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John Sturrock

31 March 1988
The Tain of the Mirror: Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection 
by Rodolphe Gasché.
Harvard, 348 pp., £19.95, December 1986, 0 674 86700 9
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by Christopher Norris.
Fontana, 271 pp., £4.95, November 1987, 0 00 686057 5
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The Truth in Painting 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod.
Chicago, 386 pp., £39.95, October 1987, 0 226 14323 6
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The Postcard: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by Alan Bass.
Chicago, 521 pp., £36.75, August 1987, 0 226 14320 1
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The Archaeology of the Frivolous: Reading Condillac 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by John Leavey.
Nebraska, 143 pp., $7.95, June 1987, 0 8032 6571 9
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... Bait them and the Derrideans certainly rise. When the English version of Derrida’s Glas appeared last year in the United States*, I wrote a griping review of it, to regret mainly that a philosopher as brilliantly fresh and radical as Derrida should want to publish something so mannered and so hard to follow. Some of the North American faithful objected to this review, and one, a professor of philosophy ...
16 February 1984
Margins of Philosophy 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by Alan Bass.
Harvester, 330 pp., £25, May 1983, 0 7108 0454 7
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... This could be a very boring subject, and in many philosophers’ hands it is. Derrida is saved by being a magnificent writer (and saved for us Anglo-Saxons by having found translators – notably AlanBass – who are able to carry off a nearly impossible task). To see Derrida at his best, try the essay ‘White Mythology’. This is the most convincing piece in this volume (except perhaps for a ...


Alan​ Bennett: What I did in 2010

16 December 2010
... roles when everybody else was just trying to get by. ‘Brits’ – so much of what is hateful about the world since Mrs Thatcher in that gritty hard little word. 2 May. Several of the obituaries of Alan Sillitoe who died last week mention how, when as a child he was being hit by his father, his mother would beg ‘Not on his head. Not on his head.’ My father was a mild man and seldom hit my ...

French Air

John Sutherland

12 November 1987
The Foul and the Fragrant: Odour and the French Social Imagination 
by Alain Corbin, translated by Miriam Kochan.
Berg, 307 pp., £18, November 1986, 0 907582 47 8
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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer 
by Patrick Süskind, translated by John Woods.
Penguin, 263 pp., £3.95, September 1987, 0 14 009244 7
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The Double Bass 
by Patrick Süskind, translated by Michael Hofmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 57 pp., £8.95, September 1987, 9780241120392
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... should have given the world its first ‘perfume-comedian’ – the virtuoso of the concert-room fart, Le Pétomane, and that he should have become a cult figure in Britain only in the 1960s, after Alan Brien’s pioneering articles on breaking wind in the New Statesman. The elimination of odour from English literature, and even from English pornography, in the 19th and 20th centuries argues deep ...
23 September 1993
Will Pop Eat Itself? Pop Music in the Soundbite Era 
by Jeremy J. Beadle.
Faber, 269 pp., £7.99, June 1993, 9780571162413
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Present Tense: Rock & Roll and Culture 
edited by Anthony DeCurtis.
Duke, 317 pp., £11.95, October 1992, 0 8223 1265 4
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... infringement (this is usually resolved by obtaining clearance, for a fee, from the holders of the copyright), but because technical mastery of the traditional pop instruments – guitars, drums, bass and keyboards – is now a thing of the past. Far from viewing technology as a threat, Beadle insists that the music-makers who, since 1987, have come to the charts carrying samplers have brought ...

Mental Processes

Christopher Longuet-Higgins

4 August 1988
The Computer and the Mind: An Introduction to Cognitive Science 
by P.N. Johnson-Laird.
Harvard/Fontana, 444 pp., £23.50, May 1988, 0 674 15615 3
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... to the curious inquirer. But there exists a type of mind (if you can call it that) that we really do understand, through and through, because it is our own invention, or rather the invention of Alan Turing and John von Neumann. The now famous Universal Turing Machine was an imaginary device that could rearrange any row of l’s and 0’s in accordance with any finite set of rules supplied to it ...

Poland’s Poet

Alan​ Sheridan

17 December 1981
Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition 
by Czeslaw Milosz, translated by Catherine Leach.
Sidgwick, 300 pp., £8.95, July 1981, 0 283 98782 0
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The Issa Valley 
by Czeslaw Milosz, translated by Louis Iribarne.
Sidgwick, 288 pp., £6.95, July 1981, 0 283 98762 6
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... but if what Milosz says of the two languages is true he must be a supreme example of Polishness. He tells of a certain exercise in which ‘one had to lake a deep breath and pronounce first in a deep bass voice: “Wyryta zastupom yama globokaya” [Russian for ‘A deep pit dug out with a spade’], then chatter quickly in a tenor: “Wykopana szpadlem jama gleboka” [the same, in Polish]. The ...

Goings-On at Eagle Lake

Christopher Tayler: Barry Hannah

29 November 2001
Yonder Stands Your Orphan 
by Barry Hannah.
Atlantic, 336 pp., £9.99, September 2001, 1 903809 16 9
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... he is mistaken for ‘that lounge comic with the enormous head and hair, Brother Dave Gardner’. Mortimer achieves a kind of apotheosis at a party where the dancers are masked as Reagan, Nixon, Alan Greenspan and Hillary Clinton: ‘Club of the Now!’ he shouts. And when he hurts people, it’s because he wants to make them as inauthentic as he is: ‘Maybe I cut because I want them to have no ...


