Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Obviously, you will be doing more than one thing, so I am being rhetorical. But do run to the BBC iplayer and listen to Front Row for 12th January, if you can. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00pqc5j/Front_Row_12_01_2010/
Front Row, which like all Radio Four programmes, goes through its doldrums, is on a tear at the moment. Tonight was a particular delight, because of a ravishing interview with EL Doctorow. I like to think I know a bit about literature. It is my job, after all, and I have enough of the intellectual popinjay in me to feel a horrible vanity in my ability to quote Auden and Yeats and Scott Fitzgerald. But I have hideous spaces of blank ignorance. I can still remember feeling properly embarrassed when I had to admit to Sarah's husband that I had never read Felix Holt. It's stupid, because no one, not even writers, can read everything, and even if they could, it would not turn them magically into interesting and charming people.
Anyway, one of my terrible blank spaces turns out to be EL Doctorow. I have never read any of his books. I think I rather assumed he was dead. But there he was, really quite alive, his voice gravelled with thought and cleverness. I fell instantly in love with him. Every sentence he spoke was a thing of delight. He sounds quite old now, and perhaps he was always this way, but he has the air of a man who has seen enough not to have to prove anything. There was a slowness in his speech, as if he had no need to persuade. Because of this, he was a thousand times more persuasive than all those people on the radio who shout and cajole and talk incredibly fast, as if somehow that will make them prove their point. I wanted to follow him to the ends of the earth.
This thing with voices is something I've been noticing a lot lately: the calmer and more low key the speaker, the more ardently you want to listen to them, and the more keenly you believe them. Barack Obama has this gift, with his lovely low thoughtful cadence. The fast high energy voices just sound as if they are trying to sell you something, and if the recession has taught us anything, it is that we should all resist hucksters with every part of our main and might.
If you do go and listen, you get, as a bonus, a hysterical piece on Meatloaf. I had no idea he was so funny. Mark Lawson has a perfectly heavenly time calling him Mr Loaf, in that very British ironical fashion, just like Jeremy Paxman did when he kept saying, 'Now Mr Rascal, what do you think?' to Dizzee Rascal on Newsnight. There is also an amusing item on song lyrics. But the shining highlight is the magnificent Mr Doctorow, whose new book I am running out to buy as soon as I can get my car through the snow.
Picture of the day is not one of mine. I had to research Marilyn Monroe for the book this morning. (Today's word count 783; not stellar, but not too shabby.) I suddenly realised I did not know very much about her, apart from those iconic photography sessions with Eve Arnold, the sad marriage to Arthur Miller, and the conspiracy theories about her being done in by the CIA. She gave a long, heartbreaking, last interview to Life Magazine, which has made me view her in an entire new light. Her haunted face is what I saw today: