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Since 1979, London Review of Books has focused on protecting and promoting the tradition of the literary and intellectual essay in English. Each issue contains essays, book reviews, poems, an exhibition review, "short cuts," letters, and a diary. For book reviews, they look at both unsolicited submissions and proposals.

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LRB Diary for 2023 (Hardback)

With entries from the last forty years by Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett

Celebrating 40 years of Alan Bennett's diary in the London Review of Books

20 March 1983. There are sheep in the field. 'I know what they are,' she says, 'but I don't know what they are called. Thus Wittgenstein is routed by my mother.

Alan Bennett's diary for 1983 was the first to be published in the London Review of Books . 'Besides the occasional incident that seems worth recording,' he wrote then, 'I put down gossip and notes on work and reading.' Forty years on, his approach remains the same, and his diary has become a cornerstone of the first LRB of the year.

This new selection accompanies the LRB 's diary for 2023: a classic entry for each week of the year, with illustrations by Jon McNaught - 'of things from my desk, shelves and so on' - and the usual useful features.

Publication date: 01/09/2022

£ 12.99

ISBN: 9781800814899

Imprint: Profile Books

Subject: Arts, Language & Literature , Humour & Gift , Reference

Illustrated by: Jon McNaught

Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett has been one of our leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s. His television series Talking Heads has become a modern-day classic, as have many of his works for the stage, including Forty Years On , The Lady in the Van , A Question of Attribution , The Madness of King George Ill (together with the Oscar-nominated screenplay The Madness of King George ) and an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows . The History Boys won Evening Standard, Critics' Circle and Olivier awards, as well as the South Bank Award. On Broadway, The History Boys won five New York Drama Desk Awards, four Outer Critics' Circle Awards, a New York Drama Critics' Award for Best Play, a New York Drama League Award and six Tonys including Best Play. The film of The History Boys was released in 2006. Alan Bennett's collection of prose, Untold Stories , won the PEN/Ackerley Prize for Autobiography, 2006. His 2009 play, The Habit of Art , received glowing reviews and was broadcast live the following year by National Theatre Live. In 2012 People premiered at the National Theatre to widespread critical acclaim. The film of The Lady in the Van starring Maggie Smith was released in 2015, sending Bennett's memoir of the same name to the top of the bestseller list for nine weeks.

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The Uncommon Reader

What would happen if the Queen became a reader of taste and discernment rather than of Dick Francis? The answer is a perfect story.

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The Laying On Of Hands

Clive Dunlop was a masseur of exceptional talents. His 'services' were much in demand amongst the great and the good and after his untimely…

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The Clothes They Stood Up In

The Clothes They Stood Up In is Alan Bennett's first story. Like Charles Dickens' novels which were first published in magazines, it origina…

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Alan Bennett's second story. This time, set in the 1970s, in classic Bennett country, Yorkshire. 'On the many occasions Midgley had killed h…

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Here are Alan Bennett's four hugely admired, triumphantly reviewed and bestselling stories, brought together in one book for the first time.

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Alan Bennett is the author of Writing Home, The Madness of George III, Talking Heads, The Clothes They Stood Up In and much else besides. Miss Shepher…

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One Hundred Books for the Next Twenty Years

To mark the twentieth anniversary of the London Review Bookshop, we invited twenty writers close to our hearts to choose the five books they think we need to navigate the  next  twenty years.

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The sinking of the General Belgrano was the bloodiest and most controversial military action of the Falklands War. This is the story of government cover-ups and conspiracies; of whistleblowers, crusading politicians and journalists fighting for the story. And caught in the middle of it all, a young officer whose account of what happened contradicted Margaret Thatcher’s in every crucial detail. A new six-part podcast series, hosted by Andrew O'Hagan. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