W.G. Runciman: Like a Prep School

10 January 1991
... was not to get mixed up with the Labour peers by mistake, chuckle chuckle. In the first debate I attended, a speech was made by a bishop in full fig which I swear must have been scripted for him by Alan Bennett: as he delivered it, he actually performed the gesture of appearing to be washing his hands which I thought even the most unctuous prelates had been teased out of decades ago. The prefects ...

Think of Mrs Darling

Jenny Diski: Erving Goffman

4 March 2004
Goffman's Legacy 
edited by Javier Treviño.
Rowman and Littlefield, 294 pp., £22.95, August 2003, 0 7425 1978 3
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... There must be certain texts which become available to each generation in their youth and then remain with them: a background, forgotten bass rhythm throughout their lives. Certainly, I had forgotten about reading Erving Goffman in the late 1960s and early 1970s: Asylums, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and, I think, Stigma. They ...

Wait a second what’s that?

August Kleinzahler: Elvis’s Discoverer

8 February 2018
Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ’n’ Roll 
by Peter Guralnick.
Weidenfeld, 784 pp., £16.99, November 2015, 978 0 297 60949 0
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... music, whereas Memphis is identified with the blues and rock ’n’ roll, and from the 1960s, with soul and R&B. Sam Phillips did not invent rock ’n’ roll, a term coined by the Cleveland DJ Alan Freed in the early 1950s. Black musicians did in the 1940s, as the big black swing bands were dying off and smaller ensembles took over, offering stripped-down, up-tempo music with a repetitive beat ...

So Ordinary, So Glamorous

Thomas Jones: Eternal Bowie

5 April 2012
Starman: David Bowie, the Definitive Biography 
by Paul Trynka.
Sphere, 440 pp., £9.99, March 2012, 978 0 7515 4293 6
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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s 
by Peter Doggett.
Bodley Head, 424 pp., £20, September 2011, 978 1 84792 144 4
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... interesting music. You’d mention anything new, and his pet phrase was: “Don’t need to.”’ According to the record sleeve, Bowie played most of the guitar on Diamond Dogs (1974) himself. But Alan Parker, whose contribution is acknowledged for only one song, ‘1984’, perhaps deserves more credit than that. Of the guitar part on ‘Rebel Rebel’, Parker told Trynka: ‘I can tell my own ...
6 January 2000
Adventures in Wonderland: A Decade of Club Culture 
by Sheryl Garratt.
Headline, 335 pp., £7.99, May 1999, 0 7472 7680 3
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Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey 
by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton.
Headline, 408 pp., £14.99, November 1999, 0 7472 7573 4
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Saturday Night For Ever: The Story of Disco 
by Alan​ Jones and Jussi Kantonen.
Mainstream, 223 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 9781840181777
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DJ Culture 
by Ulf Poschardt.
Quartet, 473 pp., £13, January 1999, 0 7043 8098 6
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Energy Flash: A Journey through Rave Music and Dance Culture 
by Simon Reynolds.
Picador, 493 pp., £12.99, July 1998, 0 330 35056 0
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More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction 
by Kodwo Eshun.
Quartet, 208 pp., £10, March 1998, 0 7043 8025 0
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... Brown – persists. Clearly, too, most rock writing foregrounds lyrics, whereas most dance music works through texture, beats and effects. Back in 1976, punk set itself against disco wholeheartedly. Alan Jones and Jussi Kantonen describe an occasion in July 1979 at the home stadium of the Chicago White Sox baseball team when thousands of disco records were set alight while the crowd chanted ‘Disco ...

Somebody Shoot at Me!

Ian Sansom: Woody Guthrie’s Novel

9 May 2013
House of Earth: A Novel 
by Woody Guthrie.
Fourth Estate, 234 pp., £14.99, February 2013, 978 0 00 750985 0
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... and goes into labour. And in Chapter 4, she gives birth. Tike never gets round to making his adobe house. That’s the story. But all along the way, plucking out another melody, as it were, on the bass strings, all the way from the barn to the bed and back again, Guthrie picks out a tale about poverty and man’s relationship to the land. It’s not just fiction, it’s testimony; it’s folklore ...
17 October 1996
Sleaze: Politicians, Private Interests and Public Reaction 
edited by F.F. Ridley and Alan​ Doig.
Oxford, 222 pp., £10.99, April 1996, 0 19 922273 8
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Changing Trains: The Autobiography of Steven Norris 
Hutchinson, 273 pp., £16.99, October 1996, 0 09 180212 1Show More
The Quango Debate 
edited by F.F. Ridley and David Wilson.
Oxford, 188 pp., £10.99, September 1995, 9780199222384
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... are themselves beneficiaries of similarly huge pay rises from remuneration committees of their own. One frog jumps right over the other frog’s back. Last year, the remuneration committee at Bass decided that chairman Ian Prosser should get a 17 per cent rise, to bring him up to a respectable £593,000 a year. The chairman of Bass’s remuneration committee was Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy, chairman ...

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