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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

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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

On DaveyAnne Carson

Gods do not fall, falling is human. Fall at the start, from between the knees of your mother to the ground. Fall again at the end. Gods, no. Even when new they didn’t lose their balance. They never will now. Even in battle they glare and fuss and stumble, receive light wounds, but don’t hit the ground. Have very little to do with the ground. Traverse it faster than thought. Feet not touching down. Not subject to the effect of their own weight. Admittedly confusing. An anvil takes nine days to fall from heaven to earth. Most gods bigger than most anvils. Confusing for gods to have bodies at all, a stupidity of the system. Let’s say we give up trying to bind gods to space and time, or even to breathing, which measures space and time, just let their wondrous legs go crashing off over the barrenlands where they do their best work. Things need to fit, though. Baffles me how to reconcile ‘fit’ with the examples to hand, like Davey. Davey is the God of War. Known more widely as Mars or Ares. Came back from Vietnam addicted to falling. Fondness for going out jumping at night with other vets from the condo, parachutes in the dark, no altimeter. Quit the night he popped his chute, felt his feet hit the ground 4 seconds after. What’s 4 secs to a god? Metrics not the way to do this. Slap, slap the waves hit the pier, each one lifting, driving, slapping, spilling over the boards at my feet, gigantic formations like this spilling through history, each wave so softly murderous, managing itself, driving on, driving and breaking, a roar apiece, all but inexhaustible or so you dream, dreaming of Davey with his two black front teeth and his seventy pounds of hoplite gear and his army laugh from quartermaster days – sleep faster we need the pillows! – dreaming how, if Davey had inspired the Athenians to invent stirrups and beat the Spartans at Mantinea or Syracuse, we’d all be speaking Attic Greek and enjoying direct democracy, but, being a god (gods don’t fall), it never occurred to him.

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