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Money Talk

Victor Mallet

21 December 1989
Liar’s Poker: Two Cities, True Greed 
by Michael Lewis.
Hodder, 224 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 340 49602 9
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Lords of Poverty: The Free-Wheeling Lifestyles, Power, Prestige and Corruption of the Multi-Billion Dollar Aid Business 
by Graham Hancock.
Macmillan, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 333 43962 7
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High Life 
by Taki.
Viking, 198 pp., £11.95, October 1989, 0 670 82956 0
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The Midas Touch: Money, People and Power from West to East 
by Anthony Sampson.
BBC/Hodder, 212 pp., £15, October 1989, 0 340 48793 3
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... Both extremes have turned out to be subjects of morbid fascination: on the one hand the nameless, starving children of Ethiopia, on the other the wheeler-dealers of the international markets, the Michael Milkens and their hundred million dollar salaries. MichaelLewis deals wittily with the bizarre and shameless world of the wealthy bond-dealers in Liar’s Poker. In Lords of Poverty Graham Hancock ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘The Big Short’

18 February 2016
The Big Short 
directed by Adam McKay.
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... suggests that you can get into trouble for knowing as well as not knowing, even if the trouble is different. And that it may not matter what ain’t so as long as everyone else thinks the way you do. MichaelLewis, in the book the movie is based on, calls ‘not knowing’ a ‘talent’. ‘Their ignorance seems incredible,’ he says. ‘They’ in this case are traders who don’t know that sub-prime ...

Scalpers Inc.

John Lanchester: ‘Flash Boys’

4 June 2014
Flash Boys: Cracking the Money Code 
by Michael Lewis.
Allen Lane, 274 pp., £20, March 2014, 978 0 241 00363 3
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... Flash Crash dramatised the fact that public equity markets, whose whole rationale is to be open and transparent, had arrived at a point where most of their activity was secret and mysterious. Enter MichaelLewis. Flash Boys is a number of things, one of the most important being an exposition of exactly what is going on in the stock market; it’s a one-stop shop for an explanation of high-frequency ...


Jamie Martin: Nudge Theory

26 July 2017
The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed the World 
by Michael Lewis.
Allen Lane, 362 pp., £25, December 2016, 978 0 241 25473 8
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... The understanding of numbers is so weak that they don’t communicate anything,’ Kahneman later said. ‘No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.’This realisation, as MichaelLewis recounts in The Undoing Project, his story of the intellectual partnership of Kahneman and Tversky, had an important effect on Kahneman’s work, and on his and Tversky’s efforts to overturn ...

The Word on the Street

Elaine Showalter

7 March 1996
Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics 
by Anonymous.
Chatto, 366 pp., £15.99, February 1996, 0 7011 6584 7
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... Stanton is a character of complexity and stature, an American colossus. So who wrote Primary Colors? Nominations have included George Stephanopolous, James Carville, Paul Begala, the New Yorker’s Michael Kelly and Sidney Blumenthal, the screen-writer Erik Tarloff and New York political consultant Bob Shrum. New York magazine hired the Shakespeare scholar Donald Foster to run a computerised check of ...
2 June 1983
... to the literature on it that does exist, and, slightly fantastically, adding a little to it. I am paranoid about the word ‘paranoia’, and the previous researches of, above all, Sir Aubrey Lewis have helped me indulge my fear. Lewis’s famous paper, ‘Paranoia and Paranoid: A Historical Perspective’, provides a framework around which some further historical speculations can be built ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: Wyndham Lewis

11 September 2008
... Wyndham Lewis’s Modernism refuses a provincial label. His intellectual toughness and taste for self-promotion and polemic were foreign to the amateurishness that, he believed, vitiated Bloomsbury’s insular ...

‘I love you, defiant witch!’

Michael​ Newton: Charles Williams

7 September 2016
Charles Williams: The Third Inkling 
by Grevel Lindop.
Oxford, 493 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 0 19 928415 3
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... and the things of the world, Williams expressed a creed that justified their position. He prided himself on being the only person who could claim the friendship of those arch-enemies C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot. Lewis and Williams both aimed at the disruption of the realist novel though the use of erudite fantasy, drawing on Dante and Plato and Milton; they wanted to make contemporary England ...
8 September 1994
The Life and Death of Peter Sellers 
by Roger Lewis.
Century, 817 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 7126 3801 6
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... son of a Jewish mother, that his parents worked in a touring theatre company, and that during the war he joined the RAF and performed in Ralph Reader’s Gang Shows. Soon afterwards he teamed up with Michael Bentine, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan to form The Goons: slightly wearing to listen to now (I suppose you had to be there at the time) but routinely credited with having ‘revolutionised British ...


