LRB Cover
Volume 41 Number 12
20 June 2019

LRB blog 21 June 2019

Frances Leviston

20 June 2019

James Butler
Ministries of Fear

20 June 2019

Yiannis Baboulias
Distraction by Ineptitude


4 July 2019

Tom Crewe
Short Cuts

5 June 1980

Clive James
A Blizzard of Tiny Kisses

10 January 1983

Norman Stone
Grim Eminence

In the next issue, which will be dated 4 July, James Wood on his Eton education.

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Tom Crewe

The Confidence Trick

The greatest unknown of all is Boris Johnson, presently steamrolling towards power. It’s a by-product of our Brexit-fixation that we are thinking more about his intentions towards the EU than about the future orientation of the Tory Party. I know this is probably a false distinction – ‘Britain beyond Brexit’ is an absurd, wishful phrase. More accurate would be ‘Britain Brexited’ or ‘Britain left in its own Brexit’. Still, I can’t help wondering: where are the Conservatives now? Post-austerity, at least in some people’s heads, but pro … what? More


Tom Stevenson

How to Run a Caliphate

The horrors of IS rule are well known: the killings of Shia; the choice offered to the Christians of Mosul (conversion, ruinous taxation or expulsion); the slaughter of polytheists; the revival of slavery; the massacre of Yazidis on Mount Sinjar. Less well known are the thousands of mundane regulations instituted by the caliphal bureaucracy. The claim to be a state, not just another band of zealous militiamen, was central to what IS stood for. In support of its statehood it operated marriage offices, a telecommunications agency, a department of minerals and a central birth registry. Its department of alms and social solidarity redistributed wealth to the poor. Its department of health brought in sanitation regulations that stipulated more frequent bin collections than in New York. More

Ian Penman


One evening recently I was in the local supermarket, which always has a surprisingly tasteful collection of old pop and soul hits on its playlist. ‘Raspberry Beret’ came on and I just couldn’t help it: I was instantly transported, singing along and showing out, right there in Aisle 3. It still sounded so good: those unexpected violins, the slightly ‘off’ backing vocals (a white girl sound, reversing the usual formula where a so-so white male lead is vamped by phenomenally good black female singers), the down-home cornbread of the song’s narrative queered by tiny splinters of subtext that black listeners would immediately flash on (Prince’s store-owning boss ‘didn’t like my kind/cuz I was way too leisurely …’). Was there really ever such a phantasmagorically odd pop hit as this, or was it all just a dream? More

Lili Owen Rowlands

Daddy Lacan

In Sibylle’s recollection, their father – she refers to him simply as ‘Lacan’ – would appear in his overcoat, a ‘silhouette in the doorway’, at the family apartment on rue Jadin, where he would come to lunch once a week with Sibylle and Thibaut – ‘the little ones’ – along with their big sister, Caroline, and their mother, Marie-Louise, known as ‘Malou’. He took the children on holiday to Brittany, Saint-Tropez, Italy and to his country house at Guitrancourt; he bought them ‘superb’ birthday presents, even if he probably didn’t choose them himself. ‘We knew we had a father but apparently a father was something that wasn’t there,’ she writes. More

David Runciman

The Myth of the Strong Leader

Wanting to be Margaret Thatcher is tempting some prime ministerial hopefuls to flirt with being Donald Trump. Trying to be Trump is likely to mean that they end up as Theresa May: full of purpose, empty of product. Maybe there are some out there with a surer understanding of what made Thatcher’s successes possible in the first place. It was a mix of astonishing luck, political pragmatism and an eye for the path of least resistance, all dressed up as implacable resolve. Thatcher was also a stickler for the rules, sensing that they were her best protection against the devious men who were determined to thwart her if they got the chance. More

Short Cuts
Kathleen Jamie

At the Orangerie
Michael Hofmann


AUDIO Heaney Overheard

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Perry and Mark Ford discuss the work of the Nobel laureate. Listen  »

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AUDIO This place is pryson

Mary Wellesley

Mary Wellesley enters an anchorite’s cell. Listen  »

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