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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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... Ian Bell 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 ...

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 all of its intellectual impact and verve. The trouble is, I now find myself wanting to quarrel with almost every sentence in it ...

The HPtFtU

Christopher Tayler: Francis Spufford, 6 October 2016

Golden Hill 
by Francis Spufford.
Faber, 344 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 0 571 22519 4
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... A chapter of Backroom Boys tracks the process by which two Cambridge students, David Braben and Ian Bell, 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 atoms or bits, ideas or steel girders, building something ...

Two Poems

Ian Hamilton, 19 April 2001

... 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, motionless dog-shape belong to? There, beside that tree. And look ...

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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... 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). They correctly note that on average American blacks score ...


Thomas Jones: My Life as a Geek, 22 June 2006

... threshold. Indisputably the greatest game ever written for the BBC was Elite, by David Braben and Ian Bell. 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 progress as you went along, but the game made impressive ...


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 national holiday. They could be anywhere in the country – it’s a sort of competition, a security test ...

Astrid, Clio and Julia

Alan Bell, 17 July 1980

The Wanton Chase 
by Peter Quennell.
Collins, 192 pp., £8.95, May 1980, 0 00 216526 0
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... 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 usually manages to be fresh, affectionate and grateful. It ...
... 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 and chests and tread the ground into hysteria. The women ...


Ian Aitken: Party Fairy-Tales, 22 March 1990

... 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 is one thing which did stick firmly in my mind. It was the ...


Ian Thomson: Assault on the Via Salaria, 14 April 2011

... 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 Capaldi.’ I walked past ...

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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... 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 Daza, in a darkened room in García Márquez’s Love in ...


Benjamin Markovits: What It Takes to Win at Sport, 7 November 2013

... four days of bright, sometimes windy, sometimes cloudy, English summer, along with a century from Ian Bell, an Australian revival and a match that swung each way from session to session. But on the fourth afternoon, a spell of fast bowling from Stuart Broad turned a promising run-chase into an Aussie collapse. After the fall of Brad Haddin’s ...

A Long Silence

David A. Bell: ‘Englishness’, 14 December 2000

Englishness Identified: Manners and Character, 1650-1850 
by Paul Langford.
Oxford, 389 pp., £25, April 2000, 9780198206811
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... but as something altogether less benign. It is instructive to compare Englishness Identified with Ian Buruma’s recent book, Voltaire’s Coconuts, to which an American publisher has given the more bland but descriptive title Anglomania. Buruma did only a small fraction of Langford’s research and his impressionistic, personal survey of admiring attitudes ...

Faith, Hope and Probability

Mary Douglas, 23 May 1991

The Taming of Chance 
by Ian Hacking.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £27.50, November 1990, 0 521 38014 6
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... it had seeped from games and mathematics to marine insurance, and thence moved on to produce what Ian Hacking calls an avalanche of numbers in every kind of public concern, established theories of causality were ready to be toppled. As he said in the earlier book, the world was about to become safe for future Galileos. But the change was slow, and not in time ...

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