Take a nap

Summer lunchtime reading from the LRB archive by James Meek, Penelope Fitzgerald, Bee Wilson, Colm Tóibín and Rosa Lyster. 

Take a nap: keeping cool

James Meek, 6 February 2003

Nixon loved air-conditioning. In summer he would turn the thermostat down as low as it would go, so he could toast himself by a blazing log fire in the synthetic chill. Extreme as Nixon’s virtuoso double-polluting habits may seem now, he was more in tune with the American public mood on matters of temperature control than the only President who tried to rein in his nation’s growing addiction to air-conditioning, Jimmy Carter.

Thirteen Poems: Doodles

Penelope Fitzgerald, 3 October 2002

I am your record-player, your idiot companion,/you glum I dumb you gay hey! hey! I go put Don Giovanni on/you break for lunch I break for lunch I stop

What explains the immense growth in London restaurants in the late 19th century? One factor was simple demographics: the 19th century population explosion meant there were many more mouths to be fed. London had six times as many inhabitants in 1910 as it did in 1800. Lunchtimes at popular dining haunts could be a scrum: a visitor to Pearce & Plenty in 1900 described a ‘shouting, swallowing throng of newsboys, printers’ “devils”, bricklayers’ labourers, carters and sweeps’.

The juice was neither cold nor hot. It caused no pain. I wondered if all the talk about it wasn’t exaggerated. Instead of shaking all over, I read the newspapers. I listened to the radio. I had my lunch. When the chemo finished, I had a shower and put on my dressing-gown and slippers and did a tour of the hospital corridors to see if anything was going on.

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster, 2 April 2020

I went to Mexico City to understand how a city could be drinking itself to death. When I got there I wanted instead to be lied to, not to see the cathedral lowering itself into the ground and the sinkholes opening up in the street, the ankle-deep trickle where a river used to be, or the trucks toiling up a hillside to deliver water to neighbourhoods that haven’t had a regular supply in a decade.

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.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences