Sally Rooney: An Irish Problem

The abortion rate in Ireland will not fall if the referendum fails; it may not increase substantially if the referendum passes. But the relationship of pregnant women in Ireland to their own bodies will change, and change significantly, if the ‘Yes’ campaign is successful. I was born in 1991, the same year a Virgin Megastore in Dublin was raided for selling condoms without a pharmacist present. Two years before the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Four years before the legalisation of divorce. Twenty-seven years, I can only hope, before the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Letters

The letters page from London Review of Books Vol. 40 No. 10 (24 May 2018)

Ella George: Purges and Paranoia

When military juntas imposed martial law at least there was always the hope that a return to civilian rule would bring a reprieve. Turkey today is a deeply traumatised society. The purges and detentions are a lottery: one signatory of a petition calling for peace with the Kurds is purged from higher education, another remains precariously employed; someone is detained for getting a mortgage from a now expropriated bank, someone else who held an account with the same bank is unaffected. Turks today confront the capriciousness of arbitrary power with no recourse to anything that resembles the rule of law.

David Runciman: It Has to Happen

The likeliest way to overturn the referendum result is to wait until one party or other has taken clear ownership of its consequences. For that to happen, Brexit has to happen too. It is possible that at some point a second referendum will be appropriate, once a new status quo has been established, to see whether people would prefer an alternative. Until then, however, conventional electoral politics will have to decide our collective fate. It makes sense to regret that the referendum happened in the first place. But there is nothing to be gained by regretting the result. No one takes responsibility that way.

Letters

The letters page from London Review of Books Vol. 40 No. 9 (10 May 2018)

John Lanchester: Nabokov’s Dreams

We find him struggling with sleep and remembering his father: ‘It is odd that my father who was so good-natured, and gay, is always so morose in my dreams.’ He watches rubbish television with Véra, he has a dream in which ‘somebody discussed “anti-Semitism in the world of waiters”,’ he has another in which Pelé shoots a football and he lunges to save it (once a goalkeeper, always a goalkeeper).

William Davies: The Windrush Scandal

It’s almost as if, on discovering that law alone was too blunt an instrument for deterring and excluding immigrants, the Home Office decided to weaponise paperwork instead. The ‘hostile environment’ strategy was never presented just as an effective way of identifying and deporting illegal immigrants: more important, it was intended as a way of destroying their ability to build normal lives.

Patricia Lockwood: Rachel Cusk takes off

The pleasure of this project is a rare one: it is the pleasure of a person figuring out exactly what she ought to be doing. Here is the exhilaration of someone fully claiming an exploitative gift – which the writer’s gift so often is, though we do not like to admit this, we wish now to write and still be considered good people. Ha! In memoir you cannot claim such a gift completely and still remain in society, for there is far too much at stake. But conversations on aeroplanes? People you’ll never see again? Interviewers? Men? Go off, Rachel. A strong wind runs through you as you read.

Julian Barnes: Mary Cassatt as Herself

She is, largely, a painter of the great indoors, the here and now, and of women’s space within it. She does not do landscape or nature – the urban park and the boating lake are as far as that goes; nor does she give us action, history, myth, still life, houses, horses, sunsets or those forbidden parts of the Opéra. She does not do men much, though her double portrait of her brother Alexander with his son Robert, the boy sitting on the arm of his father’s armchair, their black suits blending into one and their button-black eyes popping in parallel towards some unknown object makes us wish she had portrayed the opposite sex more.

Isabel Hull: When can you start a war?

Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro’s point is that ‘for all its problems, the New World Order is better than the Old.’ Theirs is a valuable reminder that law matters and that international co-operation is not a utopia, but a functioning reality. Recently, it has been hard to hear that truth above the din produced by bad actors, like Putin and Trump, and by criticism of the neoliberal order from the left and the populist right, which obscures the positive effects of internationalism. What’s more, we take for granted a world in which the assumption is that countries will not engage in war.

Letters

The letters page from London Review of Books Vol. 40 No. 8 (26 April 2018)

Julian Barnes: Mary Cassatt as Herself

She is, largely, a painter of the great indoors, the here and now, and of women’s space within it. She does not do landscape or nature – the urban park and the boating lake are as far as that goes; nor does she give us action, history, myth, still life, houses, horses, sunsets or those forbidden parts of the Opéra. She does not do men much, though her double portrait of her brother Alexander with his son Robert, the boy sitting on the arm of his father’s armchair, their black suits blending into one and their button-black eyes popping in parallel towards some unknown object makes us wish she had portrayed the opposite sex more.

Letters

The letters page from London Review of Books Vol. 40 No. 8 (26 April 2018)