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Bunny Hell

Christopher Tayler: David Gates, 26 August 2015

A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me 
by David Gates.
Serpent’s Tail, 314 pp., £12.99, August 2015, 978 1 78125 491 2
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Jernigan 
by David Gates.
Serpent’s Tail, 339 pp., £8.99, August 2015, 978 1 78125 490 5
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... and with more wit than sense.’ The actor offers no comment, but by now he doesn’t need to. David Gates, the creator of these connoisseurs of disappointment and self-sabotage, published his first novel, Jernigan, in 1991. Joseph Heller called it a ‘sizzler’ and Michiko Kakutani announced in the New York Times that ...

A Kind of Gnawing Offness

David Haglund: Tao Lin, 21 October 2010

Richard Yates 
by Tao Lin.
Melville House, 206 pp., £10.99, October 2010, 978 1 935554 15 8
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... novel. But Lin doesn’t do anything cute with the names: he uses them as straightforwardly as David Foster Wallace uses X and Y in ‘Octet #6’, for example, or as Lorrie Moore uses Mother and Baby in ‘People like That Are the Only People Here’. Jonathan Lethem has said that ‘strange character names are an easy way to make sure the reader ...

The Fastidious President

David Bromwich: The Matter with Obama, 18 November 2010

... the Obama presidency, and if it does the largest single reason will be Obama’s choice of Robert Gates as secretary of defence. Gates worked under William Casey, the director of the CIA at the time of the Iran-Contra scandal. His nomination by Ronald Reagan to head the CIA was thwarted by suspicions of his complicity in ...

The Dirty Dozens

Terence Hawkes, 21 July 1994

Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars 
by Henry Louis Gates.
Oxford, 199 pp., £15, October 1993, 0 19 507519 6
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The Alchemy of Race and Rights 
by Patricia Williams.
Virago, 263 pp., £7.99, September 1993, 1 85381 674 4
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... the world at large, are obviously at stake, and in their engagements with these, both Henry Louis Gates and Patricia Williams offer despatches from various front lines of what have been called the ‘culture wars’. What is at stake is the meaning of the term ‘America’, and Gates and Williams take their place among a ...

A Place for Hype

Edward Tenner: Old Technology, 10 May 2007

The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 
by David Edgerton.
Profile, 270 pp., £18.99, January 2007, 978 1 86197 296 5
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... and hadn’t been independently tested. In January’s issue of Scientific American, Bill Gates predicted ‘a future in which robotic devices will become a nearly ubiquitous part of our day to day lives’. According to Gates, the South Korean government plans to get a domestic robot into all its households by ...

Bugged

Tom Vanderbilt, 6 June 1996

microserfs 
by Douglas Coupland.
Flamingo, 371 pp., £9.99, November 1995, 0 00 225311 9
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... of an impressionable ex-employee towards his first real boss – and when your first boss is Bill Gates, personality cults die hard. Later in the novel, the narrator describes seeing the boyish billionaire’s face on video monitors at an electronics trade show: ‘and it was so odd, seeing all of these people, looking at Bill’s image, not listening to what ...

Pastiche

Norman Stone, 21 July 1983

The Invention of Tradition 
edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger.
Cambridge, 320 pp., £17.50, March 1983, 0 521 24645 8
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... and entertaining contributions. Hugh Trevor-Roper discusses the origins of Scottish kitsch; David Cannadine the (not at all remote) origins of British royal ritual; other contributions concern British rule in India and Welsh cultural identity (treated more respectfully than Trevor-Roper treats poor old Scotland). Eric Hobsbawm both introduces and ...

Devils Everywhere

David Wootton: The Terrors of the Night, 9 March 2006

At Day’s Close: A History of Nighttime 
by Roger Ekirch.
Weidenfeld, 447 pp., £20, June 2005, 0 297 82992 0
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Saving the Daylight: Why We Put the Clocks Forward 
by David Prerau.
Granta, 256 pp., £14.99, October 2005, 1 86207 796 7
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... as large as the sky.’ In the dark, ghosts walked. Travel was dangerous. Cities locked their gates as dark fell, and strung chains across the streets. In the darkened alleyways, when curfews were not effectively enforced (as they often weren’t), prostitutes, thieves and drunks took control, though doctors and midwives also went out at night. In ...

