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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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... we may so often mark one of life’s self-acknowledged failures … a man of parts without character and with more wit than sense.’ The actor offers no comment, but by now he doesn’t need to. DavidGates, 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 ...

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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... familiar with that affair will notice connections, intended or not, between it and the events of Lin’s 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 ...

The Fastidious President

David​ Bromwich: The Matter with Obama

18 November 2010
... The Afghan war looks as if it will outlast 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 covert ...

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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... involving way of life, language, cultural inheritance and historical and political perceptions of 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 ...

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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... 8 per cent that day, though the phones won’t be released until June, will sell for between $499 and $599, 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 ...

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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... has got married on the Hawaiian island of Lanai. It’s a believable sentiment, the lingering awe 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 ...

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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... The editors of this volume might agree with such sentiments. Their book contains knowledgeable 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 ...

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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... are stars,’ he exclaims. To which his companion replies: ‘With all my heart, if I had but a meadow 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 ...

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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... best Cider with Rosie vein, once wrote of as the ‘plain, lusty humours of his first practices in a 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 ...

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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... window, of course, along with his animated scarecrows (the B-side of ‘Arnold Layne’) and his hippie 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 ...

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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... door. Despite a sickly childhood and the general greyness of urban working-class Britain, Eagleton had 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 ...

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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... By ironic circumstance, I spent an evening recently at 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 ...

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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... as the most effective operator in the motion picture business was at some point swept into the dustbin 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 ...

Diary

Stephen Smith: In Mogadishu

23 July 1992
... Nairobi at four o’clock. I am the only one who is going on, to the Save the Children Fund compound. 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 ...

Hons and Wets

D.A.N. Jones

6 December 1984
The House of Mitford 
by Jonathan Guinness and Catherine Guinness.
Hutchinson, 604 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 09 155560 4
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... girl thinks wistfully, romantically, about her chic and forceful Victorian grandparents – and she is encouraged in this ‘nostalgia’ by her most Betjemanic young friend, Albert (‘Memorial’) Gates, a surrealist artist who annoys the elders with his modern, pacifist dissidence, as well as his eccentric reverence for ‘Victorian monstrosities’. The girl tells another chum about her splendid ...

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