The Belgrano Diary London Review of Books

  • 27 MAR 2024

Episode 1: Half a Million Sheep Can't Be Wrong

When Argentina invades the Falkland Islands, Margaret Thatcher sends a huge flotilla on an 8000-mile rescue mission – to save a forgotten remnant of the empire, and her premiership. Onboard the nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror, Lieutenant Narendra Sethia starts to keep a diary. You can read a collection of the magazines coverage of the Falklands war on our website: https://www.lrb.co.uk/podcasts-and-videos/podcasts/the-belgrano-diary The Belgrano Diary is a new six-part series from the Documentary Team at the London Review of Books, hosted by Andrew O’Hagan. Episode 2 will be released on April 4. Archive: ‘Good Morning Britain’/ITV/TV-Am, ‘Newsnight’/BBC/BBC News, ‘Falkands War – The Untold Story’/ITV/Yorkshire Television, ‘Leach, Henry Conyers (Oral history)’/Imperial War Museum, ‘President Regan’s Press Briefing in the Oval Office on April 5, 1982’/White House Television Office, ‘Diary’/James M. Rentschler, TV Publica/Radio y Televisión Argentina S.E, The Falklands War: Recordings from the Archive/BBC Worldwide, Parliamentary Recording Unit Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

  • 20 MAR 2024

On 2 May 1982, the British submarine HMS Conqueror sank the Argentinian warship, the General Belgrano, killing 323 men. It was the bloodiest event of the Falklands War – and the most controversial. The account of the sinking given by Thatcher's government was inaccurate in every crucial detail – and the truth would only emerge from the pages of a private diary, written by an officer onboard the submarine. The Belgrano Diary is a story of war in the South Atlantic, iron leadership, cover-ups and conspiracies, crusading politicians and competing journalists, and an unlikely whistleblower. A new six-part series from the Documentary Team at the London Review of Books, hosted by Andrew O’Hagan. Archive: ‘Good Morning Britain’/ITV/TV-Am Parliamentary Recording Unit Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.

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A cow with the sun blazing between its horns.

Choice by Neel Mukherjee review – parables for our times

A bleak, brilliant moral maze of a novel about ethical dilemmas, from global poverty to the climate crisis

I n the middle ages, morality would be transmitted in images. Churchgoers would commonly find above the altar a panel of three paintings relating a biblical parable or commandment. Such altarpieces could be found in Buddhist shrines, too, which might be adorned with three scenes from the path of enlightenment. A knack for envisioning moral precepts has seen the triptych translated across many cultures and now, with the UK-based Indian writer Neel Mukherjee’s formally daring new novel, even from image to text.

Composed of three narratives about 21st-century ethical and political dilemmas, Choice has been termed a triptych by its author and, like its visual forebears, the novel needles our moral impulses. The issues in question, from climate change to global poverty, are modern, but the novel’s interest in sin and virtue is redolent of the triptych’s medieval preoccupations. Where Choice differs is that, in its world, there are no unambiguous rights or wrongs. As one character observes of another: “No escape was offered by making what one thought was the correct moral choice.” This is a triptych for a secular age – without hope of salvation, however hard humans try.

Ayush, protagonist of the first narrative, certainly tries. An academic turned editor at a London publisher, he lives with Luke, his economist husband, and their children. So haunted is he by their human footprint that he has a plumber cut off the water supply beyond the meagre amount he considers acceptable, and installs timers on all the lights – measures taken unilaterally, and causing rows. Luke’s worldview is different. His motto, referenced repeatedly, is: “Economics is life, life is economics.”

This is the principle under scrutiny in Choice. At home with neoliberal Luke and at the offices of his multinational, Ayush encounters an outlook defined by “the centrality of money, its foundationalness”, which crushes the humane values he reveres as a scholar and publisher. Ayush’s interior monologue is compelling, especially the satirical vignettes from a publishing industry mired in “white mediocrity”.

But there’s no straightforward side-taking in Choice. For one thing, long-suffering Luke, his supposedly inhumane worldview denounced by Ayush, seems the more humane character, and it’s Ayush’s treatment of his fellow humans that is most dubious. In the novel’s astonishing opening, Ayush is depicted showing his children what seems to be a cute animal video before bed. It turns out to be a graphic vegan propaganda film of pigs being butchered.

