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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

Three PoemsHugo Williams
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The Reading

If I turn round now
I’ll be back at school,
arranging the chairs in the Library
with Briggs and Napier.
Briggs is chair monitor for readings.
He’s flicking through a copy of my new book,
‘An Actor’s Life for Me’,
and making animal noises.
A display card on the table
shows me smiling, holding up
the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

They have taken me down to the gym
and put me inside the horse.
They push it across the splintery floorboards
while I run along inside,
trying to stay upright,
looking out of the hand-holds,
till it crashes into a wall.
Photos of me with the Queen
are floating in the bath
when they force my head under
and hold it there.

As Good as New

What a relief to see our Beerbohm caricatures
still hanging in the dining-room
and the dining table still there
with the extra leaf being used.
The Regency chair I broke has come back
from the repairers as good as new
and the Staffordshire china hasn’t been auctioned off
to keep me at school.

Best of all, the Marie Laurencin self-portrait
didn’t go down with the rest of the stuff
on its way to Portugal. Its brown smudges of eyes
look out across the fields
as if they were looking into the future.
One of our old musicals is playing
on the broken radiogram. I lean on the back of the sofa
and practise the Charleston.

Spin the Board

I have disentangled my limbs
from a crowd of small boys
sitting or lying about
on mattresses in the gym

and hurled myself back
into the noise and light
where Ashley or someone
has given the breadboard a spin

and calmly stands there
waiting for it to run down
to its last few revolutions
before calling out my number.

Not for the first time
in this repetitive game
have I gone into a dive
across the floor of the gym,

one arm stretched out
to try and get a fingernail
under the edge of the board
before it rattles to a standstill.

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