Jamie Fisher: The Pursuit of a Chinese Typewriter

The problem was Qwerty, not China, where moveable type predated Gutenberg by several centuries. But the typewriter was developed for the West by the West, during a period in which China was decidedly closed off, and by the time typewriters had become a common feature of commercial life, their form was relatively fixed. At the turn of the 20th century, the missionary inventors trying for a Siamese typewriter simply lopped off two letters of the Siamese alphabet, like Cinderella’s stepsisters severing the offending toe to make the foot fit the slipper.


The letters page from London Review of Books Vol. 40 No. 5 (8 March 2018)

Lidija Haas: A Talent for Nonchalance

Grace Paley’s people reappear from story to story and their lives usually extend beyond the frame. Her suspicion of ‘the absolute line between two points’ may explain why she was so frequently accused of wisdom. If you were looking for lessons on better living, you might find them in the fiction; especially if you choose to read the fiction through the life and vice versa, as the Reader seems to encourage. ‘I learned from her,’ Nora Paley says of her mother, ‘that precision requires a warm eye, not a cold one.’ But most of the time she didn’t make things too cosy for her characters, only left the door ajar for some other thing to happen next.

Thomas Jones: The Italian Election

Given the state of the opinion polls – and their general unreliability; they were off in 2013, exaggerating the PD’s chances – it’s impossible to say what the outcome of the election will be, even in terms of how many seats each party is likely to get. And that’s before the horse-trading begins as they attempt to form a government. Both Renzi and Berlusconi have ruled out a grand coalition, and said that the only answer to an inconclusive result is another election. Jean-Claude Juncker was reported as saying that ‘we must prepare for the worst scenario,’ by which he meant Italy having ‘no operational government’. I can think of several scenarios a lot worse than that.