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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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... A new golden age of technological hype seems to be dawning. This January, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a small unfurnished booth cost $24,500. Some 2700 companies proved willing to pay the fee, and 140,000 people visited the show. To coincide with it, Steve Jobs, the Apple CEO, launched the iPhone in San Francisco: a mobile phone with a touch-screen and other familiar functions: web browser, camera, MP3 player ...


Francis Spufford, 4 July 1996

Why Things Bite Back: New Technology and the Revenge Effect 
by Edward Tenner.
Fourth Estate, 360 pp., £18.99, June 1996, 1 85702 560 1
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... washing-powder only replaces the algal blooms in the Adriatic Sea with mats of floating slime. But Edward Tenner’s book is dedicated, half-successfully, to subtler propositions about the contrariness of stuff. His argument, you could say, turns on the implicit difference between Sod’s Law (everything goes wrong) and Murphy’s Law (if something can go ...

Seventy Years in a Colourful Trade

Andrew O’Hagan: The Soho Alphabet, 16 July 2020

Tales from the Colony Room: Soho’s Lost Bohemia 
by Darren Coffield.
Unbound, 364 pp., £25, April 2020, 978 1 78352 816 5
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... like to drink in the afternoon,’ a young interviewer said while Ian stood at the bar waving a tenner. Ian turned. ‘None of us likes it,’ he replied. Long before he wrote Robert Lowell’s biography, Ian met him in the Gay Hussar. Lowell offered Ian a hearty lunch, with wine. Good wine. Ian was delighted: the New Review was always strapped and no poet ...

The Doctrine of Unripe Time

Ferdinand Mount: The Fifties, 16 November 2006

Having It So Good: Britain in the Fifties 
by Peter Hennessy.
Allen Lane, 740 pp., £30, October 2006, 0 7139 9571 8
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... ironically, to ‘a noble 19th-centuryism’. But, as far as I can see, the 1890s was the first tenner to be identified, and quite quickly identified, as having its own inimitable aroma. Eddie Marsh, writing of Rupert Brooke in 1918, says ‘he entertained a culte for the literature that is now called “ninetyish” – Pater, Wilde and Dowson.’ Almost ...

From the Motorcoach

Stefan Collini: J.B. Priestley, 19 November 2009

English Journey 
by J.B. Priestley.
Great Northern Books, 351 pp., £25, July 2009, 978 1 905080 47 2
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... nothing today), or stuff your family with a day’s worth of unnutritious calories for less than a tenner – all of them housed in structures whose pedigree is, at best, out of warehouses by sheds. My Ruskinian moment passed, but it was a reminder that cultural critique always relies on some idea of the way people ought to want to live, something that can’t ...

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