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What It Feels Like to Be a Bomb

Deborah Baker: ‘The Association of Small Bombs’, 29 June 2016

The Association of Small Bombs 
by Karan Mahajan.
Chatto, 288 pp., £12.99, July 2016, 978 0 7011 8260 1
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... I have a friend​ whose son was killed in a school shooting. A smallish school shooting. It took place seven years before Columbine got Americans used to the practice of not thinking about guns. To understand how it happened, my friend sought out surviving witnesses, the gun shop owner who sold the gun, the dean of the college where the shooting took place, and the shooter’s devastated parents ...

At Ramayan Shah’s Hotel

Deborah Baker: Calcutta, 23 May 2013

Calcutta: Two Years in the City 
by Amit Chaudhuri.
Union, 307 pp., £16.99, February 2013, 978 1 908526 17 5
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... In January 1990 I moved from New York to Calcutta to get married. Having never been to India, I came equipped with V.S. Naipaul’s India: A Wounded Civilisation and Geoffrey Moorhouse’s rather more upbeat and engaging Calcutta. My mother, arriving for the wedding, looked around and seemed to grasp things rather more directly. ‘You must really love him,’ she said ...

Princess Jasmine strips

Deborah Baker: Saleem Haddad, 16 February 2017

Guapa 
by Saleem Haddad.
Europa Editions, 304 pp., £10.99, October 2016, 978 1 60945 413 5
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... Guapa​, a freewheeling and incendiary first novel by Saleem Haddad, is set in an Arab country familiar to many from the newspapers, even though its author won’t let us place it on a map. The son of a Lebanese-Palestinian father and an Iraqi-German mother, Haddad is himself a composite. His story takes place six months after Arab Spring-like protests have besieged the country’s capital ...

Lauraphobia

Jenny Turner, 10 March 1994

In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding 
by Deborah Baker.
Hamish Hamilton, 462 pp., £25, October 1993, 9780241128343
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... Laura Riding, so Deborah Baker tells us, first emerged into the public world of books in 1924. She was 23 years old and living in Louisville with her husband, a history professor whom she met when he was her teacher at Cornell. One of the things that had attracted Lou Gottschalk to Laura Reichenthal, as Riding had then been called, was that she knew her Marx better than the other undergraduate ladies did ...

If Only Analogues...

Ange Mlinko: Ginsberg Goes to India, 20 November 2008

A Blue Hand: The Beats in India 
by Deborah Baker.
Penguin US, 256 pp., £25.95, April 2008, 978 1 59420 158 5
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... this conviction that led Ginsberg to India in the first place. He was not alone. Nor is the story Deborah Baker tells in A Blue Hand – a story about the encounter between optimistic, postcolonial Bengalis and disillusioned American Beats – about Ginsberg alone. It is a dense little slice of bicultural history, collated from ...

Kill your own business

Deborah Friedell: Amazon’s Irresistible Rise, 5 December 2013

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon 
by Brad Stone.
Bantam, 384 pp., £18.99, October 2013, 978 0 593 07047 5
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... was big enough to offer all the three million-plus books in print. Two distributors, Ingram and Baker & Taylor, handled distribution for most American publishers: Bezos wouldn’t have to make separate deals with each publishing house. Books also came assigned with International Standard Book Numbers and were catalogued on CD-ROM: that would save time, and ...

The Statistical Gaze

Helen McCarthy: The British Census, 28 June 2017

The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick-Maker: The Story of Britain through Its Census, since 1801 
by Roger Hutchinson.
Little, Brown, 352 pp., £20, February 2017, 978 1 4087 0701 2
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... or strange placenames. The vast majority of users of ancestry.co.uk are family historians, who, as Deborah Cohen observes in Family Secrets: Shame and Privacy in Modern Britain (2013), are keen to make an ‘intimate discovery’ that will offer a connection with the dead and at the same time affirm their own ...

What Might Have Happened Upstairs

Mary Beard: Pompeii, 16 September 1999

Pompeii: Public and Private Life 
by Paul Zanker, translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider.
Harvard, 262 pp., £30.95, March 1999, 0 674 68966 6
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... tree to escape the debris but was overwhelmed all the same; the bread just put into the oven by a baker who must obstinately have continued to work right up to the end. Yet overall what survives is emphatically not a frozen moment in the life of a community going about its normal business, but the traces of a city abandoned and already half-stripped. Hence ...

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