The Great Accumulator

John Sturrock: W.G. Grace, 20 August 1998

W.G. Grace: A Life 
by Simon Rae.
Faber, 548 pp., £20, July 1998, 0 571 17855 3
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W.G.’s Birthday Party 
by David Kynaston.
Night Watchman, 154 pp., £13, May 1998, 0 9532360 0 5
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... Gloucestershire orchard’, and ended in London NW8, in the memorial street-furniture of the Grace gates that open onto the élite end of the ground at Lord’s. There was a time in the middle of the last century when that same Lord’s was on its uppers, with little or no idea how to stage matches that people might pay to see; the MCC couldn’t any longer ...

Afternoonishness

Jeremy Harding: Syd Barrett, 2 January 2003

Madcap: The Half-Life of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd’s Lost Genius 
by Tim Willis.
Short Books, 175 pp., £12.99, October 2002, 1 904095 24 0
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... I-Chingery, but some of the grittier elements from the first Pink Floyd album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, were inadvertently recycled. You could listen to Roger Waters’s wild, largely instrumental ‘Take up Thy Stethoscope and Walk’ and believe you were more than halfway down the 1970s and through the turnstiles of punk, even though this raucous ...

Putting on Some English

Terence Hawkes: Eagleton’s Rise, 7 February 2002

The Gatekeeper: A Memoir 
by Terry Eagleton.
Allen Lane, 178 pp., £9.99, January 2002, 0 7139 9590 4
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... the good fortune to grow up in a time when the Catholic Church seemed intent on flinging its own gates wide open, provoking a virtual stampede of monks and nuns, who leaped the walls to the sound of guitars and the whiff of illegal substances in something like ‘an ecclesiastical version of Escape from Colditz’. Escape certainly seemed a good idea at a ...

Owning Art

Arthur C. Danto, 7 March 1996

Kings and Connoisseurs: Collecting Art in 17th-Century Europe 
by Jonathan Brown.
Yale, 264 pp., £35, September 1995, 0 300 06437 3
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Art & Money 
by Marc Shell.
Chicago, 230 pp., £27.95, June 1995, 0 226 75213 5
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... the home of a major collector of contemporary art, where the topic arose of the house which Bill Gates, the legendarily successful head of Microsoft, is having built for himself at a rumoured cost of anything up to $30 million. We sought to understand how a house could cost so much, and the somewhat stammering conjecture was that it must be due to the ...

Deal of the Century

David Thomson: As Ovitz Tells It, 7 March 2019

Who Is Michael Ovitz? 
by Michael Ovitz.
W.H. Allen, 372 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 0 7535 5336 7
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... of ‘Whatever happened to … ?’ So who was he? Michael Ovitz was born in Chicago in 1946 to David, the son of Jewish Romanian immigrants. David was a liquor salesman for Seagram’s but he worked weekends too, selling patio furniture to support his family after they moved to Encino in the San Fernando Valley. ‘The ...

Diary

Stephen Smith: In Mogadishu, 23 July 1992

... Ahmed turns the car around and there are only the two of us in it. The guards open the tall metal gates to let us out, and there is no sign of the Toyota pick-up which escorted us from the airport, a machine-gun mounted behind the cab, a man braced against it as if he were in the prow of a whaler. I catch sight of an anxious face in the wing mirror and ...

Shameless, Lucifer and Pug-Nose

David A. Bell: Louis Mandrin, 8 January 2015

Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground 
by Michael Kwass.
Harvard, 457 pp., £35, April 2014, 978 0 674 72683 3
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... population of pipe smokers and snuff snorters, was surrounded by imposing walls and customs gates that drove smugglers to display unusual levels of ingenuity. In one incident recounted by Kwass, guards noticed that a Paris-bound carriage belonging to a man called Philippe François had suspiciously thick sides. On investigation, they found secret ...

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