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Is it OK to have a child?

Meehan Crist

One evening last year, the Democratic member of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was chopping vegetables in her kitchen while speaking to her millions of Instagram followers via livestream: ‘Our planet is going to hit disaster if we don’t turn this ship around,’ she said, looking up from a chopping-board littered with squash peel. ‘There’s a scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult.’ Her hands fluttered to the hem of her sweater, then to the waistband of her trousers, which she absentmindedly adjusted. ‘And it does lead, I think, young people to have a legitimate question, you know, should …’ she took a moment to get the wording right: ‘Is it OK to still have children?’ Her comment spawned a flurry of pieces on why you should or should not procreate. But the thorny question of whether it is OK to have children – a question about what we owe one another and what we owe the unborn – remains.

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‘The Man in the Red Coat’

Luc Sante

The man​  in the title of Julian Barnes’s eighth work of non-fiction is the Parisian physician Samuel Pozzi. The red coat, or perhaps it’s a dressing-gown, is what he is wearing in the 1881 portrait by John Singer Sargent, Dr Pozzi at Home. It is a swashbuckling, very theatrical portrait, one that would make anyone curious about its subject. Almost any other sitter would be...

 

Bury that bastard

Nicole Flattery

Everyso often a magazine will publish a graph that proves, beyond any measure of doubt, that Hollywood is sexist, with a particular bias against middle-aged women. I’m not sure for whom this information is intended. Somebody who has never seen a film but likes graphs? Somebody so insulated from the real world that they’ve never strolled past a multiplex and caught a glimpse of...

 

The Word from Wuhan

Wang Xiuying

Despite evasions and failures of party bigwigs and moguls, a fierce battle is being fought by the people on the ground. Frontline medics are working under extreme physical and mental pressure. They wear adult nappies so they don’t have to waste time taking their biohazard suits on and off when they go to the loo. Volunteer drivers are delivering medical necessities while normal transport networks remain suspended. Chinese people living overseas have been buying up stocks of face masks in Europe and beyond to send back to their families and friends. A picture of an unfazed young man in a hospital bed reading Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order was suddenly all over the internet. It reminded me of the photograph of three Englishmen choosing books in what remained of Holland House library after the Blitz. The young man received a great many love notes.

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Poem

‘1 x 30’

Anne Carson

Once, once somehow I lost both of them, a man was saying as he came out of the elevator that morning. He was alone. He flicked his eyes on me, off me. He had a furtive tinge and a swank black overcoat – I thought at once of Joseph Conrad, as he is in formal photographs, with the not-quite-Western eyes and virtuosic goatee.

Once I attended a christening at a farmhouse in a country far...

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The Servant Problem

Alison Light

Thevast majority of those who worked in service never set foot in a stately home. The country house, with its uniformed staff and rigid hierarchy, looms large in the British imagination, but the experience of service in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was far more mundane and far more various. Most servant-keeping households employed only a cook and a maid or a single...

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Like a Ball of Fire

Andrew Cockburn

Atthe end of last year the Russian military announced that it had deployed a revolutionary weapon, designed to give Russia a decisive advantage in the strategic nuclear arms race. Avangard, as the new system is called, is a ‘hypersonic glide’ missile. Unlike traditional Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, which follow a fixed and predictable trajectory, arcing up as high as...

 

The Staffordshire Hoard

Tom Shippey

The Staffordshire Hoard​, discovered by the metal detectorist Terry Herbert on 5 July 2009, presents far more of a puzzle to archaeologists and historians than the other famous Anglo-Saxon discovery, at Sutton Hoo. The start of the puzzle is working out what is there. The hoard weighs in at about five kilos of gold and almost two kilos of silver, and some claim you could pack it into a...

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LRB Collections numbers 1 to 7

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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Jon McNaught illustration of person looking at phone on a bus

What’s new?

‘The London Review of Books is something new,’ the LRB’s founding editor Karl Miller wrote in our first ever issue, 40 years ago. ‘This, for the first time, is it.’ Now, for the first time in a decade, the same can be said of our website.

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Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

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