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The Last Surviving Person on Earth

Thursday 17 July 2008 21:45-22:30 (Radio 3)

Matthew Sweet investigates stories that feature the last surviving person on earth, from Richard Matheson's 1954 novel I Am Legend - recently made into a film starring Will Smith - through the comic book series Y: The Last Man, to Thomas Glavinic's newly published book Night Work.


45 minutes


Matthew Sweet talks to John Healy whose book The Grass Arena about his life as a down and out in London became a bestseller and was made into a hugely successful television drama. As the book is published as a Penguin Classic he talks to Mathew Sweet about his struggle with vagrancy, alcoholism, imprisonment and his eventual salvation through the game of chess.

The Grass Arena is published in paperback by Penguin Modern Classics on 31 July.

Filmmaker Nic Roeg is well known for films depicting emotional and psychic disturbance; work such as Don't Look Now, about recently bereaved parents who become haunted by the image of their lost child and Performance about the disturbed relationship between a gangster and a rock star. His new film Puffball, based on the novel by Fay Weldon, is also about parenthood; this time about the turbulent emotions that swirl around pregnancy. Nigel Floyd watched Puffball for Night Waves.

Puffball is out on 18 July, certificate 18.

Night Waves looks at efforts across the pond to recognise Thomas Paine, the Englishman who helped design the American revolution. Campaigners hope to honour Paine with his own day in January 2009 to mark the 200th anniversary of his death. But will Paine's famously liberal views and anti-religious opinions scupper his chances in the more conservative states ? Writer and academic Diane Roberts gives her views on Thomas Paine.

And there is nothing moving outside. No cars. No animals. Nothing. No One. You are the last living being on the planet..what do you do next ? From Will Smith to Mary Shelley to Benny Hill, this scenario has provided endless fascination and interpretations. Matthew Sweet and Kevin Jackson explore what is it which draws us to the last person on earth.

Night Work by Thomas Glavinic is published by Canongate.

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