What a Bear Wants

Patricia Lockwood

Theold cover was better. I am talking about the notorious mass market paperback of Marian Engel’s 1976 masterpiece, where the body of a softcore librarian is completely laid open to us, surrounded by flowing silk. Her tits are perfect, like two drawers of a card catalogue. The bear of the title looms over her shoulders, a Muppet designed to be sexual, smiling inside the dark cavern...

 

Strewn with Loot

Adewale Maja-Pearce

InFebruary 1897, the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, a British expeditionary force sacked the ancient city of Benin. They exiled the oba, or ruler, Ovonramwen, and carted away more than four thousand pieces of sculpture, known collectively as the Benin bronzes. The attack was prompted by the killing of several men belonging to a British expedition who had tried to enter...

 

One French City

Lydia Davis

There is a short street near the place de la République called the rue des Carmes. It has a dog-leg bend in it, and just at the bend is the doorway of a bookshop specialising in small-press poetry books. You learn that when you walk down this street, south from the rue de la République, which is at your back, you are walking down the centre of what used to be the nave of a large church, the Church of the Carmelites.

 

What Remained of Trump

David Runciman

Once Trump had been told he had won, and then that he hadn’t, there was no solace to be had. There was only blind rage. Trump’s view of the election result remained frozen in time. He believed the votes counted after 10.30 p.m. on 3 November could only be part of a plot to undo what had already been done. This conviction derived in part from his long-standing, strategic paranoia. His entire life had been built around the principle that the best way to claim what was rightfully yours was to insist that others had stolen it from you. But it also stemmed from his notoriously loose relationship with numbers. He didn’t make the numbers up. But he took the numbers he found most convenient and made them the only ones that counted. ‘In the Trump political world, like the Trump business world,’ Michael Wolff says, ‘you focused on the bragging rights of gross rather than the harsher reality of net.’ The question was never what you could do with what you were left with, it was always what you could insist you were owed in the first place.

 

The Real Fernando Pessoa

Colm Tóibín

Reading The Book of Disquiet after reading Richard Zenith’s biography allows us to see that the chaos and lassitude of Pessoa’s life had an undercurrent of discipline and rigour. He had no idea how to make a living; he talked too much, drank too much and wrote too much; his political ideas were often mad; but all the time The Book of Disquiet was emerging, holding a tight space between banality and comedy. Pessoa seems at one moment to be conservative and nationalist only to emerge a moment later as a liberal. But he always had a dream of Portugal and its destiny that was both preposterous and nourishing. It gave him a myth to demolish or re-create.

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‘Checkout 19’

Clair Wills

Claire-LouiseBennett is unpacking her library. Yes, she is. The books are not yet on the shelves. In fact, she doesn’t really have any shelves (she prefers to let the books pile up around her, a habit that gets her into trouble with at least one boorish lover). She has moved so often over the years that half her books are lost, having been packed into boxes and left in unremembered...

Diary

A Free Speech Agenda

Sophie Smith

Within​ 24 hours of its launch on 13 June, some of the advertisers on GB News began pulling their ads. The Swedish cider brand Kopparberg was first, followed by a dozen others, including Ikea, Vodafone and the Open University. None said it was boycotting the channel, although this is the way their actions were described both by some supporters and by the right-wing press. The companies...

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