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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

The Inequality Engine

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

Two PoemsCharles Simic
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Department of Complaints

Where you are destined to turn up
Some dark winter day
Walking up and down dead escalators
Searching for someone to ask
In this dusty old store
Soon to close its doors for ever.

At long last, finding the place, the desk
Stacked high with sales slips,
Concealing the face of the one
You came to complain to
About the coat on your back,
Its frayed collar, the holes in its pockets.

Recalling the stately fitting-room,
The obsequious salesman, the grim tailor
Who stuck pins in your shoulders
And made chalk marks on your sleeves
As you admired yourself in a mirror,
Your fists clenched fiercely at your side.

Dramatic Evenings

You take turns being yourself,
Being someone else,
Addressing mirrors, airing your grievances
To a goldfish in a bowl.
Your Queen Gertrude and Ophelia
Are snoring away across town.
Your father’s ghost is in the bathroom
Reading Secret Life of Nuns,

While you pace back and forth
Clenching and unclenching your fists,
As if planning a murder,
Or more likely your own crucifixion.
Or you stand frozen still
As if an idea so obvious, so grand
Has come to you
And left you, for once, speechless.

Outside, you notice, it has started snowing.
You press your feverish forehead
Against the cold windowpane
And watch the flakes come down
Languidly, one at a time,
On the broken bird feeder and the old dog’s grave.

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