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The First​ Person, Steroid-Enhanced

Hari Kunzru: Hunter S. Thompson

15 October 1998
The Rum Diary 
by Hunter S. Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 204 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 9780747541684
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The Proud Highway: The Fear and Loathing Letters.​ Vol. I 
by Hunter S. Thompson, edited by Douglas Brinkley.
Bloomsbury, 720 pp., £9.99, July 1998, 0 7475 3619 8
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... of voice appear as if it was simply a matter of style, a confident new generation trying on a linguistic version of one of his own well-cut suits. While this surface stylishness characterises Wolfe’s own voice, with its caustic social observations and bravura displays of writerly technique, for other writers the chance to speak in an unmediated first person fulfilled a more urgent necessity. It ...
19 December 1991
Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream 
by Hunter S. Thompson.
Picador, 316 pp., £15.95, October 1991, 0 330 31994 9
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... Saturday night and I’d gambled that three successive baskets would be made by players with odd-numbered jerseys. I was ahead a few bucks when the Ohio State centre put a savage elbow into Magic’s young chin and Doc’s screams of ‘foul’ were interrupted by the sight of a White House adviser about to break open a vial of cocaine. Doc slapped me on the shoulder and muttered ‘Jeeesu...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones:​ How to Type like a Man

10 May 2007
... one of the three witches. This was an unusually sophisticated primary school: not only were the pupils performing Shakespearean tragedy, they were doing it in drag. I had been inspired, if that’s the word, by seeing the play at Basingstoke’s Haymarket Theatre, which recently lost its Arts Council grant and has closed down. I remember very little about the production except that the actors  ...

The Global Id

John Lanchester: Is Google a good thing?

26 January 2006
The Google Story 
by David Vise.
Macmillan, 326 pp., £14.99, November 2005, 1 4050 5371 2
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The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business​ and Transformed Our Culture 
by John Battelle.
Nicholas Brealey, 311 pp., £16.99, September 2005, 1 85788 361 6
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... Google is the only multi-billion-dollar company in the world that is also a spelling mistake. Back in the palaeolithic era (that’s the palaeolithic era in the internet sense, i.e. autumn 1997) its co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, were graduate computer science students at Stanford. They were working on an insanely cool ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Who is François Hollande?

13 September 2012
... Socialists and the Radical Left Party. He has said more than once that he would have preferred to battle it out with DSK but Aubry was the only other candidate left standing. The story of Hollande’s nomination and the presidential campaign is told with wit and great charm by the novelist Laurent Binet in Rien ne se passe comme prévu (Grasset, ¤17), a HunterS.Thompson-style, all-aboard diary ...

Short Cuts

Rosemary Hill: What Writers Wear

26 July 2017
... nothing – and nobody is any the wiser. Yet as Virginia Woolf wrote in Orlando, clothes have ‘more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.’ In the novel clothes propel the narrative of Orlando’s passage through time and gender. In Mrs Dalloway the green dress is in effect a character, an expression of what Woolf described ...
23 July 1987
Swimming to Cambodia: The Collected Works of Spalding Gray 
by Spalding Gray.
Picador, 304 pp., £3.50, January 1987, 0 330 29947 6
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... that of a self towards which even rubbish gravitates. His is not the magnetism of a compelling personality, however. Gray typifies, even cultivates, ordinariness. It is his extreme passivity which is so attractive, his longing for identity that draws in the surrounding atmosphere like a vortex. He seduces the world in order to be defined or transfigured by it: to become somebody at last. And the ...

Young Ones

Hugh Barnes

5 June 1986
Damaged Gods 
by Julie Burchill.
Century, 152 pp., £8.95, March 1986, 0 7126 1140 1
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Love it or shove it: The Best​ of Julie Burchill 
Century, 148 pp., £3.95, September 1985, 0 7126 0746 3Show More
Girls on Film 
by Julie Burchill.
Virgin, 192 pp., £5.99, March 1986, 9780863691348
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Less​ than Zero 
by Bret Easton Ellis.
Picador, 208 pp., £2.95, February 1986, 0 330 29400 8
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... At the height of Punk I was still at school, which always seemed to me a rather melancholy fact – not least because one’s authority as a rebel was brought into question by having to attend lessons and the like. Out of hours, we worked hard to make good our sense of disadvantage, and a competition, which was incidental to ...