While judging Luke for reducing the world to a numbers game, Ayush is the one who spends his life obsessively quantifying it. He is constantly doing equations to reduce, say, the profligacy of his showers. His moral compass, consulted daily, appears to be a virtual “kill counter” tallying animals slaughtered worldwide. Ayush loses the children’s education fund, giving it all away to environmental causes. Ultimately, he is himself guilty of a crudely utilitarian moral calculus. Mukherjee shows capitalism to be so pervasive that even its opponents cannot escape its modes of thought.

Two details link this narrative with the other two. In a short fiction collection that Ayush publishes is a story about an academic who, wasted in the back of an Uber, witnesses the taxi hit a boy, before driving off. Choice’s second section, it transpires, is this very story, recounting how the woman unburdens her guilt about the incident by getting uncomfortably close to the driver, an Eritrean migrant, and his family. At another moment, Ayush learns from an economist (one of many in this book) about a scheme that donates cows to poor Indian women. Most make a success of monetising the cow, but Ayush ponders the failures. The third section is the tale of one such family – imagined by Ayush – falling apart after receiving this well-meant gift.

Both narratives recall somewhat those thought experiments invoked by philosophy lecturers to tease out who bears responsibility for actions and their unforeseen consequences. We come to consider in a similarly abstract way the ethical dilemmas encapsulated by these stories-within-stories, since Mukherjee has drawn attention to their fictionality, and even to his own authorial intentions. A rich editorial exchange between Ayush and the author he publishes commends the “philosophical fiction” of late Coetzee and poses the revealing question: “Can ideas be discussed openly as ideas, or do they always need to be disguised under drama and action and emotional development and all that rubbish, like vegetables smuggled into food for children?”

Mukherjee’s award-winning debut, A Life Apart, contained a novel within a novel, but Choice represents another order of self-referential metafiction. It succeeds, though, because it’s never without fiction’s traditional pleasures, from the close social observation of rural Bengal to delicate evocations of London. Here he is on the way flowers on Herne Hill look more vibrant in the dark: “more intense, more liberated, more obscene, somehow, than their polite, corseted daytime selves”.

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Like many contemporary writers, Mukherjee is anxious about injustice. But in this brilliant, bleak moral maze of a novel, where every right turn is a wrong one, we will find no lessons about what is to be done – even if Lenin lurks in the epigraphs. Choice is more like the tale of the enlightenment of Buddha, the awakened one (the woke one, we’d say today), which Ayush fixates on: it rouses our moral intuitions from privileged slumber and spurs us not to action, but to intricate contemplation of what actions mean.

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This Jazz Legend Is His Own Work in Progress

The private musings of Sonny Rollins reveal an artist devoted to the rigors of self-improvement.

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A black-and-white photograph of a young Black man holding a saxophone and sitting in a chair.

By Dwight Garner

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THE NOTEBOOKS OF SONNY ROLLINS, edited by Sam V.H. Reese.

It is possible to imagine the jazz musician Sonny Rollins’s life as a novel, pitched between realism and surrealism in the manner of Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.” The settings would include Harlem, where Rollins grew up poor in the 1930s and ’40s, and the decadence of clubland in New York City and Chicago at the century’s midpoint, when he was a musical prodigy. A chapter might linger on the recording of his landmark 1957 album “Saxophone Colossus.”

He began to practice alone, often at night, on the Williamsburg Bridge. A novelist might view this scene from avian heights, swooping down the East River, in and out of his grainy, Dopplered wail. As Rollins aged, accolades began to settle on his head and shoulders the way pigeons do on statues in the Piazza San Marco in Venice. Fame and honor were not enough to assuage his fears when he and his wife bought a house in upstate New York; a Black man and a white woman couldn’t live anywhere too isolated because interracial marriage still drew outrage.

The Williamsburg Bridge material might make up this novel’s crucial chapter. (I wish one of the two gifted drummers in my apartment building would practice there, too, instead of across the breezeway. New York musicians and their neighbors: a small book crying out to be written, with sympathy for both sides.) Rollins began practicing there in 1960, not long after he commenced a two-year sabbatical from performing and recording. No one knew where he had gone. During this time, he also began keeping the notebooks that the critic Sam V.H. Reese has now excerpted in a slim and handsome new book, “The Notebooks of Sonny Rollins.”

