In the latest issue:

Boris Johnson’s First Year

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: In the Bunker

Thomas Jones

Theban Power

James Romm

What can the WHO do?

James Meek

At the Type Archive

Alice Spawls

Where the Poor Lived

Alison Light

At the Movies: ‘Da 5 Bloods’

Michael Wood

Cultural Pillaging

Neal Ascherson

Jenny Offill

Adam Mars-Jones

Shakespeare v. the English

Michael Dobson

Poem: ‘Now Is the Cool of the Day’

Maureen N. McLane


David Trotter

Consider the Hare

Katherine Rundell

How Should I Refer to You?

Amia Srinivasan

Poem: ‘Field Crickets (Gryllus campestris)’

Fiona Benson

Diary: In Mali

Rahmane Idrissa

Brown SuitsLes Murray

Sorting clothes for movie costume,
chocolate suits of bull-market cut,
slim blade ties ending in fringes,
brimmed felt hats, and the sideburned
pork-pie ones that served them. I lived then.

The right grade of suit coat, unbuttoned,
can still get you a begrudged free meal
in a café. But seat sweat off sunned vinyl,
ghostly through many dry-cleans
and the first deodorants. I lived then

and worked for the man who abolished
bastards. The prime minister who
said on air I’m what you call a bastard.
Illegitimate. And drove a last stake
through that lousiest distinction.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.


Vol. 30 No. 22 · 20 November 2008

I enjoyed Les Murray’s poem ‘Brown Suits’, but found myself wondering if the irony of the piece might escape some British readers (LRB, 23 October). Would they be aware that ‘bastard’ is frequently a term of endearment in Australia? It is likely that our former prime minister Malcolm Fraser took as much pride in being referred to as ‘the big bastard’ (he was well over six feet tall) as his predecessor John Gorton did in publicly declaring that he had been born on the wrong side of the blanket. Murray himself revelled in the role of ‘Bastard from the Bush’ long after the political demise of both Gorton and Fraser, and even appeared in a television documentary with that title in 1988. So much for his claim that Gorton’s declaration had driven ‘a last stake through that lousiest distinction’.

Garth Clarke

send letters to

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

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