You can now explore “The Listener” magazine for free

You might have thought about getting a reader’s ticket for the National Library of Scotland but decided against it as it is not convenient for you to visit our Edinburgh reading rooms. Did you know that free membership of the Library lets you consult our physical collections but also gives you remote access to digital resources which you can consult on your phone, iPad or laptop if you have a Scottish address? You can access our digital collections whether you are in Lerwick or Gretna Green or anywhere else in Scotland.

Joining the Library will give you free access to full text databases of many journals, newspapers, reference works and family history resources. You will have access to a world class reference library in your pocket or living room.

Among the many titles you can consult is “The Listener” a weekly magazine published by the BBC from 1929-1991. The remit of “The Listener” was to serve as “a medium for intelligent reception of broadcast programmes by way of amplification and explanation of those features which cannot be dealt with in the editorial columns of the Radio Times”. It was the younger and more intellectual sibling of the “Radio Times” which over seventy years and 3,197 issues captured the cultural life of the nation.

You can find articles by E.M. Forster, T.S. Eliot, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, W.H. Auden, Sylvia Plath and Stephen Fry in the digital version of “The Listener”. I especially enjoy reading the book reviews. Almost every significant work published in the English language was reviewed in “The Listener” during its existence. You can read what would have been among the first reviews of many now classic works of literature.

For example in the issue dated January 31 1963 Lawrence Lerner reviews “The Thin Red Line” by James Jones, “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath in a single page round up of new novels. Lerner is baffled by the very positive American reception of “The Thin Red Line” by Jones and clearly preferred “The Naked and the Dead” by Norman Mailer. He is also a little lukewarm about Solzhenitsyn’s book believing it to be honest, sober and powerful but no better than many other novels on similar themes published in the 20th century. Lerner recommends “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath. This was the first and only novel by Plath and the review is of the edition that appeared under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. Lerner calls it “a brilliant and moving book”. Tragically Plath would be dead just weeks after the review was published.

“The Listener” is the sort of magazine you could quite easily spend hours exploring. To find how to join the Library and get access to “The Listener” and many other e-resources please look at our website. You can find our more about the electronic resources you can get access to here. You will also be able to access support and help to use these resources. The National Library of Scotland aims to give you easy access to information for work, research or leisure wherever you are based in Scotland.