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800 Napkins, 47 Finger Bowls

Zachary Leader, 16 March 2000

MorganAmerican Financier 
by Jean Strouse.
Harvill, 816 pp., £25, June 1999, 9781860463556
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... of wealth and power was alarming. In 1912, officials from five New York banks – J.P. Morgan and Co, National City, the First National, Bankers Trust and Guaranty Trust – held 341 directorships in 112 US companies, including other banks, public utilities, and companies involved in insurance, transportation, manufacturing and trade. The ...

Retro-Selfies

Iain Sinclair: Ferlinghetti, 17 December 2015

I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, 1955–97 
edited by Bill Morgan.
City Lights, 284 pp., £11.83, July 2015, 978 0 87286 678 2
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Writing across the Landscape: Travel Journals 1960-2010 
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, edited by Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson.
Liveright, 464 pp., £22.99, October 2015, 978 1 63149 001 9
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... This​ was a 42-year marriage of convenience between forgiving but frequently exasperated business partners and poetry rivals. It was launched with a seize-the-day telegram, after a one-night, earth-shuddering, world-tilting performance in a jazzed-up garage. Before moving on to occasional meetings and decades of dutiful, near conjugal correspondence from all parts of the globe ...

All Those Arrows

Donald MacKenzie: A Major Cause of the Financial Crisis, 25 June 2009

Fool’s Gold: How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Markets and Unleashed a Catastrophe 
by Gillian Tett.
Little, Brown, 338 pp., £18.99, April 2009, 978 1 4087 0164 5
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... the ceremony were – those up on the conference hall’s stage. ‘They used to all work at J.P. Morgan,’ he answered. ‘It’s like this Morgan mafia thing. They sort of created the credit derivatives market.’ The answer surprised her. J.P. Morgan was not Goldman Sachs; it wasn’t ...

C.K. Stead writes about Christina Stead

C.K. Stead, 4 September 1986

Ocean of Story: The Uncollected Stories of Christina Stead 
edited by R.G. Geering.
Viking, 552 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 670 80996 9
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The Salzburg Tales 
by Christina Stead.
498 pp., £4.95, September 1986, 0 86068 691 4
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... the other night, when someone said: ‘What was Australia like?’ ‘It’s the wonderful light, Bill,’ I said to the Texan next to me. ‘Yes,’ he affirmed; and the Indian lady murmured: ‘Yes.’ Three exiles. No more was said; and the others, Londoners, did not even know what we had understood ... When people ask, I feel like saying ‘It’s a ...

Born Again

Phillip Whitehead, 19 February 1981

Face the future 
by David Owen.
Cape, 552 pp., £12.50, January 1981, 0 224 01956 2
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... book. It is written by a socialist, and for socialists. This is its first fascination. The sage of Morgan Grenfell will wince over its strictures on public expenditure and the role of government intervention. Shirley Williams, who has brought to the cause of Europe the passion which her mother gave to pacifism, will find Dr Owen’s advocacy of a tough line ...

Anti-Party Party

Ben Jackson: The Greens, 6 May 2015

Honourable Friends? Parliament and the Fight for Change 
by Caroline Lucas.
Portobello, 281 pp., £14.99, March 2015, 978 1 84627 593 7
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... Lucas aide called Alex Phillips, contacted the leader of the Labour group on the council, Warren Morgan, to ask if he would support a move to replace the Green leader of the council, Jason Kitcat. Morgan chose to go public instead. The Green Party has gathered support as the feeling grows that traditional politics in ...

Diary

David Bromwich: The Establishment President, 13 May 2010

... On Sunday 21 March the House of Representatives passed a healthcare bill that had been promoted for a year and brokered in many particulars by Barack Obama. This marked a victory for a substantial piece of social legislation, the first of its kind in more than three decades; and the result appears to have given the president and his party fresh confidence in their efforts at comprehensive reform ...