Doofus

Christopher Tayler: Dave Eggers

3 April 2003
You Shall Know Our Velocity 
by Dave Eggers.
Hamish​ Hamilton, 350 pp., £16.99, February 2003, 0 241 14228 8
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... a few things around, to make people into characters, even to moralise – although he makes the remark when a composite figure called ‘John’ complains that the author is exploiting other people’s experiences: ‘I am owed.’ ‘You’re not . . . You’re like a . . . a cannibal or something.’ And owed, perhaps, as the book too often seems to assume, a sympathetic attitude to his  ...

Madder Men

Hal Foster: Richard Hamilton on Richard Hamilton

24 October 2019
Richard Hamilton: Introspective 
by Phillip Spectre.
König, 408 pp., £49, September, 978 3 88375 695 0
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... Biographies of artists often read like legends of heroes. Vasari preferred his Renaissance masters to be precocious in talent, humble in origin and, if possible, anointed by a predecessor – so he gives us Cimabue discovering the shepherd boy Giotto sketching a pastoral scene with perfect skill. Born in 1922, Richard Hamilton was a working-class kid whose gift for drawing was recognise...

Raving

Hari Kunzru

22 May 1997
Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy​ Culture and Acid House 
by Matthew Collin and John Godfrey.
Serpent’s Tail, 314 pp., £18.99, April 1997, 1 85242 377 3
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Disco Biscuits 
edited by Jane Champion.
Sceptre, 300 pp., £6.99, February 1997, 0 340 68265 5
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... made up a batch in 1966. Shulgin, whose unusual psychopharmacological research had begun to get him into trouble with his employer, the Dole Chemical Company, was the first to recognise MDMA’s mood-altering effects; he called it an ‘empathogen’. So deeply affected was he by his MDMA experiences that he eventually resigned his job, built a laboratory in his garden shed, and embarked on ...

Bible Study in the Basement

Namara Smith: ‘Priestdaddy: A Memoir’

12 July 2017
Priestdaddy: A Memoir 
by Patricia Lockwood.
Allen Lane, 333 pp., £14.99, May 2017, 978 1 84614 920 7
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... The exchange went viral, and the question of whether rape could ever be comic material and who had the right to joke about such things was debated on the internet for months. Patricia Lockwood’s contribution to this debate, perhaps the only poem (so far) inspired by a social media controversy, was published in the online magazine the Awl in 2013. At the time, Lockwood, whose first poetry ...

The Unpredictable Cactus

Emily Witt: Mescaline

22 December 2019
Mescaline: A Global History of the First​ Psychedelic 
by Mike Jay.
Yale, 297 pp., £18.99, May 2019, 978 0 300 23107 6
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... blooms at night and is pollinated by hummingbirds and bats. Like many plants, the San Pedro cactus converts amino acids into compounds known as alkaloids. The evolutionary purpose of San Pedro’s most famous alkaloid, the psychoactive compound mescaline, is unknown, but humans have been aware of its effects for thousands of years. When boiled down into a brew and ingested, it activates an ...

Secretly Sublime

Iain Sinclair: The Great Ian Penman

19 March 1998
Vital Signs 
by Ian Penman.
Serpent’s Tail, 374 pp., £10.99, February 1998, 1 85242 523 7
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... One of the myths that fuzzes the shadowy outline of Ian Penman, a laureate of marginal places, folds in the map, is that Paul Schrader, the director of a sassy remake of Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People, admired Penman’s review so much that he invited him over to Los Angeles to talk product. Penman in California was truly the vision of a man who fell to earth, a pale alien in an X Files  ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen

11 October 2018
... How many​ living novelists does the FBI keep files on? Is there a filing cabinet in Washington that contains a rundown of Jonathan Franzen’s feud with Oprah Winfrey? Do the Feds keep track of how many words Joyce Carol Oates writes in a day? Do they monitor Karl Ove Knausgaard’s border crossings? Did they know who Elena Ferrante was  ...

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