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An Ordinary Woman

Alan Bennett

Later on I went over to see Louisa. She still smokes so we adjourned to the end of the garden, and I said how nice Michael was being. She said, ‘They are at that age. Just before they take off. Ricky’s the same. I can’t look at him sometimes, I fancy him that much.’ And she laughs, as if this is the most normal thing in the world. I said, ‘Does he know?’ ‘That I fancy him? Course. I tell him. I tell him all the time.’ ‘And doesn’t he mind?’ She said, ‘No. It was him that said it, he caught me looking at him out of the bath and he said, “You fancy me, don’t you?” I said, “Don’t flatter yourself.” ‘But he was suited, you could see.’ ‘Michael wouldn’t be,’ I said. ‘Though he tells me everything.’ ‘No, he doesn’t, love. They never do.’ Coming away, I wish I hadn’t said anything. She makes it seem so dirty. I could never tell him. Only I have to tell somebody.

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How Should I Refer to You?

Amia Srinivasan

How would any of us – trans or not, binary or non – feel if others, convinced that they knew the truth of who we really were, insisted on referring to us using words that, so far as we were concerned, didn’t apply to us? If you think you would not feel like a failure or a freak, could it be because you can’t imagine being so wildly misnamed by the world? People use non-standard pronouns, or use pronouns in non-standard ways, for various reasons: to accord with their sense of themselves, to make their passage through the world less painful, to prefigure and hasten the arrival of a world in which divisions of sex no longer matter. So too we can choose to respect people’s pronouns for many reasons. We can do it because we buy into the idea that there is no simple sex or gender binary, or because we want a world in which the binary, whether it exists or not, is stripped of its cultural weight. But we can also respect people’s pronouns simply because we want to be kind, because we too know what it is to feel like a failure and a freak, because when we talk about someone, we want them to feel that it is them we are speaking of, really and wholly.

Short Cuts

In the Bunker

Thomas Jones

The​ Abbey of Santa Maria di Falleri, a 12th-century Cistercian monastery about thirty miles north of Rome, has crumbled over the centuries into disrepair. It makes a brief appearance as a medieval palace in the classic comedy L’armata Brancaleone (1966). The roof was restored a few years ago, and the abbey can now be visited – Covid-19 permitting – on Saturday and Sunday...

 

At the Type Archive

Alice Spawls

TheType Archive near Stockwell in London used to be a hospital for cab horses and circus animals, but since 1992 it has been home to every sort of mould, matrix, burin, bodkin and slug. The archive holds typographical apparatus from the last six hundred years, but its main collection relates to the technology of Monotype printing. That capital letter is important: this isn’t the...

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From the blog

Parrot Lessons

Rosa Lyster

1 July 2020

Here was this bird, that should be in the jungle learning to emulate the sound of gibbons and rushing water, but was instead imitating Skype ringtones, trapped in a dreadful situation made still more wretched by the fact that its owner was also trapped, with nothing to look forward to for the duration of the lockdown except more Skype calls and getting whistled at by her parrot.

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Cultural Pillaging

Neal Ascherson

Afewmonths after the end of the Second World War, Stephen Spender returned to Germany. His plan was to contact German intellectuals. This was not very fruitful: most were dead or in exile, and Ernst Jünger, whom he did meet, evaded his invitation to show unqualified guilt for the Nazi past. But then Spender was asked to reopen libraries in the British zone of occupation, having first...

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Diary

In Mali

Rahmane Idrissa

As it​ usually is in September, Dakar was sweltering and sticky. I’d come to examine back issues of the Bulletin de l’Institut fondamental français d’Afrique noire in the National Archives, looking for material on the Songhay empire. For some reason, BIFAN, the most important scientific journal of Francophone black Africa, isn’t available online. Songhay was...

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Good News from Bury Place!

We are delighted to announce that the London Review Bookshop will be reopening its doors on Monday 6 July at 10 a.m. For further details of how socially distanced browsing will work, visit the bookshop website.

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Talking Politics: History of Ideas

After each episode of the new Talking Politics podcast, brought to you in partnership with the London Review of Books, continue your exploration of the history of ideas in our unrivalled archive of essays and reviews, films and podcasts.

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LRB Books: Collections and Selections

Rediscover classic pieces, recurring themes, and the dash the London Review of Books has cut through the history of ideas, for the past 40 years, with LRB Collections and now LRB Selections: two new series of collectible books.

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Good news from Bury Place!

We are delighted to announce that the London Review Bookshop will be reopening its doors on Monday 6 July at 10 a.m. For further details of how socially distanced browsing will work, visit the bookshop website. You can phone them on 020 7269 9030 to place a pre-paid order for collection, and they are once again talking orders via email or phone for international mail order. You can also order from a selection of booksellers’ favourites and lockdown picks online, via the London Review Book Box website. The Cake Shop will also be back, for takeaway only, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. from Monday 6 July. Stay tuned for news of upcoming digital events, and we hope to see you very soon – thanks, as ever, for your support.

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