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Signposts along the way that Reason went

Richard Rorty, 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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... being a magnificent writer (and saved for us Anglo-Saxons by having found translators – notably Alan Bass – 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 remarkable essay on Heidegger, ‘Ousia and ...

Sabotage

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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Derrida 
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 in Scranton, wrote a letter warning that I had failed not just Derrida but our whole benighted community ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2010, 16 December 2010

... 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 brother or me but when he did my mother would make the same ...

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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... 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 internalised censorships, even within libertine ...

Hard Beats and Spacey Bleeps

Dave Haslam, 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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... 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 life to a music scene starved of ideas. Sampling can be ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: Like a Prep School, 10 January 1991

... 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, as it were, are tail-coated men who look like, and probably ...

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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... 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; the von Neumann computer is its electronic ...

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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... 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 arrangement of accents and vowels in the first connotes ...

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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... 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 were required reading, part of the unofficial University ...

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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... 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 face too.’ Hannah himself is rumoured to have pulled a ...

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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... 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, honking saxophones showcasing the vocalists, boogie-woogie ...

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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... 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 playing, and my own sound, and I know it’s me.’ Diamond ...

What the Twist Did for the Peppermint Lounge

Dave Haslam: Club culture, 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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... 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 sucks, Disco sucks!’ The 1989 edition of the Penguin ...

Even more immortal

Paul Driver, 8 April 1993

Memories of Beethoven: From the House of the Black-Robed Spaniards 
by Gerhard von Breuning, edited by Maynard Solomon, translated by Henry Mins and Maynard Solomon.
Cambridge, 154 pp., £15.95, November 1992, 0 521 41710 4
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Beethoven: Studies in the Creative Process 
by Lewis Lockwood.
Harvard, 283 pp., £31.95, July 1992, 0 674 06362 7
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... upon both measures, which reorganises the registral layout of the lower voices, makes the Vcl the bass to the Pfte, transfers the triplets to the Pfte and to a different register, and clarifies the sonority by removing the triplets from the Vcl at low register. The second version agrees with the final one; and it is doubly instructive that at mm. 164-165, the ...

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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... 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; it’s ‘The Ballad of Tike and Ella May’. Guthrie seems ...

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