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Andy Beckett: Bo Fowler, 3 September 1998

Scepticism Inc. 
by Bo Fowler.
Cape, 247 pp., £9.99, April 1998, 0 224 05124 5
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... There is a kind of modern writing, mostly found in books by young novelists and books about young artists, that tries not to seem like writing at all. One characteristic of this style is that it leaves things out – similes, imagery and other literary devices aren’t used, physical description is kept to a minimum. But these new writers are not trying to be Hemingway: their sentences do not hint at hard, manly hours of paring down ...


Andy Beckett: Dennis Cooper’s short novel, 21 May 1998

by Dennis Cooper.
Serpent’s Tail, 176 pp., £8.99, March 1998, 1 85242 586 5
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... Reading Dennis Cooper can make you queasy. This short novel is the fourth in a five-volume cycle concerned almost exclusively, so far, with sexual violence. Closer (1989) subjected an American teenager to anal mutilation; Frisk (1991) concerned the butchery of young Dutch boys; and Try (1994) in which one critic detected ‘a gentler maturity’, saw an adopted son greedily penetrated by his father ...

They both hated DLT

Andy Beckett: Radio 1, 15 April 1999

The Nation’s Favourite: The True Adventures of Radio 1 
by Simon Garfield.
Faber, 273 pp., £9.99, October 1998, 0 571 19435 4
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... Radio 1 used to sound like Surrey to me. Perhaps it was the disc jockeys they used in those days, with their creamy car-dealer’s voices and their discreetly tabloid opinions; or the on-air pub quizzes and snooker, where female contestants were flirted with and spoken to slowly; or the endless suburban doze of the afternoon programmes; or the sense, if you cared about pop music, that the records played were nothing but restaurant muzak to the DJs – to be talked over, cut short, looped repeatedly, forgotten about ...

Aunt Twackie’s Bazaar

Andy Beckett: Seventies Style, 19 August 2010

70s Style and Design 
by Dominic Lutyens and Kirsty Hislop.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £24.90, November 2009, 978 0 500 51483 2
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... Early on in this book there is a photograph of the British architect Peter Cook’s living-room ‘circa 1970’. Cook is now Sir Peter, co-designer of the rather bland main stadium for the 2012 London Olympics. But he was a young adventurer back then, a founder of the archetypal 1960s and 1970s avant-garde architects’ collective Archigram, which came up with never built but influential schemes for futuristic ‘walking’ buildings and ‘plug-in’ cities ...

Seconds from a Punch-Up

Andy Beckett: Irvine Welsh, 10 May 2012

by Irvine Welsh.
Cape, 548 pp., £12.99, April 2012, 978 0 224 08790 2
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... Eighteen years ago, in a pub in Darlington, someone I associated with fashion and clubbing but not anything as sedentary as reading told me she had just read the best book ever written. I had never heard of Trainspotting. It had been published the previous summer, and was still in the early stages of its journey from cult status to ubiquity. Soon afterwards I too found myself improbably mesmerised by Irvine Welsh’s often squalid tales of young heroin addicts from Leith, Edinburgh’s blustery, downtrodden port, in the late 1980s ...

When Capitalism Calls

Andy Beckett: The Protest Ethic by John Lloyd, 4 April 2002

The Protest Ethic: How the Anti-Globalisation Movement Challenges Social Democracy 
by John Lloyd.
Demos, 94 pp., £9.95, November 2001, 1 84180 009 0
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... About a year ago, during one of the peaks of exasperation at the Government in the left-leaning parts of the British press, I interviewed a member of a think tank close to New Labour. For an hour or so he kept up a fairly convincing defence of the Government. He cited the increases under Blair of certain social security benefits, the reductions in taxes for some of the poorest Britons, the reforming energy of the Administration in general ...

Bringing Down Chunks of the Ceiling

Andy Beckett: Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City by Dave Haslam, 17 February 2000

Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City 
by Dave Haslam.
Fourth Estate, 319 pp., £12.99, September 1999, 1 84115 145 9
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... On Tib Street in the centre of Manchester, in the part of the city keen to promote itself as the Northern Quarter, a new delicatessen recently opened. According to its website, Love Saves the Day is ‘an integrated, licensed, food and grocery store for urban living’. It has a mostly glass façade, and two different logos, and packages its goods with almost fetishistic attention ...

Political Gothic

Andy Beckett: David Peace does the miners’ strike, 23 September 2004

by David Peace.
Faber, 465 pp., £12.99, March 2004, 0 571 21445 2
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... David Peace’s first novel, Nineteen Seventy Four (1999), was set in West Yorkshire in the year of its title, and presented that time and place in apocalyptic terms. ‘These are violent bloody times, son,’ a senior policeman tells the narrator, a gauche young journalist investigating the disappearance of a series of girls. As the narrator speeds round Leeds’s grey ring of motorways, in ceaseless midwinter rain and darkness, he comes across burning gypsy caravans, corrupt property developers, paedophiles, and a police force that beats and kidnaps and burgles with the impunity of a private army ...