In his introduction, Reese writes that Rollins vanished because he wanted to work on his sound. That is true, up to a point. But Rollins in 1959 was also determined to change his life. He’d been a heroin addict, sometimes scoring with his friend and bandmate Miles Davis. He’d spent time in Rikers on a weapons charge. He was known for pawning other’s instruments. He discarded side musicians as often as some men change pocket handkerchiefs, and sometimes smacked them. He was “mad, bad and dangerous to know,” as was said of Lord Byron. People kept him at arm’s length. He’d fallen victim to the lures and snags of jazz club life.

What he needed, he later wrote, was “MRA = Moral Re-Armament.” Rollins was determined to strip his life down to essentials. These notebooks chronicle, in addition to his work on his sound, his decision to change his diet. He went in for a lot of fruit and juices and broiled chicken. He began working out. He tried to stop smoking. He got into yoga and Eastern modes of thought. He also dabbled in ESP and liked to refer to himself in the third person. He kept these journals off and on for the rest of his life.

Rollins, at the golden age of 93, is still very much with us. His archives are at the New York Public Library. These archives include, Reese writes, “a hefty six boxes” of his personal notebooks. Alas, Reese does not explain his editing process — how he winnowed six boxes of material down to a 152-page book that still contains a lot of filler and close-to-meaningless verbiage, stuff that was probably meant for Rollins’s consumption alone.

But let’s stick with the material that works. Rollins meditates on the nature of the saxophone (the “horn of horns”) and the nature of his own ambitions. “I want critics to knock me,” he writes, “so that I come back and make them look like fools.” He enjoyed the element of surprise. In another entry, he writes, “I like to play and let the crowd settle and then lull and then wake them up with something outrageous .” He stares at his psyche as if in front of a full-length mirror.

He fills the pages with lists — of books to read, of favorite songs, of possible titles for his own books. He deplores his impatience, and his lusting after women. He wants to be more punctual. He writes about jazz as “the embodiment of the American Ideal.”

He is casually aphoristic: “Look on procrastination as a good thing.” “Don’t worry about the race, worry about the pace.” “Many people who have succumbed to failure in one way or another have been just that close to success so as not to see it.” “You can’t live on money.”

Rollins was a true eccentric. His jottings include items like, “Check into a life-size skeleton frame — where one can be obtained.” He can sound like a Howard Hughes-level cleanliness nut. Here he is on moving about New York City:

Rule 1: When riding in any vehicle of a motor-driven nature (cars, trains, buses etc.) it is advisable to arrange breathing so that an exhale will always coincide with the stopping of said vehicle. Hold out exhale! Reason? — fumes.

He worried about what he ate in part because he liked to look good onstage (“As I look in mirror — too much fat ass,” he writes in one entry), but also because poor digestion hampered his playing and his mood. It had never occurred to me, until reading him, that air forcefully expelled at one end of the alimentary canal might mean material forcefully expelled at the other. “I could not bring air and attack thru my horn,” Rollins writes of one moment, “for fear of having an accidental elimination.”

As an editor, Reese writes sensitively about Rollins’s music but somehow never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. His introduction does not mention Rollins’s drug use and other troubles. His endnotes are sparse. When Rollins laments that Muhammad Ali appeared in television commercials, for example, one might have noted that Rollins himself made a radio commercial for Listerine. Reese prints a few of Rollins’s stray comments about his teeth without noting that recurring dental problems were one of the central dramas of his playing life and came close to ending his career. (Details about his elaborate dental work make Aidan Levy’s excellent 2022 biography of Rollins painful to read.)

Reese does send us out on a high note. This book ends with some of Rollins’s most useful exhortations:

“Forgive everyone everything.”

“What other people think of you is none of your business.”

“No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.”

