Ireland’s Lost Children

Clair Wills

Unlike Tuam, which closed in 1961, the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home continued to operate until 1998. Members of the congregation claimed not to know where the children might be buried. The commission states that it ‘finds this very difficult to comprehend as Bessborough was a mother and baby home for the duration of the period covered by the commission (1922-98) and the congregation was involved with it for all of this time. The commission finds it very difficult to understand that no member of the congregation was able to say where the children who died in Bessborough are buried.’ But perhaps forgetting where babies were buried is a way of forgetting that they died. One sister who lived at the home for fifty years between 1948 and 1998 could not recall the deaths of any children at all during that time, although 31 children died there between 1950 and 1960 alone. Her name is given as the informant on a number of death certificates. It is a powerful act of erasure. No grave, no baby. No baby, no grave. As in Tuam, so in Bessborough. There must be people who know more, but they have not come forward.

 

On FOMO

Adam Phillips

Being left out begins as tragedy, and tragedy, Freud suggests, is integral to development. So the developmental question – the moral question – is this: is there another and better solution to feeling left out than revenge? If we don’t retaliate, against others and against ourselves, what else can we do? 

 

Mushroom Brain

Francis Gooding

Try​ to imagine what it is like to be a fungus. Not a mushroom, pushing up through damp soil overnight or delicately forcing itself out through the bark of a rotting log: that would be like imagining the grape rather than the vine. Instead try to think your way into the main part of a fungus, the mycelium, a proliferating network of tiny white threads known as hyphae. Decentralised,...

 

Undoing Philip Roth

James Wolcott

It was shaping up​ to be the publishing event of the year, the first blast of post-pandemica as we emerged from our hobbit holes and combed the cobwebs from our hair: the starship arrival of Blake Bailey’s authorised biography of Philip Roth, Philip Roth: The Biography. The ‘the’ of the subtitle said: accept no substitutes. Another biography of Roth was in the offing, Ira...

 

‘Detransition, Baby’

Lauren Oyler

For those who occupy the ‘Tumblr-Twitter industrial complex’ which Torrey Peters treats with compassionate disdain in this novel, even to discuss detransition risks feeding the right-wing narrative which suggests that anyone considering gender transition will eventually change their mind. The title can be read as a playful imperative: ‘Detransition, baby!’ But it’s also a description of what happens in the book: someone detransitions, and then there’s a baby. (Maybe.)

Travels for the Mind

Travels for the Mind

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Classical China

Peter C. Perdue

Inthe 1950s, Western scholars and Chinese émigrés were writing extensively on the classical tradition in China, but historians in the People’s Republic were constrained by a Marxist framework that sorted the major thinkers of the past into ‘materialists’ (good) and ‘idealists’ (bad). This impasse lasted until Mao’s death in 1976, but...

 

Horoscopy

Claire Hall

It​ was an auspicious beginning: ♄☌♃. On 25 October 1979, the date of the first issue of the London Review of Books, Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction in the sign of Virgo. Not only that, there was a triple conjunction of Venus, Mercury and the Sun (☉☌♀︎☌☿) in Scorpio. This suggested that the LRB would, according to the second-century astrologer Vettius Valens, be...

Diary

Fan Power

Mimi Jiang

The comedy business​ in China used to be dominated by male entertainers from the north of the country. In the radio and television era, the most popular forms were xiangsheng (two-handers) and xiaopin (sketches). For xiangsheng, performers wear the traditional cheongsam, hold a fan in one hand and stand in front of a small table: the dou gen, or lead, tells the story and throws out...

Subject/Object: The Birds

Subject/Object is a new, biannual series of short festivals from the London Review Bookshop, loosely tracing a theme through the archive of the London Review of Books with a week of books and arts events. The first theme is birds, and all eight events will, this time, be online.

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LRB Books: Collections and Selections

Rediscover classic pieces, recurring themes, and the dash the London Review of Books has cut through the history of ideas, for the past 40 years, with LRB Collections and now LRB Selections: two new series of collectible books.

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