Nine White Men Armed with Iron Bars

Andy Beckett: Postwar Immigrant Experience, 2 November 2017

Lovers and Strangers: An Immigrant History of Postwar Britain 
by Clair Wills.
Allen Lane, 442 pp., £25, August 2017, 978 1 84614 716 6
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... In​ 1964, shortly after getting married and landing the first research fellowship at the new Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham, Stuart Hall, the Jamaican-born analyst of Britain, went looking for somewhere to live. He had already been in Britain for 13 years, in Oxford and London. He wasn’t unaware that prejudice against immigrants existed ...

Favoured Irregulars

Andy Beckett: The Paras, 24 January 2019

Our Boys: The Story of a Paratrooper 
by Helen Parr.
Allen Lane, 382 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 0 241 28894 8
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... Sentimentality​ about soldiering can be a powerful thing in countries where few people have ever done it. In the United Kingdom, the last national servicemen were demobbed 55 years ago. According to the latest figures, the armed forces have 192,130 personnel, including part-time volunteers – less than 0.3 per cent of the population. The number of full-time servicemen and women has halved since the Falklands War in 1982, and has been falling steadily for much longer ...

Motorised Youth Rebellion

Andy Beckett: Radical LA, 18 February 2021

Set the Night on Fire: LA in the Sixties 
by Mike Davis and Jon Wiener.
Verso, 788 pp., £25, April 2020, 978 1 78478 022 7
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... Los Angeles​ is often imagined as a place where fun and culture happen but politics doesn’t. Since it first became a big city in the early 20th century, only a few of its political events have received global attention: the city’s deadly riots in 1965 and 1992; the formative years spent in southern California by Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and the region’s postwar conservative movement, which greatly influenced their presidencies; and last year’s protests over policing and racism, which were among the largest in the US ...


Andy Beckett: In Chile, 25 January 2001

Pinochet and Me: A Chilean Anti-Memoir 
by Marc Cooper.
Verso, 143 pp., £15, December 2000, 1 85984 785 4
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... The first time I went to Chile, while General Pinochet was still under arrest in Britain, it seemed wise while I was in Santiago to read books about him discreetly. Early on the hot, clear summer mornings, I would cross the screeching road outside my hotel, pass through an elaborate wrought-iron gate, and walk up Cerro Santa Lucia, a steep wooded hill in the centre of the capital ...

Cod on Ice

Andy Beckett: The BBC, 10 July 2003

Panorama: Fifty Years of Pride And Paranoia 
by Richard Lindley.
Politico’s, 404 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 1 902301 80 3
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The Harder Path: The Autobiography 
by John Birt.
Time Warner, 532 pp., £20, October 2002, 0 316 86019 0
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... For those inclined to ponder the state of the BBC, and of British television in general, the performance of Panorama has long been a favoured indicator. In January 1955, not much more than a year after the current affairs programme began broadcasting, the Sunday Times declared: ‘Panorama is a perfect illustration of what is wrong with television.’ Yet within five years, the Daily Mail was praising the programme for establishing investigative television as a British broadcasting genre: Panorama has become an unbreakable Monday night fixture for between six and eight million people … The current muster has Robin Day, tenacious as a badger; Ludovic Kennedy, whose line is artistic, faintly raffish melancholy; James Mossman, the ardent Galahad who will never take for granted that men are sometimes wicked on purpose; Robert Kee, the hot-eyed public prosecutor … When John Birt arrived at the BBC as Deputy Director-General at the end of the 1980s, apocalyptic assessments of the programme were back in fashion ...

Another Tribe

Andy Beckett: PiL, Wire et al, 1 September 2005

Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-Punk 1978-84 
by Simon Reynolds.
Faber, 577 pp., £16.99, April 2005, 0 571 21569 6
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... In January 1978, the Sex Pistols, then and now the most famous punk band in the world, split up. Johnny Rotten, the band’s singer, most unstable musical element, and most adored and reviled member, had had enough. For the next nine months he largely disappeared from view, except for a promise to the music press that he would return with a new band who would be ‘anti-music of any kind ...

Vuvuzelas Unite

Andy Beckett: The Trade Union Bill, 22 October 2015

Trade Union Bill (HC Bill 58) 
Stationery Office, 32 pp., July 2015Show More
Trade Union Membership 2014: Statistical Bulletin 
Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, 56 pp., June 2015Show More
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... The headquarters​ of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is a basement room beneath a dry cleaner’s in Central London. From a loading bay behind a row of shops, concrete steps lead down to a flimsy door, with a pile of leaflets beside it and ‘IWGB office’ scribbled above it on a piece of A4. Behind the door is a whitewashed space with metal shelves, neatly stacked with placards and furled banners, and four desks ...

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