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Boris Johnson’s First Year

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: In the Bunker

Thomas Jones

Theban Power

James Romm

What can the WHO do?

James Meek

At the Type Archive

Alice Spawls

Where the Poor Lived

Alison Light

At the Movies: ‘Da 5 Bloods’

Michael Wood

Cultural Pillaging

Neal Ascherson

Jenny Offill

Adam Mars-Jones

Shakespeare v. the English

Michael Dobson

Poem: ‘Now Is the Cool of the Day’

Maureen N. McLane

Tativille

David Trotter

Consider the Hare

Katherine Rundell

How Should I Refer to You?

Amia Srinivasan

Poem: ‘Field Crickets (Gryllus campestris)’

Fiona Benson

Diary: In Mali

Rahmane Idrissa

Miss ProustJohn Tranter
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To her the kissing group of husbands and wives
was like a gang of schoolgirls in the laundry,
all fuss and bother, no proper theory of how sexuality
is conditioned by the economic strictures of society
and not by the games shows and the sporting programmes
or by the lies that stain the pages of cheap paper,
for example, when her friends told her she was
a rotten writer
plumping up the pillow of her conventional emotions
so she could feel in love temporarily
click on click off
and revel in a moody air in the kitchen, scribbling
diary entries as though they were great roiling thoughts
or worse, riveting literature meant to be read out
during the long night of the adult education course
training tapping dogs to do the new job, it’s obviously
made for love, this mechanical device with its ribbon
spooling out reams of confectionery and duplicity
that young women desperately want to believe
could happen to them, like doctors who are stern and rich –
no, will happen to them – and the pretty nurses
who are young and whimpering, but somehow dazzling,
the same story, only glowing with a more literary quality –
what the fuck – now it happens, only the ending is wrong,
and the hero, called Kevin or Duane, is a loser –
there are no doctors here, they live elsewhere
with their wives, their investments, and their matched
pairs of children. We went over the story –
in the magazine with the doll on the cover –
her writing was okay, it pulled in the money, but
the 3-D speed queen routine she put on
mainly for the benefit of the mirror, that was relatively
thrilling, and her hair, so expensive, like snakes – dark
and full of movement. I’ve spent a lot
on these magazines, the shameful ones, and
often longed to be a maker of such spectacles,
my hand writing out a kind of existentialism
of the glands – clashing or co-operating – keen
to be liked, anxious to find a friend,
weary of the endless social gambits, sad to admit
the need for wariness and protective latex devices.
I was like a wave in a tiny dry-point etching,
apparently calm on the surface, distressed underneath.
I know it is no excuse, but that angry remark
that was changed into something cool and polished,
like an aphorism, isn’t that a betrayal of the emotion
that produced it? Isn’t it cultural greed reified,
and turned into a regular income? Answer me,
you little shit! There you are, sobbing,
hiding under a pile of theories in the corner,
dabbing at your make-up and hoping not to be noticed.

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