In the latest issue:

The American Virus

Eliot Weinberger

The Home Life of Inspector Maigret

John Lanchester

Story: ‘Have a Seat in the Big Black Chair’

Diane Williams

The Last Whale

Colin Burrow

In Beijing

Long Ling

Princess Margaret and Lady Anne

Rosemary Hill

At the Movies: ‘Arkansas’

Michael Wood

Ruin it your own way

Susan Pedersen

At Home

Jane Miller

The Ottoman Conundrum

Helen Pfeifer

Poem: ‘Muntjac’

Blake Morrison

Piketty’s Revolution

Geoff Mann

Short Cuts: In Tripoli

Jérôme Tubiana

Coetzee Makes a Leap

Christopher Tayler

At Auckland Castle: Francisco de Zurbarán

Nicola Jennings

Drain the Swamps

Steven Shapin

Diary: In the Isolation Room

Nicholas Spice

A Martian goes to CollegeDavid Lodge
Close
Close
Vol. 6 No. 22 · 6 December 1984
Poem

A Martian goes to College

David Lodge

166 words

(with apologies to Craig Raine)

Caxtons are bred in batteries. If
you take one from its perch, a girl

Must stun it with her fist
before you bring it home.

Learning is when you watch a conjurer
with fifty minutes’ patter and no tricks.

Students are dissidents: knowing
their rooms are bugged, they

Take care never to talk
Except against the blare of music.

Questioned in groups, they hold their tongues,
or answer grudgingly, exchanging sly

Signals with their eyes
under the nose of the interrogator.

Epilepsy is rife, and the treatment cruel:
sufferers, crowded in dark and airless cells,

Are goaded with intolerable noise
and flashing lights, till the fit has passed.

Each summer there’s a competition
to see who can cover most paper with scribble.

The sport is hugely popular; hundreds
jostle for admission to the gyms,

And must be coaxed out when
their time is up. A few, though,

Seem unable to play, and sit staring
out of windows, eating their implements.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

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.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences