On Monday night I stared at a bald scalp for an hour. The event was a sell out—about 50 people, primarily bespectacled, cardigan-wearing males in their 20s, packed into the London Review Bookshop to hear Tom McCarthy talk about his new novel, C—currently 2-1 favourite to win this year’s Booker prize. Having failed to arrive sufficiently early, my restricted view was unavoidable.
As I sat there, cursing the seating arrangement, staring at the aforementioned scalp, occasionally leaning into the aisle to catch a glimpse of McCarthy, I wondered why I had paid £6 for the privilege. After all, such talks are usually available as a podcast soon after the event. The LSE, RSA, and Intelligence Squared have made huge amounts of fascinating audio readily available to the curious internet user. The LRB has made particular effort with its own archive, with dozens of talks, beautifully recorded and presented, available for free on its website.