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Who was Jane Roe?

Deborah Friedell

The lawyers who tried to uphold the Texas statutes – ostensibly representing the Dallas district attorney, Henry Wade – argued that whoever Roe really was, she didn’t have sufficient ‘standing’ to bring her case to the Supreme Court. The plaintiff had to be someone who would be harmed if the law wasn’t overturned. Given the ‘normal 266-day human gestation period’, and the fact that it had taken more than a year for Roe v. Wade to reach the court, Roe must already have delivered a child, or miscarried, or found a way to have an abortion after all. The court batted this challenge away. ‘Pregnancy often comes more than once to the same woman,’ the majority decided. ‘If man is to survive, it will always be with us.’ Otherwise, Roe hardly appears in the judicial opinion that granted Americans the right to abortion ‘free of interference by the state’. Her anonymity, her everywomanishness, suited the court fine: Roe was just a stand-in. But Norma McCorvey – who would later say that she’d agreed to become Jane Roe in exchange ‘for a piece of pizza and a beer’ – never saw it that way.


Old World Warblers

Ben Crair

Formillions of years, male birds-of-paradise have been striking courtship poses in the forests of New Guinea. The black sicklebill perches on a stump, opens his shoulder plumes and tips forward, stretching his tail feathers out, like an obsidian comet. The blue bird-of-paradise hangs upside down from a branch and flounces his aquamarine gown. The twelve-wired bird-of-paradise bounces his...


Talking about Leonidas

Alexander Clapp

The Greeks threatened the painstakingly constructed post-Napoleonic order. There were three million of them, Christians who lived across an area stretching from the Greek mainland to Cyprus to the coasts of Asia Minor to Constantinople itself, all within an Ottoman Empire whose decline was the subject of open diplomatic speculation. ‘What is Greece?’ Metternich had asked when the prospect of an independent Greek state was raised at the Congress of Vienna. No one could give a precise reply. 


After the Bataclan

Madeleine Schwartz

Since September, I have been going to a specially built room in the Palais de Justice, a few hundred metres from Notre-Dame, or to a smaller room across the marble hall, where journalists follow the proceedings, tweet and produce their daily reports. The courtroom has a capacity of 550 and has often been full: most of the attendees are survivors of the attacks. It is built of wood, complete with inlays so that the statues personifying justice and eloquence can be seen. The discussions that take place inside are the result of five years of investigation. The work has been careful and painstaking. But the trial is being conducted in a France changed by the attacks, where questions of terrorism, religion and social coherence are often confused and debated with little regard for facts. In this room, on days that have slipped from descriptions of extreme violence to grandstanding, I have wondered if the court can set aside what is happening outside it. Can France judge terrorism when terrorism is transforming its political system?

At Serpentine North

‘Radio Ballads’

Frances Morgan

On​ 28 April, a memorial stone for victims of asbestos was unveiled in the town square in Barking, East London. The date was chosen to coincide with International Workers’ Memorial Day, which was inaugurated in 1989 to draw attention to those injured, disabled or killed in the course of their work or because of their working conditions. Many people in Barking still remember Cape, an...

Travels for the Mind

Travels for the Mind

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The Themerson Archive

Dennis Duncan

‘This short film is an experiment designed to use the medium of the screen to create for the eye an impression comparable to that experienced by the ear.’ While the caption scrolls upwards, a soprano sings from Karol Szymanowski’s Słopiewnie cycle. This is The Eye and the Ear (1944), produced by the Polish Film Unit, which operated out of London in the later years of the...



Tom Shippey

What do​ dragons look like? ‘Broadly serpentine’, Daniel Ogden writes in The Dragon in the West, but with ‘animalian heads, thick central bodies, wings and clawed legs’. They are armoured with scales, live in caves, love to hoard treasure and, of course, breathe fire. George R.R. Martin found a neat solution to an old problem with dragons. The now standard layout is...


Jennifer Egan

Sarah Resnick

The Candy House, Jennifer Egan’s companion to her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010), appears to be part of the trend for fiction premised on interventions – computational, pharmaceutical, viral – in human memory. It’s also something of an anomaly. In A Visit from the Goon Squad, the characters stand on the precipice of the digital age and...

LRB notecards

Be the envy of the neighbourhood with these sets of ten notecards, featuring LRB cover designs by Peter Campbell and Alexander Gorlizki.

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That Year Again

Collected pieces from the LRB on the year 1922, now available online and at the LRB bookshop. Featuring Helen Vendler on T.S. Eliot, Michael Wood on Nosferatu, Lewis Nkosi on the Harlem Renaissance and poems by Don Paterson and Anne Carson.

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