Colin Marshall sits down for a pint at Nelson’s Retreat, a pub on London’s Old Street, with Neil Denny, host of Little Atoms, a show about ideas and culture on Resonance FM. They discuss whether beer improves or degrades the quality of ideas discussed; how the show’s concept has changed over time, differently involving notions of science, culture, atheism, the Enlightenment, and the left; how he began podcasting, and then had to stand out from the sudden morass of skepticism-themed podcast; the different role of religion in the United States and the United Kingdom, and the difficulty of making any untrue statement about America; what effect the events of July 7, 2005 had on the formation of the show; how he conceives of his interviews as encounters with authors you read at the pub; the early inclusion of Jonathan Meades on the guest list, and how he represents the show’s ever-growing interest in place; whether you must polarize to truly gain popularity; the Little Atoms American road trip, and what it taught him about how best to think about America’s dually prominent scientific and religious enterprises; the American sense of place and the built environment versus that of England; how he sought out the semi-secret public gardens in the skyscrapers of San Francisco; how both of them changed the way they frame their core interests on their shows, but not the interests themselves; how he feels when he listens to his own early interviews, from back when he labored under the feeling of fraudulence then inherent to working outside the “legitimate media”; guests’ welcome yet troubling compliments of, “You actually read my book” or “You really listened to me”; and friends’ equally telling questions of, “Can you really talk to somebody for an hour?”
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