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John Sutherland

3 December 1992
Robert Louis Stevenson: Dreams of Exile 
by Ian Bell.
Mainstream, 295 pp., £14.99, November 1992, 1 85158 457 9
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... IanBell protests his disqualifications as a biographer rather too much: ‘I have approached Stevenson in the most unscholarly way. I am a journalist, and do not pretend to be anything else.’ But Bell, as he is at pains to point out, is a Scottish journalist and it is through the privilege of shared race and place of origin that he claims a blood-intimacy denied scholars. The key to Stevenson’s ...

Secret Purposes

P.N. Furbank

19 September 1985
Defoe and the Idea of Fiction: 1713-1719 
by Geoffrey Sill.
Associated University Presses, 190 pp., £16.95, April 1984, 0 87413 227 4
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The Elusive Daniel Defoe 
by Laura Curtis.
Vision, 216 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 85478 435 7
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Dofoe’s Fiction 
by Ian Bell.
Croom Helm, 201 pp., £17.95, March 1985, 0 7099 3294 4
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Realism, Myth and History in Defoe’s Fiction 
by Maximillian​ Novak.
Nebraska, 181 pp., £21.55, July 1983, 0 8032 3307 8
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... We owe a large debt to the famous chapter on Robinson Crusoe in Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel. Watt really made us use our wits about that novel and forced us to relate it to our most serious interests. Reread after twenty years, moreover, the chapter still has ...

Two Poems

Ian​ Hamilton

19 April 2001
... turreted edifice behind us I don’t recognise at all. Nor can I place These avenues of trees, abundant But municipal, well-kept. It’s evidently summertime, and getting late, A little before supper-bell, I’d guess, Or prayers. Another grainy, used-up afternoon. But what about that speck There, to the right, a figure on a bench Perhaps, not looking and yet looking? And who does that dark ...

The HPtFtU

Christopher Tayler: Francis Spufford

5 October 2016
Golden Hill 
by Francis Spufford.
Faber, 344 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 0 571 22519 4
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... his subjects’ thinking from the inside, there are moments of heightened, rhapsodic identification. A chapter of Backroom Boys tracks the process by which two Cambridge students, David Braben and IanBell, used elegant mathematical fixes to get round the limited memory available on home computers in the early 1980s while writing an epoch-making computer game, Elite: Whether the components are ...

Pull the Other One

Ian​ Hacking

26 January 1995
The Bell​ Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life 
by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray.
Free Press, 845 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 02 914673 9
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... bright’ and ‘quick’ all at once. Herrnstein and Murray hold that IQ, as measured, is distributed as what mathematicians call a Gaussian or normal distribution. Intuitively, this looks like a bell; hence the title of the book. The authors hold that the average IQ of East Asian populations is higher than that of white Americans (here they rely heavily on the dubious work of Professor Lynn ...

Dissecting the Body

Colm Tóibín: Ian​ McEwan

26 April 2007
On Chesil Beach 
by Ian​ McEwan.
Cape, 166 pp., £12.99, April 2007, 978 0 224 08118 4
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... The penis, in the contemporary novel, has been a mighty matter, looming large. Who will forget the narrator of The Bell Jar seeing an adult penis for the first time and being both fascinated and repelled? (‘The only thing I could think of was turkey neck and turkey gizzards and I felt very depressed.’) Or Fermina ...
24 January 1991
... heart above the baby sleeping on your knee or the song you never heard; ‘The Danger Zone’ that Ray Charles sang throughout the Cuban missile crisis? And does she think the knee she lies on is the bell of a sack but or a crumhorn and the air is turning in a harmony? Another body is hoisted under the sun onto the catafalque of a cargo container amongst other rusting metal. The men beat their heads ...


Ian​ Aitken: Party Fairy-Tales

22 March 1990
... influenced its creation. Sitting in the LSE library with the bound volumes, I developed a subliminal ability to spot a possible candidate for the book while my mind wandered to other things. A little bell would go off in my head, and I would be jerked back from daydreams about the girl at the next desk. Very little of the material I waded through at that time made much permanent impression. But there ...
17 July 1980
The Wanton Chase 
by Peter Quennell.
Collins, 192 pp., £8.95, May 1980, 0 00 216526 0
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... social themes, The Sign of the Fish. Many of his portraits are of the beau monde: Lady Cunard and Nancy, Lord Berners, the Duff Coopers, Mrs Fleming and her successive husbands Lord Rothermere and Ian Fleming (who ‘good-naturedly accepted me, no doubt because I was neither a wild bohemian nor a rampant homosexual’). Much of this is ground that others have gone over before, although Mr Quennell ...
20 August 1998
... public demonstrations of affect without taking them at their word? If we at one and the same time believe and – to deform the famous formula – suspend our belief? Consider the celebrity of Mary Bell. How many times did outraged journalists cut straight from their disapproval of the money she was paid (making profit out of the most hideous of crimes) to the pleasure she was said to have taken in ...
18 March 1999
Life’s Other Secret: The New Mathematics of the Living World 
by Ian​ Stewart.
Penguin, 320 pp., £20, June 1998, 0 7139 9161 5
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... relation, and every week they draw themselves as commonplace geometry, as if the world of forms were nothing but arcs and angles. God’s truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose?’ So says Lady Thomasina Coverly, the heroine of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, to her tutor Septimus Hodge. Her ...


Ian​ Stewart

4 November 1993
The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier 
by Bruce Sterling.
Viking, 328 pp., £16.99, January 1993, 0 670 84900 6
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The New Hacker’s Dictionary 
edited by Eric Raymond.
MIT, 516 pp., £11.75, October 1992, 0 262 68079 3
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Approaching Zero: Data Crime and the Computer Underworld 
by Bryan Clough and Paul Mungo.
Faber, 256 pp., £4.99, March 1993, 0 571 16813 2
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... On 29 June 1989, a security manager for the US telephone company Indiana Bell received an anonymous telephone call. In a menacing tone a young man’s voice informed him that he had planted bombs in several switching systems known as 5ESSs. ‘They’re set to blow on a ...


Ian​ Thomson: Assault on the Via Salaria

14 April 2011
... nowhere to go. Had my assailant come from there, or had I just fainted and hit my head? It was a Sunday and Via Salaria was almost empty. On the brass plate outside Number 115 to my surprise was a bell marked capaldi. I pushed the bell, and heard it ring far away inside. Eventually a wary-sounding voice answered the intercom. I explained my business. ‘Yes,’ said the voice, ‘this is Nina ...

A Calamitous Man

Patrick Collinson: Incombustible Luther

29 July 1999
Martin Luther: The Christian​ Between God and Death 
by Richard Marius.
Harvard, 542 pp., £19.95, March 1999, 0 674 55090 0
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... Imagine a dream in which you are climbing a church tower in the dark. Stumbling, you reach out for something to hang on to and find that you are pulling at a bell rope, that the bell is waking up the entire town, and soon other towns far beyond. Within weeks you, the inadvertent bell-ringer, are both famous and infamous, and famous not for a few minutes but for ever. Three ...


Thomas Jones: My Life as a Geek

22 June 2006
... not only on a considerable amount of ingenuity and dexterity, but also on a phenomenally high boredom threshold. Indisputably the greatest game ever written for the BBC was Elite, by David Braben and IanBell. The aim was to travel through eight galaxies, each with 32 solar systems, trading cargo, battling enemies and becoming a steadily more feared space pirate. Not only were you able to save your ...

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