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The Medium in the Attic

Dinah Birch, 1 June 1989

The Darkened Room: Women, Power and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England 
by Alex Owen.
Virago, 307 pp., £11.95, May 1989, 0 86068 567 5
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... of personality and emotion, is intimately bound up with socially-constructed notions of maleness. Alex Owen’s solid and compelling new book makes it clear that the tenets of science’s disreputable sister, spiritualism, became just as entangled with ideas of gender. Spiritualism may be understood as an elaborated expression of Victorian thinking about ...

Astral Projection

Alison Light: The Case of the Croydon Poltergeist, 17 December 2020

The Haunting of Alma Fielding: A True Ghost Story 
by Kate Summerscale.
Bloomsbury, 345 pp., £18.99, October, 978 1 4088 9545 0
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... Kensington, it seems she has mastered ‘astral projection’.Summerscale​ draws on the work of Alex Owen and other historians of 19th-century spiritualism who argue that mediumship offered women independence and authority beyond the home, challenging their conventional roles while still allowing them to employ the so-called feminine virtues of ...

Into a Blazing Oven

Lili Owen Rowlands: Virginie Despentes, 17 December 2020

Vernon Subutex Three 
by Virginie Despentes, translated by Frank Wynne.
MacLehose, 306 pp., £14.99, June, 978 0 85705 982 6
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... porn and posting old music videos to Facebook. It’s there that Vernon learns his old friend Alex Bleach has drowned in a hotel bath.Alex was a rock star, a ‘twisted, reckless, wounded dandy’. Fame had been like ‘stepping into a blazing oven’, until the gas went out in the late 1990s and only drugs could keep ...

Who will stop them?

Owen Hatherley: The Neo-Elite, 23 October 2014

The Establishment and How They Get Away with It 
by Owen Jones.
Allen Lane, 335 pp., £16.99, September 2014, 978 1 84614 719 7
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... Part​ of what makes Owen Jones such a phenomenally successful figure by left-of-Labour standards is his ability to be several things at once. He is both insider, reporting back to ‘us’ about what ‘they’ think, and outsider, as shocked and angry about it as ‘we’ might be. He was brought up in Sheffield, Falkirk and Stockport and speaks in a sharp Mancunian accent, but he is also an Oxford graduate, with all the connections that can entail ...

One Click at a Time

Owen Hatherley, 30 June 2016

PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future 
by Paul Mason.
Allen Lane, 368 pp., £8.99, June 2016, 978 0 14 197529 0
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Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World without Work 
by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams.
Verso, 256 pp., £12.99, October 2015, 978 1 78478 096 8
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... Both​ Paul Mason’s PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future and Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’s Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World without Work advocate things that seemed to have disappeared from thinking on the left sometime in the late 1960s: technological optimism, futurism, the making of programmes and the issuing of demands as opposed to bearing witness through protest ...


John Lanchester: A Month on the Sofa, 11 July 2002

... focus in on Ronaldo’s blonde girlfriend in the crowd. What we didn’t know, but is revealed in Alex Bellos’s terrific book about Brazilian football culture, Futebol (Bloomsbury, 256 pp., £9.99, 6 May, 0 74755 403 x), is that he went on to marry a different blonde, Milene Domingues, who had the distinction of being the Brazilian champion at keeping a ...

At the Hop

Sukhdev Sandhu, 20 February 1997

Black England: Life before Emancipation 
by Gretchen Gerzina.
Murray, 244 pp., £19.99, October 1995, 0 7195 5251 6
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Reconstructing the Black Past: Blacks in Britain 1780-1830 
by Norma Myers.
Cass, 162 pp., £27.50, July 1996, 0 7146 4576 1
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... extremely handy, works at her Needle tolerably, and speaks English perfectly well. Enquire of Mrs Owen, at the Angel Inn, behind St Clement’s Church, the Strand.’ Huge, ornate images of negroes were displayed outside shops, taverns and coffeehouses, many of which bore names such as the Blackamoor’s Head. Thanks to its blacks London had an air of vibrant ...

