Who was Jane Roe?

Deborah Friedell

The lawyers who tried to uphold the Texas statutes – ostensibly representing the Dallas district attorney, Henry Wade – argued that whoever Roe really was, she didn’t have sufficient ‘standing’ to bring her case to the Supreme Court. The plaintiff had to be someone who would be harmed if the law wasn’t overturned. Given the ‘normal 266-day human gestation period’, and the fact that it had taken more than a year for Roe v. Wade to reach the court, Roe must already have delivered a child, or miscarried, or found a way to have an abortion after all. The court batted this challenge away. ‘Pregnancy often comes more than once to the same woman,’ the majority decided. ‘If man is to survive, it will always be with us.’ Otherwise, Roe hardly appears in the judicial opinion that granted Americans the right to abortion ‘free of interference by the state’. Her anonymity, her everywomanishness, suited the court fine: Roe was just a stand-in. But Norma McCorvey – who would later say that she’d agreed to become Jane Roe in exchange ‘for a piece of pizza and a beer’ – never saw it that way.


Lydia Lopokova’s Portraits

Richard Shone

Thereare very few people left who remember Lydia Lopokova, the Russian dancer who married Maynard Keynes. She was an enchanting character, almost extravagantly different from anyone else. Her beguiling vocabulary and way of talking prompted E.M. Forster to say that her ‘every word … should be recorded.’ Virginia Woolf wrote of ‘her genius of personality’ and...


Palm Oil Dependency

Bee Wilson

The human body needs fat, while the tongue (or brain, or stomach, or wherever you locate your deepest gustatory desires) craves it. Fat carries flavours like nothing else. Palm oil has been used to feed billions of people an ultra-processed diet richer and in some ways more enticing than the food their grandparents ate. The downside is that refined palm oil doesn’t have much to offer nutritionally other than fat. 


Louise Kennedy’s ‘Trespasses’

Clare Bucknell

Every morning​, between reciting the Hail Mary and beginning their lessons, the children at St Dallan’s Catholic primary school near Belfast do ‘The News’. News, in this community, might mean many things: that someone’s father, perennially out of work for ‘kicking with the wrong foot’, has managed to find a job; that the pop group Mud has gone to number...

From the archive

An Irish Problem

Sally Rooney

The abortion rate in Ireland will not fall if the referendum fails; it may not increase substantially if the referendum passes. But the relationship of pregnant women in Ireland to their own bodies will change, and change significantly, if the ‘Yes’ campaign is successful. I was born in 1991, the same year a Virgin Megastore in Dublin was raided for selling condoms without a pharmacist present. Two years before the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Four years before the legalisation of divorce. Twenty-seven years, I can only hope, before the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Travels for the Mind

Travels for the Mind

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Tools of Enslavement

Fara Dabhoiwala

On Valentine’s Day​ 1661 Elizabeth Pepys and her husband, Sam, rose early and walked from their house behind the Tower of London down Seething Lane. They were to visit one of Sam’s superiors, William Batten, surveyor of the navy. The custom was that women should take the first man they saw as their Valentine, so long as he was no relation. The previous year, Elizabeth had...

Short Cuts

Love of the Gardenesque

James Butler

Bulbs wait​ for the right conditions – sufficient light, water, warmth – to produce new growth. Eighteen months ago, when I moved to a new boat, the conditions were right for me, too. For the first time after more than ten years living in London I had some outdoor space. I lugged pots, troughs and bags of compost and, by the end of the summer, had planted a little patch around...


Albania after Hoxha

Thomas Meaney

Albania​ was Stalin’s favourite example of total insignificance in world politics. Its fate was barely discussed at the wartime conferences of the Allied powers. Against considerable odds, and with little outside help, the partisans and communists led by Enver Hoxha and Mehmet Shehu forced the German army from their country in 1944, and afterwards held off a series of US and British...

LRB notecards

Be the envy of the neighbourhood with these sets of ten notecards, featuring LRB cover designs by Peter Campbell and Alexander Gorlizki.

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That Year Again

Collected pieces from the LRB on the year 1922, now available online and at the LRB bookshop. Featuring Helen Vendler on T.S. Eliot, Michael Wood on Nosferatu, Lewis Nkosi on the Harlem Renaissance and poems by Don Paterson and Anne Carson.

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