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Swing for the Fences

David Runciman: Mourinho’s Way, 30 June 2011

Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won 
by Tobias Moskowitz and Jon Wertheim.
Crown, 278 pp., £19.50, January 2011, 978 0 307 59179 1
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... time does seem to go on for ever when Manchester United are playing at home – the image of Alex Ferguson consulting his watch as United push forward for a winning goal in the 97th minute at Old Trafford is probably the one that defines the Premier League. But why do the home side always seem more likely to score at the end? Why are they the ones ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2014, 8 January 2015

... warned would be the case, though the chapel itself is full. Rupert is in the next stall and Rowan Williams slips in beyond him in his capacity as master of Magdalene. Comforting presence though he is, this means I will be preaching (sic) a few feet along from the ex-archbishop of Canterbury. Still, at least he’s not the dreadful Geoffrey Fisher who when I ...

Devolution Doom

Christopher Harvie: Scotland’s crisis, and some solutions, 5 September 2002

... reply. Drafting a sketch for a BBC radio programme on devolution, I was rung by Professor Phil Williams, a colleague at Aberystwyth who is also Plaid Cymru’s spokesman on energy. ‘I’m on it with Jack McConnell,’ I said. ‘Who’s McConnell?’ ‘Scottish First Minister.’ ‘Well, I never . . .’ This was a benign version of the Jowett ...

How to Solve the Puzzle

Donald MacKenzie: On Short Selling, 5 April 2018

... into him. But they aren’t the only ones who don’t like short sellers. In September 2008, Alex Salmond, then Scotland’s first minister, lashed out at the ‘bunch of short-selling spivs’ he blamed for the falling price of shares in Halifax Bank of Scotland. (Alas, the spivs were right: were it not for the takeover by Lloyds and then the taxpayer ...

Sheep don’t read barcodes

Glen Newey: ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’, 22 March 2012

Thinking, Fast and Slow 
by Daniel Kahneman.
Allen Lane, 499 pp., £25, November 2011, 978 1 84614 055 6
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... person standing at one side of the room as a giant. Such phenomena are not confined to humans. Alex, a thirty-year-old African Grey parrot trained to compare the size of presented objects, reportedly saw the Müller-Lyer illusion in 32 out of fifty tests in which humans would see it. The workings of System 1 can be seen in non-perceptual processing, too. A ...


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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... to place and pin them down in a way that could not be done with real American poets – Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, John Ashbery. She even places Lowell inside a critical trope. ‘The New Critical doctrine that every poem is a little drama built around a central paradox is ... in the very fabric of their lives ... especially Lowell, whose life is ...

Too Fast

Thomas Powers: Malcolm X, 25 August 2011

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention 
by Manning Marable.
Allen Lane, 592 pp., £30, April 2011, 978 0 7139 9895 5
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... neck and ears before the searing congolene was combed in. ‘My head caught fire,’ Little told Alex Haley 20 years later when they were working on The Autobiography of Malcolm X, at least half of which deserves to be ranked with the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. ‘My eyes watered, my nose was running,’ Little said. ‘I bolted to the washbasin ...

A Nation of Collaborators

Adewale Maja-Pearce, 19 June 1997

... thus enabling Abacha to maintain the fiction that his regime wasn’t an entirely military affair. Alex Ibru, publisher of the Guardian, the country’s best independent daily newspaper, became Minister of Internal Affairs. Alhaji Lateef Jakande, a minister in the last civilian government and a self-proclaimed democrat, became Minister of Works and Housing. Dr ...

Who Are They?

Jenny Turner: The Institute of Ideas, 8 July 2010

... prisons’ instead of bringing in food and medical help. Aid agencies, unsurprisingly, objected; Alex de Waal, an expert on Sudan, did some digging and discovered that Foster is really Fiona Fox. Her ‘visit to Rwanda’ took place while she was working in the media relations department for Cafod, the Catholic relief agency. Shortly after this episode, it ...

What was it that drove him?

David Runciman: Gordon Brown, 4 January 2018

My Life, Our Times 
by Gordon Brown.
Bodley Head, 512 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 1 84792 497 1
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... sends him a copy of a poem to perk him up. It pays tribute to the American baseball star Ted Williams: ‘Watch the ball and do your thing/This is the moment. Here’s your chance/Don’t let anyone mess with your swing.’ He responds gratefully: ‘Brilliant poem. We need a British version of it.’ Brown hopes this picture is enough to give a sense of ...

In the Egosphere

Adam Mars-Jones: The Plot against Roth, 23 January 2014

Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books 
by Claudia Roth Pierpont.
Cape, 353 pp., £25, January 2014, 978 0 224 09903 5
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... that he must have been whistling. Martha, Lucy, Maureen, Josie … Margaret Martinson Roth née Williams made quite an impact. In The Facts, Roth comes close to saying that the idealistic values instilled in him by his parents delivered him up to Maggie’s manipulations; or rather, he does say so, but then (this being the structural trick of the book) he ...

You Muddy Fools

Dan Jacobson: In the months before his death Ian Hamilton talked about himself to Dan Jacobson, 14 January 2002

... at the TLS and we’d carried on seeing each other. I’d done a few reviews for him. Anyway, Alex had talked me up a bit and then I met Arthur. And there was a job vacant because Derwent May had gone to the Listener.It was about this time that we met. That’s right. I can’t remember when, in somebody’s kitchen.Oliver Caldecott’s. He was a ...

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