THE NOTEBOOKS OF SONNY ROLLINS | Edited by Sam V.H. Reese | New York Review Books | 152 pp. | Paperback, $17.95

Dwight Garner has been a book critic for The Times since 2008, and before that was an editor at the Book Review for a decade. More about Dwight Garner

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  1. LRB Diary for 2022

    How astrologically auspicious was the date of the LRB's founding? For whom did the events of 4 June 1989 change everything? Find the answers to these questions, and many more, in the LRB Diary for 2022, which has once again mined the paper's archive to find an incident from history, tall tale or seasonal poem for every week of next year ...

  2. London Review of Books

    This is the story of a diary written onboard the British submarine that fired the torpedoes, the diary that proved Thatcher's government hadn't told the truth about what happened. Listen to the new six-part podcast series hosted by Andrew O'Hagan. ... As the London Review of Books celebrates its 40th anniversary, ...

  3. Keith Thomas · Diary: Working Methods

    Vol. 32 No. 13 · 8 July 2010. I may have been an early beneficiary of Keith Thomas's working methods as a historian, which he explained in his Diary ( LRB, 10 June ). Some years ago I tried out my first paper on the Muggletonians for his research seminar. I raised a question with him the next morning at breakfast.

  4. London Review of Books

    Since 1979, London Review of Books has focused on protecting and promoting the tradition of the literary and intellectual essay in English. Each issue contains essays, book reviews, poems, an exhibition review, "short cuts," letters, and a diary. For book reviews, they look at both unsolicited submissions and proposals.

  5. LRB Diary for 2023

    This new selection accompanies the LRB 's diary for 2023: a classic entry for each week of the year, with illustrations by Jon McNaught - 'of things from my desk, shelves and so on' - and the usual useful features. Publication date: 01/09/2022. £ 12.99. ISBN: 9781800814899.

  6. LRB Diary for 2023: With entries from the last forty years by Alan

    Alan Bennett's diary for 1983 was the first to be published in the London Review of Books. 'Besides the occasional incident that seems worth recording,' he wrote then, 'I put down gossip and notes on work and reading.' Forty years on, his approach remains the same, and his diary has become a cornerstone of the first LRB of the year.

  7. London Review of Books Diary for 2024 : LRB Diary

    London Review of Books Diary for 2024. 52 Ways of Thinking about Kafka. LRB Diary. Diary (01 Sep 2023) Not available for sale. Includes delivery to the United States.

  8. Search Books

    Discover our full range of books, gifts, toys, stationery and audiobooks at Waterstones.com. Click & Collect within 2 hours or buy online with Free UK Delivery on Orders Over £25. Account ... Registered office address: 203-206 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9HD.

  9. London Review of Books

    London Review of Books 'disappointed' at venue's decision not to host lectures, including one by Pankaj Mishra ... Alan Bennett contemplates losing friends and the Queen in 2022 diary.

  10. Lrb Diary for 2023 by Alan Bennett

    Forty years on, his approach remains the same, and his diary has become a cornerstone of the first LRB of the year.This new selection accompanies the LRB's diary for 2023: a classic entry for each week of the year, with illustrations by Jon McNaught - 'of things from my desk, shelves and so on' - and the usual useful features. Show more.

  11. London Review of Books (LRB)

    As well as essays and book reviews each issue also contains poems, an exhibition review, 'short cuts', letters and a diary, and is available in print, online, and offline via our app ...

  12. London Review of Books on LinkedIn: LRB Diary for 2024: 52 ways of

    London Review of Books. 9,095 followers. 2mo. Mark the centenary of Kafka's death with the LRB Diary for 2024: 52 ways of thinking about Kafka - one for each week of the year. From Kafka's ...

  13. London Review of Books

    The London Review of Books is the perfect read for anyone interested in politics, literature, philosophy or the arts. Subscribe to the LRB today and read the world's best writing from some of the world's best writers. As well as the latest issue delivered every two weeks, subscribers have access to more than 17,000 pieces in our archive. Place your order now and make the most of your ...

  14. @londonreviewofbooks

    The Belgrano Diary podcast: listen to the trailer and subscribe. ... Adam Smyth: Death of the Book. Nicholas Spice : Coetzee's Multistorey Consciousness. Keiron Pim · Diary: In Mostyska ... London Review of Books International Fellowship. LRB Diary for 2024: 52 ways of thinking about Kafka.

