The episode is delightfully light hearted and well informed as the presenters, John Mitchinson and Andy Miller, sit comfortably at Pullman's kitchen table (which was "pretty full of books, but they managed to clear a space").
Pullman starts off by recollecting his first encounter with the The Anatomy of Love as teen in the 1960s, just as he was "beginning to be interested in words". They go on to discuss many angles of Melancholy (specifically the third edition, first published in 1628); the illustrated frontispiece featuring Robert Burton's own 'blurb', its 124 page preface, Burton's persona as Democritus Junior (aka the laughing philosopher) and ultimately the book's position in English literature:
"It sits between the medieval world and classical world and the modern world of science… it gives us an immensely powerful feeling of what it was like to live at that time, between these worlds and between doctrines as well. Doctrines passionately felt and dangerously threatening..."
Pullman clearly loves this book, considering it a treasure of English literature, culture and history. And that is precisly the point.
Backlisted sets itself apart from other literary podcasts by championing great, often un-sung books. They invite their guests (usually writers or critics) to sing the praises of a book they love and which they think deserves a wider audience. It's not about selling something new, but rather 'how and why some books stand the test of time'. Their goal is to make us - their listeners - want to read them.
As a result of their unique approach, Backlisted has become one of the most popular literary podcasts on the market, regularly featured in iTunes' Top 10 list. Their most popular episode to date is #49 in which Una McCormack and Lucy Scholes join John and Andy to discuss Look At Me by Anita Brookner. A full list of episodes, books and guests can be found on their website.
Backlisted gives new life to old books and proves that our collective joy of reading is very much alive, even if the community has changed venue.
So subscribe, switch on, tune in, press play and allow this lovely podcast to brighten up your next long journey.