Upside Down, Inside Out

Colin Kidd: The 1975 Referendum, 25 October 2018

Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain 
by Robert Saunders.
Cambridge, 509 pp., £24.99, March 2018, 978 1 108 42535 3
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... Most of the surviving protagonists of the 1975 referendum – such as the former Europhiles David Owen and Nigel Lawson; Neil Kinnock, a prominent Labour anti in 1975; or Alex Salmond, then a youthful SNP anti-Marketeer – found themselves on the other side of the debate from their former selves. The exception was Jim ...

Smiles Better

Andrew O’Hagan: Glasgow v. Edinburgh, 23 May 2013

On Glasgow and Edinburgh 
by Robert Crawford.
Harvard, 345 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 0 674 04888 1
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... how to stoke up the ancient and holy rivalries. For that, we will have to content ourselves with Alex Salmond and Irvine Welsh, my two prime provocateurs and opponents when it comes to establishing Glasgow’s obvious claim to being Scotland’s only true city. Here are my compelling arguments: 1. In Edinburgh they’re not very hospitable and they always ...
... London literary world. It’s not just the foreign press, packing Gladstone’s gilt salon to hear Alex Salmond and your man present the SNP – though Scotland does seem the one class act in an election as depressingly hidebound as it is important. Think of those scores of German Literatur-wissenschaftler confronting the present cultural scene: Alasdair Gray ...


Clive James, 19 August 1982

... year the final’s between two ex-champs. Veteran Ray Reardon’s cool, calm and collected, While Alex Higgins twitches and gets cramps Whenever from his headlong rush deflected. I’d like to keep a foot in both these camps, Believing the two styles, deep down, connected. They fight it to a finish frame by frame And no one doubts it’s more than just a ...

To Serve My Friends

Jonathan Parry, 27 January 2022

Trust and Distrust: Corruption in Office in Britain and Its Empire, 1600-1850 
by Mark Knights.
Oxford, 488 pp., £35, December 2021, 978 0 19 879624 4
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... he answered questions about his party’s handling of the corruption allegations against the MP Owen Paterson, and then again on 17 December, he discussed the loss of Paterson’s North Shropshire seat at the by-election necessitated by his resignation. On both occasions, Dowden insisted that what voters really wanted was for the government to ‘get on ...

John McEnroe plus Anyone

Edward Said: Tennis, 1 July 1999

The Right Set: The Faber Book of Tennis 
edited by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 327 pp., £12.99, June 1999, 0 571 19540 7
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... who perfected a unique over-the-shoulder lob return, Luis Ayala, the superb Chilean champion, or Alex Olmedo, an American Latino champion of rare grace: no reference to their achievements or presence at all. It was the variety of their game and their strongly contrasting personalities that gave tennis so much of its colour and fascination. Most peculiar in ...

Competition is for losers

David Runciman: Silicon Valley Vampire, 23 September 2021

The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power 
by Max Chafkin.
Bloomsbury, 400 pp., £25, September 2021, 978 1 5266 1955 6
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... tried to dress up outing Thiel as his own statement of principle. Gawker’s Silicon Valley editor Owen Thomas (who is himself gay) had written:How many out VCs do you know? I think it explains a lot about Thiel: his disdain for convention, his quest to overturn established rules. Like the immigrant Jews who created Hollywood a century ago, a gay investor has ...


John Bayley, 17 September 1987

Robert Lowell: Essays on the Poetry 
edited by Steven Gould Axelrod and Helen Deese.
Cambridge, 377 pp., £17.50, June 1987, 0 571 14979 0
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Collected Prose 
by Robert Lowell, edited and introduced by Robert Giroux.
Faber, 269 pp., £27.50, February 1987, 0 521 30872 0
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... knocks are almost a proof of intelligence and valour in us.’ How unimaginable that Wilfred Owen should have written such a thing from the trenches, but then he was pushed into being a poet by circumstances. Like Baudelaire, Berryman and Lowell had to make their circumstances: otherwise they would have decayed like their parents and their ...

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