  15. Pooja Bhatia · Diary: Leaving Haiti

    Jake Johnston's new book, Aid State: Elite Panic, Disaster Capitalism and the Battle to Control Haiti (St Martin's Press, £24.99), analyses America's sordid manipulation of that election, which brought the corrupt - but pro-US - Martelly to power, as well as the 2016 election of Moïse, Martelly's chosen successor. At the time of ...

  16. Went to London, Took the Dog by Nina Stibbe review

    Went to London, Took the Dog: a Diary by Nina Stibbe is published by Pan Macmillan (£16.99). To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.

  17. The Belgrano Diary

    The Belgrano Diary is a story of war in the South Atlantic, iron leadership, cover-ups and conspiracies, crusading politicians and competing journalists, and an unlikely whistleblower. A new six-part series from the Documentary Team at the London Review of Books, hosted by Andrew O'Hagan.

  18. London Review of Books: An Anthology

    Erudite, witty and often controversial, The London Review of Books informs and entertains its readers with a fortnightly dose of the best and liveliest of all things cultural.This anthology brings together some of the most memorable pieces from recent years, includes Alan Bennett's Diary, Christopher Hitchens on Bill Clinton's presidency, Terry Castle's hotly-debated reading of Jane ...

  19. London Review of Books: An Incomplete History review

    London Review of Books: An Incomplete History is published by Faber (£35). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com or call 020-3176 3837. Free UK p&p over £15, online orders only.

  20. The Belgrano Diary

    The Belgrano Diary - The London Review of Books. The sinking of the General Belgrano was the bloodiest and most controversial military action of the Falklands War. This is the story of government cover-ups and conspiracies; of whistleblowers, crusading politicians and journalists fighting for the story. And caught in the middle of it all, a ...

  21. Archive · Volume 46, 2024

    Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire. Find out more about the London Review of Books app. Sign up to our newsletter.

  22. Alan Bennett

    Alan Bennett's first play, Forty Years On, was produced in 1968; his most recent, Allelujah!, in 2018.His annual diary has appeared in the LRB since 1983.The Lady in the Van was first published in the paper, and the LRB has also carried some of his Talking Heads monologues, as well as short stories, pieces of memoir and reviews.House Arrest: Pandemic Diaries came out in 2022.

  23. The London Review of Books Store

    About the LRB Store. The London Review of Books is Europe's leading magazine of culture and ideas. Published twice a month, it provides a space for some of the world's best writers to explore a wide variety of subjects in exhilarating detail - from art and politics to science and technology via history and philosophy, not to mention ...

  24. ‎The Belgrano Diary on Apple Podcasts

    The Belgrano Diary is a story of war in the South Atlantic, iron leadership, cover-ups and conspiracies, crusading politicians and competing journalists, and an unlikely whistleblower. A new six-part series from the Documentary Team at the London Review of Books, hosted by Andrew O'Hagan. Archive: 'Good Morning Britain'/ITV/TV-Am

  25. Bricks of Victorian London: A Social and Economic History

    Book Review Bricks of Victorian London: A Social and Economic History by Peter Hounsell, University of Hertfordshire Press, 2023, 304 pp., illustrated, £18.99 (pb), ISBN 9781912260577

  26. Choice by Neel Mukherjee review

    Ayush, protagonist of the first narrative, certainly tries. An academic turned editor at a London publisher, he lives with Luke, his economist husband, and their children.

  27. Submissions

    The best guide to what we might like is what we usually publish, including poems, reviews, reportage, memoir, articles for our Short Cuts and Diary slots, and blogposts. Submissions should be sent for the attention of the editors by email or post to: [email protected]. London Review of Books. 28 Little Russell Street.

  28. Book Review: 'The Notebooks of Sonny Rollins'

    Rollins, at the golden age of 93, is still very much with us. His archives are at the New York Public Library. These archives include, Reese writes, "a hefty six boxes" of his personal notebooks.