Benjamin Markovits: What It Takes to Win at Sport

7 November 2013
... sport.* Britain’s success was greeted with surprise, but it was not an aberration. Something has changed. The best book I know on the relationship between sporting culture and success is Moneyball, MichaelLewis’s account of the 2002 Oakland A’s baseball team.† The argument is compellingly simple: sports teams are run like gentlemen’s clubs rather than businesses, and clubs don’t base their ...

Phantom Jacks

John Bayley

5 January 1989
Jack: C.S. Lewis​ and His Times 
by George Sayer.
Macmillan, 278 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 0 333 43362 9
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J.B. Priestley 
by Vincent Brome.
Hamish Hamilton, 512 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 9780241125601
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Eddy: The Life of Edward Sackville-West 
by Michael​ De-la-Noy.
Bodley Head, 341 pp., £16, October 1988, 0 370 31164 7
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... in the biographer’s prose. Such falsifications are unavoidable, and they reflect, besides, the presentations we make in life, of ourselves to ourselves and to others. Everyone knows that jolly Jack Lewis and jolly Jack Priestley were not jolly at all inside, but there is a perennial pleasure in finding out what they did, what they liked and felt, and thus, in some degree, who they are. I doubt they ...

Oh, the curse!

David Runciman: A home run

19 February 2004
Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: A Lifelong Passion for Baseball 
by Stephen Jay Gould.
Cape, 342 pp., £16.99, January 2004, 0 224 05042 7
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Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game 
by Michael Lewis.
Norton, 288 pp., $24.95, June 2003, 0 393 05765 8
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... there. Regularly taking a walk is not glamorous, and it is not the way to a fan’s heart, but it can be hugely valuable. Just how valuable it has proved to one team in particular is the subject of MichaelLewis’s fascinating Moneyball. Lewis’s book tells the recent history of the Oakland Athletics, one of the worst supported and least affluent teams in major league baseball. Most of the time, the ...

A Susceptible Man

Ian Sansom: The Unhappy Laureate

4 March 1999
Living in Time: The Poetry of C. Day Lewis 
by Albert Gelpi.
Oxford, 246 pp., £30, March 1998, 0 19 509863 3
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... his generous behind the scenes fact-checking, Vendler is at pains to point out that Heaney had not read her manuscript). The American critic Albert Gelpi’s acknowledgments in his new book on C. Day Lewis are typically strange. Gelpi has made his name writing about the history of 19th and 20th-century American poetry and poetics. For a critic whose most recent publications include an edition of ...

Lost Mother

Michael​ Dobson

17 February 2000
In My End Is My Beginning: A Life of Mary Queen of Scots 
by James Mackay.
Mainstream, 320 pp., £20, March 1999, 1 84018 058 7
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Mary Queen of Scots: Romance and Nation 
by Jayne Elizabeth Lewis.
Routledge, 259 pp., £14.99, October 1998, 0 415 11481 0
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Ancestry and Narrative in 19th-Century British Literature: Blood Relations from Edgeworth to Hardy 
by Sophie Gilmartin.
Cambridge, 281 pp., £37.50, February 1999, 0 521 56094 2
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... disowned mother of the British state, she is the sacrificial victim who has always haunted the national pantheon’s victory procession. It is this haunting which is the principal subject of Jayne Lewis’s splendid exercise in cultural history, Mary Queen of Scots: Romance and Nation. Although her book sets out to consider the representation of Mary from her own lifetime until the end of the ...
13 September 2018
Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness 
by Rhodri Lewis.
Princeton, 365 pp., £30, November 2017, 978 0 691 16684 1
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... this play was from the outset that it is now so hard to imagine a world before Hamlet, or to reconstruct exactly what the play meant when it first appeared, the daunting task undertaken by Rhodri Lewis in Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness. At some point around 1600, when the play was still new, the Cambridge scholar Gabriel Harvey was already noting (in a blank space at the end of his copy of ...

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