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Episteme, My Arse

Christopher Tayler: Laurent Binet, 15 June 2017

The Seventh Function of Language 
by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor.
Harvill Secker, 390 pp., £16.99, May 2017, 978 1 910701 58 4
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... directs him to the University of Paris VIII at Vincennes. There he finds a young lecturer, Simon Herzog, teaching an introductory semiology course with examples from the James Bond films – material, at last, that Bayard is at home with, as well as a nod to Umberto Eco’s analysis of Ian Fleming’s narrative structures. True to his initials, ...

Diary

David Lan: On Jim Allen’s Perdition, 2 April 1987

... on the grounds that it would retard their plans for the establishment of the Jewish homeland. David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, is quoted in the play as saying: ‘If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Israel, then I ...

Gangs

D.A.N. Jones, 8 January 1987

The Old School: A Study 
by Simon Raven.
Hamish Hamilton, 139 pp., £12, September 1986, 0 241 11929 4
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The Best Years of their Lives: The National Service Experience 1945-63 
by Trevor Royle.
Joseph, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 7181 2459 6
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Murder without Conviction: Inside the World of the Krays 
by John Dickson.
Sidgwick, 164 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780283994074
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Inside ‘Private Eye’ 
by Peter McKay.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 947795 80 4
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Malice in Wonderland: Robert Maxwell v. ‘Private Eye’ 
by Robert Maxwell, John Jackson, Peter Donnelly and Joe Haines.
Macdonald, 191 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 356 14616 2
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... by the public school system, expressed in schoolmasters’ aspirations and schoolboys’ comics. Simon Raven’s notorious devotion to that system began when he was only a seven-year-old comic reader, as he admits in The Old School, a loving but mordant survey of the dormitory schools: he went on avidly to Charterhouse and he fancies other men will ...

Emotional Sushi

Ian Sansom: Tony, Nick and Simon, 9 August 2001

One for My Baby 
by Tony Parsons.
HarperCollins, 330 pp., £15.99, July 2001, 0 00 226182 0
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How to Be Good 
by Nick Hornby.
Viking, 256 pp., £16.99, May 2001, 0 670 88823 0
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Little Green Man 
by Simon Armitage.
Viking, 246 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 0 670 89442 7
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... now extends this fine line of wit even further: Here is a list of the people that Andrew and David have hitherto regarded as talentless, overrated, or simply wankers: Oasis, the Stones, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Robbie Williams, Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis, Evelyn Waugh, Auberon Waugh, Salman Rushdie, Jeffrey Archer, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, William ...

Ceremonies

Rodney Hilton, 21 January 1988

Rituals of Royalty: Power and Ceremonial in Traditional Societies 
edited by David Cannadine and Simon Price.
Cambridge, 351 pp., £25, August 1987, 0 521 33513 2
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... of fascinating studies, ranging from Babylon to 20th-century Ghana, from China to Madagascar. David Cannadine, in his Introduction, says that the topics covered are mainly pre-modern and therefore outside the scope of most professional historians. In their Acknowledgments, however, the two editors refer to the ‘rites of passage’ of contemporary heads ...

What Nanny Didn’t Tell Me

Bernard Porter: Simon Mann, 26 January 2012

Cry Havoc 
by Simon Mann.
John Blake, 351 pp., £19.99, November 2011, 978 1 84358 403 2
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... goes like clockwork – no problems, no mistakes – though there’s a twist at the end. Simon Mann’s Cry Havoc might seem like a copy of this scenario – same place, roughly the same plot, thirty years later – but it’s much more fun because Mann’s attempted coup turned out to be, in his words, ‘a swashbuckling ...

In Orange-Tawny Bonnets

David Nirenberg: ‘The Story of the Jews’, 8 February 2018

Belonging: The Story of the Jews 1492-1900 
by Simon Schama.
Bodley Head, 790 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 1 84792 280 9
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... Simon Schama​ is devoting a trilogy to the 3000-year-long ‘Story of the Jews’. His attention, however, is not evenly distributed. The first volume, The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words, spent 473 pages on the 2500 years between 1000 BC and 1492 AD. The second, enigmatically entitled Belonging, requires 790 pages to cover the 400 years between 1492 and 1900, and two characters who presumably attracted Schama because they both preached a Jewish return to Zion ...

