Jenny McCartney

Jenny McCartney

Journalist, reviewer, author of the children's book The Stone Bird.

A gripping podcast about America’s obsession with guns

The love affair between so many Americans and their guns – long a source of international fascination – appears to be getting more painfully intense. The greater the publicity over gun crime, the more Americans think they’d better acquire a firearm to keep themselves safe. There are now roughly 400 million guns in the US

I’m ashamed that I used to think ABBA wasn’t cool 

One of the joys of listening to archive BBC interviews with pop stars is the chance to hear long-discarded hipster jargon served up in its original setting. Near the beginning of Radio 2’s ABBA at the BBC, marking 50 years since the group won Eurovision with ‘Waterloo’, a prime example was unearthed from the immediate

How did the internet become so horrific?

I can dimly remember the internet getting going, gradually staking its claims on our attention with hardly anyone except tech nerds – and famously David Bowie – realising what was going on. In our defence it was the 1990s and we had a lot else to think about: Britpop, The End of History, lads’ mags,

The Queen’s Reading Room needs more Queen

In the dog days of winter, when venturing out under darkened, sleety skies is to be avoided if at all possible, an online book club often seems the most appealing kind there is. Here in the UK, on territory in which the daytime TV hosts Richard and Judy once held undisputed reign, a bookish royal

Fascinating: Radio 4’s Empire of Tea reviewed

I can scarcely remember a time before tea: I started drinking it at around four, at home in Belfast, as a reward after school. Before long I was as fiercely protective of my right to a brew as the workers of British Leyland’s Birmingham car plant, who were famously spurred to strike action in 1981

Joni Mitchell, in her own words

There’s always been something at once girlish and steely about Joni Mitchell, the stellar Canadian whom Rolling Stone called ‘one of the greatest songwriters ever’. As Radio 4’s Verbatim programme in honour of her 80th birthday reminds us, a stubborn hopefulness has carried her through turbulent times. Perhaps growing up in Saskatchewan, where winter temperatures

What happened to the supermodels of the 1990s?

‘What advice would you give to your younger self?’ has become a popular question in interviews in recent years. It’s meant to generate something profound but, musing privately, I always find it a puzzler. Sometimes I think that maybe I shouldn’t have wasted so much of my twenties talking nonsense in pubs, but on the

An ode to the BlackBerry

The demise of tech plays out first as disorientation, then entertainment. We’ve reached the latter stage with the BlackBerry, the now-defunct Canadian harbinger of global smartphone addiction. A new film out this month charts its spectacular rise and fall: young folk, look up from your iPhones, and learn how in its Noughties heyday, the BlackBerry

The power and the glory that was Belfast

What should we make of present-day Belfast and its compelling, fractious backstory? English visitors have long found the city invigorating, confusing or exasperating – often all three – but undeniably characterful. Philip Larkin, who lived there for five years in the 1950s, noted its ‘draughty streets, end-on to hills, the faint/Archaic smell of dockland’ and

The stuff of nightmares: Retrievals podcast reviewed

It is the stuff of nightmares, or a queasily dystopian film plot. A woman is undergoing a surgical procedure in a top-rated US clinic. The aim is ‘egg retrieval’, a process which collects eggs from the ovaries for use in IVF. It involves nerves and hope, long needles and pain – except the patient has

How productive is it to listen to productivity gurus?

I was making my way slowly through one of my dismally prosaic little to-do lists – ‘pay the water bill’ ‘wash hair’, etc. – when the voice of the journalist Helen Lewis came on Radio 4 talking about productivity. It’s the Holy Grail of modern life, apparently, and we are now constantly looking for ‘charismatic

In praise of From Our Own Correspondent 

Most of us are familiar with the notion of writer’s block, that paralysis of invention induced by the appalling sight of a blank page. Composer’s block is less widely discussed, although musicians seem equally afflicted by creative drought. Perhaps the best known case is that of the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov, the subject of Radio

The war over the womb 

The womb, that secretive house of early life, is coming under the spotlight. For a long time it was scarcely mentioned in public at all, save in obstetrics, gynaecology, DH Lawrence novels and the Bible. In recent years, however, the uterus has attracted the dubious attentions of the ‘wellness’ industry: Gwyneth Paltrow even recommended ‘cleansing’