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Several Doses of Wendy

Robert Baird: David Means

10 August 2016
Hystopia 
by David Means.
Faber, 352 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 0 571 33011 9
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... DavidMeans​ wrote a novel. DavidMeans wrote a novel! Reading the hype around Hystopia – the new novel, the first novel, so far the only novel by the American writer DavidMeans – you have to wonder how much pressure Means resisted from his publishers to forswear the pleasures of the customary gnomic cipher (American Enchiridion, The Accidental Occidental) and just call ...

Overloaded with Wasps

James Wood: Tales from Michigan

17 March 2005
The Secret Goldfish 
by David Means.
Fourth Estate, 211 pp., £14.99, February 2005, 0 00 716487 4
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... a template of the essentially poetic strategy of the short story (and this poetry of construction is the reason novelists and short-story writers are often quite distinct breeds). The American writer DavidMeans will have none of this. His highly original stories are coats that have been reversed to show their linings. Rather than lightly hint at an exquisite pattern or organising symbol, he likes to ...
7 April 1994
Only Connect: Art and the Spectator in the Italian Renaissance 
by John Shearman.
Princeton, 281 pp., £35, October 1992, 0 691 09972 3
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... exegesis in favour with professors of (or in) literature. Having politely dismantled some of the crazy theories other scholars have advanced about Donatello’s bronze sculpture of a beautiful nude David, Shearman unveils his own interpretation: ‘The meaning of names is important in Renaissance art, and Davidmeans beloved.’ Did artists or their patrons really bother much about etymology? A ...

It had better be big

Daniel Soar: Ben Marcus

8 August 2002
Notable American Women 
by Ben Marcus.
Vintage, 243 pp., $12.50, March 2002, 0 375 71378 6
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Assorted Fire Events 
by David Means.
Fourth Estate, 165 pp., £10, March 2002, 0 00 713506 8
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... that reads: ‘Dogs must be carried.’ (‘Quick! Must find a dog.’) I understand the pleasure of footnotes and parentheses. In certain states of mind – distracted, tired – the sound of words means more than their content; there are reassuring rhythms. I bought Ben Marcus’s first book, The Age of Wire and String, in a remainder shop soon after it was published, without knowing what kind of ...

Party Man

David​ Marquand

1 July 1982
Tony Crosland 
by Susan Crosland.
Cape, 448 pp., £10.95, June 1982, 9780224017879
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... of Socialism. Slowly, reluctantly, and with many backward glances, I was converted. Capitalism, it seemed, had changed, after all. Public ownership was not essential to socialism. It was merely a means to an end, and not a very important means. What mattered was equality, and equality could be achieved in other ways. Bevan dropped out of my pantheon, and Gaitskell took his place. Crosland did not ...

Notes on the Election

David​ Runciman

20 May 2015
... of electoral boundaries under the existing first-past-the-post system to make it fairer (i.e. better for them). That’s the thing about first-past-the-post: the winners get to decide. And that means doubling down on the current system. It is not the case that a Tory government with a small majority won’t be messy too. Commentators are already pointing out that if this is 1992 all over again ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: From ‘Alien’ to ‘Covenant’

14 June 2017
Alien: Covenant 
directed by Ridley Scott.
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... Nostromo, signing off.’ Prometheus ended with Weaver’s successor Noomi Rapace murmuring: ‘There is only death here now.’ Only death apart from her and the severed head of an android called David. She is going to connect him to his separated body, and he will steer the ship to another planet. They haven’t got on well during the movie – ‘We have had our differences,’ the android says ...

Notes on the Election

David​ Runciman

5 February 2015
... the whole business. Suppose, for example, that the electoral arithmetic and the parliamentary arithmetic start to diverge. The Tories’ failure to get agreement about redrawing electoral boundaries means the national constituency map still favours Labour. It would be possible for Labour to win significantly more seats on fewer votes than its rivals: playing around with the numbers in the predictor ...

Brown and Friends

David​ Runciman

3 January 2008
... in the disaster of the election-that-never-was, it is still this group that Brown turns to first (by all accounts, first thing in the morning) for guidance, reassurance and schemes of revenge. It means that Brown has become dependent on the advice of people who were once entirely dependent on him. This cannot be healthy. Even more striking than Brown’s taste for attaching himself to his former ...

Three Poems

David​ Morley

2 December 2010
... Beasts come first and last. On a one to ten the horses are eleven, twelve. We’ve a camel too, scatty skutsome creature, who thinks she’s horse. The circle needs to be compass-correct, that means me standing centre while the ringmaster strides around me with string and a hundred stakes one hammered in every two paces, every two paces one hammered in. Then we rig everything around the ringside ...

In Icy Baltic Waters

David​ Blackbourn: Gunter Grass

27 June 2002
Im Krebsgang: Eine Novelle 
by Günter Grass.
Steidl, 216 pp., €18, February 2002, 3 88243 800 2
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... drowning victims in its wake. Grass’s insistence on moral complexity goes well beyond the question of immediate responsibility for the disaster. His larger purpose is signalled in the title, which means ‘crabwise’, and carries the same metaphorical meanings as in English. This is history as indirection, and on one occasion he spells it out: ‘moving backwards in order to progress’. Grass ...
22 May 1980
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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... go? is a novel about Catholics. There are more Catholics than rock-climbers, but even so their concerns 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 ...

Problems for the SDP

David​ Butler

1 October 1981
... parties, but on most policy points the bulk of the British electorate stays in a cautious, slightly Conservative centre postion, suspicious of radical change. But nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum means that, in the marketplace of politics, if the big parties fail to meet the demand for stability and moderation, others will rush in to bid for the electorate’s custom and fill the vacant strip in ...

Boiling Electrons

David​ Kaiser

27 September 2012
Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe 
by George Dyson.
Allen Lane, 401 pp., £25, March 2012, 978 0 7139 9750 7
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... so that the functions of interest matched forms that had been reported in the venerable Nouvelles tables d’intégrales définies, published in Leyden in 1867 by the wealthy Dutch mathematician David Bierens de Haan. Two years into the atomic age, access to a well-stocked library filled with old, foreign-language books was still required. Hence the need for the 1947 table: although in principle ...

Vendetta

Gerald Hammond: The story of David

7 September 2000
The David​ Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel 
by Robert Alter.
Norton, 410 pp., £19.95, October 1999, 0 393 04803 9
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... of the Bible some twenty years ago with a pioneering book on Biblical narrative. Now he gives us his own translation and commentary on the most literary of all the Bible’s narratives, the story of David. The translation is conservative, fully in line with the Authorised Version (and all the better for that). The commentary is up to date, absorbing not only the latest scholarship but concentrating on ...

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