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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


My cousin sent a baby doll for me –
hairless and clammy, waxen yellowish-grey
with sunken pale blue eyes and a mouth pursed
for pouring water in so it came out
through a small aperture between its legs.

I called it Peter though it had no prick –
it looked too ugly for a girl I thought.
I used to fill it up and souse my lap.
Sometimes I’d press its squashy latex head
to force the liquid out at higher speed,
yellowing the pee by adding mustard in,
or making diarrhoea with chocolate milk.
Sometimes it vomited and pissed at once.

At last, my mother took my toy away –
afraid I’d show it to some visitor.
Several days later, it was back again,
seated amongst my other dolls and bears.
She’d used half an old shoe-dye on his face,
giving him hair and beard, and togged him out
with a sharp suit of black and white checked tweed.
‘Peter’s grown up,’ she said. ‘Adults don’t wet themselves.’

His lips looked red against his blue-black beard.
You can do anything at any age,
I thought. I filled him up again. He peed,
marking his breeches with a yellow stain.

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