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The American Virus

Eliot Weinberger

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John Lanchester

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

Diane Williams

The Last Whale

Colin Burrow

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Long Ling

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Michael Wood

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Susan Pedersen

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Helen Pfeifer

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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


Young men, like pups, can be somewhat unformed.
Unless you’re certain of their pedigree,
it’s hard to see how they’ll mature and grow.
(Alsatians will fuck dachshunds now and then.)

A man who has some mileage on the clock
in theory would be best. You know the worst –
how much his hair is likely to recede,
his face to fold, as ‘character’ comes out.
(Furrows look better on the land than skin –
the worst one is a constipated frown –
laughter lines are the most forgivable.)
Auden grew wrinkled as a shar-pei dog.
Most only reach the pug or bloodhound stage.

I’ve tried ‘the older man’ – the problem’s not
the looks. It’s the god-awful temperament.
Rottweiler-grumpiness sets in with age.
I’ll stick to pups who’re younger than myself –
they’ve got more stamina for exercise
and better natures, willing to be trained.
I’ll whistle and they’ll come, fetch, carry, beg.
Of course, I wouldn’t take on one too young –
I’d certainly prefer him weaned from mum.

Old dogs, it’s said, cannot be taught new tricks –
and those they have are all predictable.
They guard their kennels self-importantly,
mark out their territory in wind and piss,
bark righteously for any trifling cause.
follow the pack in every bloody thing.
All their affection’s of the boisterous kind –
they’re awfully free with dandruff, spittle, hair.
The eviller ones are snappish with young kids,
chase those who’re weaker than themselves (like sheep),
seize you and won’t let go, roger your legs,
lose socks, worry old bones and bury thing.
And all take leaks at frequent intervals.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m partial to a dog.
I blame their breeders for the way they’re trained.

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