Wodehouse in America

D.A.N. Jones, 20 May 1982

P.G. Wodehouse: A Literary Biography 
by Benny Green.
Joseph, 256 pp., £8.95, October 1981, 0 907516 04 1
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Wodehouse on Wodehouse: Bring on the girls (with Guy Bolton), Performing Flea, Over Seventy 
Penguin, 655 pp., £2.95, September 1981, 0 14 005245 3Show More
P.G. Wodehouse: An Illustrated Biography 
by Joseph Connolly.
Eel Pie, 160 pp., £3.95, September 1981, 0 906008 44 1
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P.G. Wodehouse: A Centenary Celebration 1881-1981 
edited by James Heineman and Donald Bensen.
Oxford, 197 pp., £40, February 1982, 0 19 520357 7
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The World of P.G. Wodehouse 
by Herbert Warren Wind.
Hutchinson, 256 pp., £5.95, October 1981, 0 09 145670 3
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... paper, the result of a collaboration between the Oxford University Press and the Pierpont Morgan Library. There are also 25 essays, some of them lazily written but four of them, at least, rather good. Three of the four are by Richard Usborne, the king of the traditional Wodehouse buffs. The other is by Benny Green, the new broom. Oxford University and ...

Cityphobia

John Lanchester: The Crash, 23 October 2008

... fled, the share price collapsed, and on 16 March the bank was bought by its competitor J.P. Morgan, its market value having declined from $20 billion to $236 million. The US government underwrote the purchase by providing a guarantee of $29 billion against the bank’s mortgage liabilities – basically, the government took on the risk of the dodgy ...

The Greatest Geek

Richard Barnett: Nikola Tesla, 5 February 2015

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age 
by W. Bernard Carlson.
Princeton, 520 pp., £19.95, April 2015, 978 0 691 05776 7
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... making money from them. Astor and Westinghouse declined to invest, but aid came from John Pierpont Morgan, the financier behind General Electric, who paid $150,000 for a 51 per cent share in Tesla’s new patents. Tesla took out a mortgage to buy two hundred acres of land at Wardenclyffe on the northern shore of Long Island, and commissioned the architect ...

The Story of Thaksin Shinawatra

Richard Lloyd Parry: Class War in Thailand, 18 June 2014

... again. Korn went to Winchester, then to St John’s College, Oxford, then to S.G. Warburg and J.P. Morgan. His great friend and confrère Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of Thailand’s Democrat Party, was at Eton (where he was known to contemporaries such as Boris Johnson as Mark Vejj), then at St John’s with Korn. A former Democrat MP from a younger ...

Second World War-Game

Douglas Johnson, 22 May 1980

1943: The victory that never was 
by John Grigg.
Eyre Methuen, 255 pp., £7.95, April 1980, 9780413396105
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... are rapped on the knuckles if they speculate about what might have happened if the first Reform Bill had been defeated, or if they dream about all the possible governmental reactions to the economic crisis which started in 1929, the historians of war are positively encouraged to indulge in a counter-historical world of fantasy. If Napoleon had destroyed the ...

The Superhuman Upgrade

Steven Shapin: The Book That Explains It All, 12 July 2017

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow 
by Yuval Noah Harari.
Vintage, 528 pp., £9.99, March 2017, 978 1 78470 393 6
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... it was an international bestseller, endorsed by Barack Obama and tagged as essential reading by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. There were TED talks, public lectures, a dedicated YouTube channel, a hugely popular online course, speeches to the futurologists at Google and the Singularity University in Silicon Valley. There’s a new and expanding readership ...

Little Mania

Ian Gilmour: The disgraceful Lady Caroline Lamb, 19 May 2005

Lady Caroline Lamb 
by Paul Douglass.
Palgrave, 354 pp., £16.99, December 2004, 1 4039 6605 2
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... and was in gradual decline thereafter. Not so on Caroline’s side. She had, as her friend Lady Morgan wrote, ‘a restless craving after excitement’, and public display excited her. She had won the greatest lion of the day and wanted everyone to know it. And know it they soon did. Even then, Caroline was as brazen as ever. The fashionable world was not ...

Let’s consider Kate

John Lanchester: Can we tame the banks?, 18 July 2013

... on banking, known as the Vickers Commission, and then to incorporate its findings into the banking bill that is currently making its way through Parliament. At the same time Parliament was conducting its own inquiry into banking standards. This led to an interim report on HBOS, published in April, and a final report, which came out in June. It would be hard to ...

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