In the latest issue:

In Quarantine

Erin Maglaque

Après Brexit

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: Springtime for Donald

David Bromwich

Meetings with their Gods

Claire Hall

‘Generation Left’

William Davies

At the North Miami Museum: Alice Paalen Rahon

Mary Ann Caws

Buchan’s Banter

Christopher Tayler

‘American Dirt’

Christian Lorentzen

Fiction and the Age of Lies

Colin Burrow

In Lahore

Tariq Ali

GOD HATES YOUR FEELINGS

James Lasdun

Rereading Bowen

Tessa Hadley

At the Corner House

Rosemary Hill

William Gibson

Thomas Jones

Poem: ‘Murph & Me’

August Kleinzahler

The Stud File

Kevin Brazil

John Boorman’s Quiet Ending

David Thomson

In Shanghai: The West Bund Museum

John-Paul Stonard

Diary: The Deborah Orr I Knew

Jenny Turner

Close
Close

Entertaining

I don’t like visitors. I meet my friends
in pubs where others do the washing-up.
A dinner-party’s my idea of hell.
(Guests come to criticise I’ve learned that much.)

All right – I compromise, and with a smile
provide drinks, coffee and a home-made cake
(when forced to it). But still I draw the line
at full-blown meals – the planning’s difficult
like simultaneous orgasm – meat and veg
rarely arrive together or on time.

Shylock

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?... If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us do we not laugh? if you poison us do we not die?

I like Shylock. When playing him at eleven
I learned to sympathise with him and see his point of view.
(My version was more Sweeney Todd than Jew.
I pulled my hair round, tied up as a beard,
wore a loose preaching-gown and velvet cap
and brandished mother’s bread knife in the Court.)

He had more guts and more integrity
than all the Gentile bastards in that play.
(The noble Portia I do not admire –
for all her estimable logic in the dock,
all she attained was union with a wimp
who obviously preferred his man-friend’s charms,
yet needed marriage to a girl with cash.)

Some words of Shylock’s still remain with me,
24 years away from playing his part –
the speech in which he states the outcast’s case
and pleads the same humanity for Jews.

The man I loved – a bastard-Gentile-type –
saw me as far less human than Mankind,
less human than the women in his life,
especially his wife (although she screws around
and treats him like a dog). I’m just
‘a character’, he’s said as much – far ‘too
eccentric’ for his love. (Do I not bleed?)

Though not a Jew, I am a Jew to him.

Feelings? I haven’t got the things to hurt.
If I had ‘Jewish gaberdine’ he’d spit
on it for sure – well, metaphorically.

And yet this Gentile craves what I have got –
no, unlike Shylock, I’ve no cash to lend –
he’d like my sympathy for all she’s done.
(It doesn’t occur the tales might cause me pain.)
And, curiously, he also wants my love –
though he’s no thought of ever paying back.

Revenge is sweet – almost as sweet as sex.
No smart-arse Portia’ll spring to his defence.
‘The quality of mercy is not strained ...’
Mercy? I’ve not seen much of it around,
‘strained’ or unstrained. I’ll get my pound of flesh.
I’ve learned my lesson from poor Shylock’s case –
I’ll settle for the bastard’s blood as well.

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