When the Costume Comes Off

Adam Mars-Jones: Philip Hensher, 14 April 2011

King of the Badgers 
by Philip Hensher.
Fourth Estate, 436 pp., £18.99, March 2011, 978 0 00 730133 1
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... learn, a sexual signal pitched above heterosexual hearing. Mauro is in town with homely, miserable David, who imagines that his parents will be reassured to see him with someone so personable and charming. Mauro isn’t a paid escort, although David has lent him money that isn’t going to come back, and this is a small way ...

Powerful Moments

David Craig, 26 October 1989

Touching the void 
by Joe Simpson.
Cape, 172 pp., £10.95, July 1988, 0 224 02545 7
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Climbers 
by M. John Harrison.
Gollancz, 221 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 9780575036321
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... myth is perhaps famous enough by now for it not to matter if a reviewer gives it away. Simpson and Simon Yates had climbed a colossal aiguille in the Andes and were inching back down again. Their photos show monstrous black teeth jutting through the weltering golden clouds of sunset, cliff faces so huge it is as though the whole fall of dark space between the ...
How far can you go? 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 244 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 436 25661 4
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Life before Man 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 317 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 224 01782 9
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Desirable Residence 
by Lettice Cooper.
Gollancz, 191 pp., £5.50, April 1980, 0 575 02787 8
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A Month in the Country 
by J.L. Carr.
Harvester, 110 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 85527 328 3
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... are special ones, and it would seem on the face of it that the same limitations must apply. For David Lodge is writing about Catholics as Catholics, about their particular dilemmas, their casuistical puzzles, the blind alleys that modern Catholic prescriptions lead them into, about their various ways out, and finally about the astonishingly sudden and ...

Squealing

Ian Buruma, 13 May 1993

Gower: The Autobiography 
by David Gower and Martin Johnson.
Collins Willow, 256 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 00 218413 3
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... DavidGower was this year’s most popular victim, the English underdog, the handsome knight sacrificed by knaves. But good news is at hand: the hero has announced a brilliant season full of runs. In the tradition of General MacArthur, DavidGower has announced his return ...

Utterly in Awe

Jenny Turner: Lynn Barber, 5 June 2014

A Curious Career 
by Lynn Barber.
Bloomsbury, 224 pp., £16.99, May 2014, 978 1 4088 3719 1
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... damned at her feet: Marianne Faithfull, the ‘Fabulous Beast’ herself, doing a photo-shoot for David Bailey, ‘sprawling with her legs wide apart, her black satin crotch glinting between her scrawny 55-year-old thighs’. Melvyn Bragg, filming his reaction shots for the South Bank Show, ‘smiling, simpering, giggling, looking down at his ...

Diary

Ian Aitken: Closing Time at the Last Chance Saloon, 6 August 1992

... London Evening Standard had turned down the editorship of the Times in favour of succeeding Sir David English at the Daily Mail. As a boy, wrote Sir Perry, he had wanted to be editor of the Times more than anything in the world. So when Mr Paul Dacre picked Rothermere’s Daily Mail in preference to Rupert Murdoch’s Times, Worsthorne’s first reaction ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Literary Prizes, 10 May 2001

... prizes. Zadie Smith won in the New Talent category; Jamie Oliver was best for Home and Leisure and Simon Schama for General Knowledge; J.K. Rowling wrote the best children’s book and Maeve Binchy’s Scarlet Feather won the Fiction Award. These results, of course, could have been predicted with a fair degree of accuracy by anyone casting their eye over the ...

The Politics of Good Intentions

David Runciman: Blair’s Masochism, 8 May 2003

... can be used to defend anything, even the indefensible. The journalist turned politician Siôn Simon, once the most skilled and fearless of all Blair’s polemicists, now languishing on the back benches, offered the absurdist version when seeking to justify another of Blair’s pet projects, the grotesque and idiotic Millennium Dome. Writing in the Daily ...

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