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My Cultural Life: Columnist John Masterson on the trouble with Ulysses, Bob Dylan and sleeping


John Masterson

John Masterson

John Masterson

Journalist, broadcaster and sometime psychologist John Masterson spent lockdown writing The Column I Never Wrote, published by The Harvest Press, and he appeared as Uncle Mickey in the Mrs Brown’s Boys New Year special.

BOOK: The Tyranny of Merit

I recommend Michael J Sandel’s The Tyranny of Merit to everyone I meet. I’m a fan of education, education, education, but perhaps we have become obsessed with qualifications with the result that people with great skills feel excluded. I just finished a David Sedaris collection, The Best of Me. I love the quirky way he thinks. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart really stuck with me.

Also, I’m ashamed to have spent over 50 quid recently on Bob Dylan – All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track. I love Dylan’s lyrics and haven’t a clue what half of them mean – bit like Ulysses, which I finally read during lockdown. Did I understand a lot of it? No. Same with Bob.

TV: Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais is such a good writer and performer, is wonderfully offensive and I don’t believe has a prejudiced bone in his body. The Kominsky Method was addictive. I loved Call my Agent, and thought I would love Emily in Paris but didn’t. Just a boring soap with good locations.

MUSIC: Traveling Wilburys

From Philip Glass to Dermot Kennedy, The Blue Nile to the Fauré Requiem (which I recently heard being hummed by my dentist while I got a filling – apparently he was once a boy soprano).

This week in the car it’s The Traveling Wilburys (“... even if you’re old and grey, you still have something to say”). Then there’s Arcade Fire, Pierce Turner and Bob Dylan singing “I could have told you” on repeat.

PODCASTS: Fortunately...

I’m not a great sleeper so I spend the hours of darkness listening to Fortunately... With Fi Glover and Jane Garvey – wonderful broadcasters who laugh like drains and are beautifully offbeat. Then Jon Ronson’s thought-provoking Things Fell Apart.

I always enjoy The Infinite Monkey Cage with Professor Brian Cox and Robert Ince, and occasionally the great guest Trinity College Dublin geneticist, Aoife McLysaght. At first light, or earlier, I turn to the BBC World Service. Sad really.

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