it. But if you have large breasts, are younger than 30 and don't want to talk about the novel you're 'writing', I'll put all that aside for approximately two hours one Saturday afternoon in January. Man, 33.