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Bustin’ up the Chiffarobe

Alex Abramovich: Paul Beatty, 7 January 2016

The Sellout 
by Paul Beatty.
Farrar, Straus, 288 pp., £17, March 2015, 978 0 374 26050 7
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... America’s crazy, and so sometimes its pure products go sane. Consider the eponymous narrator of Paul Beatty’s novel The Sellout. When we first meet him, in the Supreme Court’s ‘cavernous chambers’, the sellout’s hands are cuffed behind his back. His right to silence ‘long since waived’, he sits in a ‘thickly padded chair that, much like ...

I did not pan out

Christian Lorentzen: Sam Lipsyte, 6 June 2019

by Sam Lipsyte.
Granta, 304 pp., £12.99, March 2019, 978 1 78378 321 2
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... the intellectual. But he is also one of the few working American novelists – along with Paul Beatty, Lydia Millet, Mark Leyner, Mark Doten – truly committed to satire. The opening passage of The Ask compares America to a ‘run-down and demented pimp’ slumped in the corner of a pool hall, a novel image of imperial decline. Sometimes it’s ...

Stainless Steel Banana Slicer

David Trotter, 18 March 2021

Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form 
by Sianne Ngai.
Harvard, 401 pp., £28.95, June 2020, 978 0 674 98454 7
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... The Wig – a landmark text for writers such as Ishmael Reed, Fran Ross, Colson Whitehead and Paul Beatty – and the two other novels Wright published, both semi-autobiographical, which take a studiously matter-of-fact view of sex, drugs, racism and literary aspiration. Fluctuating between fiction and journalism, full of ‘tricks’ that can’t be ...

The Flow

Paul Myerscough: ‘The Trap’, 5 April 2007

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom 
directed by Adam Curtis.
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... films and bomb doors opening, it looks much more like the sort of thing used to brainwash Warren Beatty in The Parallax View. It isn’t fashionable to take these issues seriously. Television is the postmodern medium, and Curtis’s films are perfect intellectual entertainment for an audience knowing enough to get the references, but too knowing to be taken ...

Writing Absurdity

Adam Shatz: Chester Himes, 26 April 2018

Chester B. Himes: A Biography 
by Lawrence P. Jackson.
Norton, 606 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 393 06389 9
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... can detect echoes of his jaundiced vision in Jordan Peele’s recent horror film, Get Out, and in Paul Beatty’s novel The Sellout. But, as if it were his destiny to remain just beyond the pale of literary approval, Himes, unlike Baldwin, flunks the contemporary ‘woke’ test. As much as he deplored the prejudices of the black bourgeoisie and aligned ...

Blood Boiling

Paul Foot: Corporate takeover, 22 February 2001

Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain 
by George Monbiot.
Macmillan, 430 pp., £12.99, September 2000, 0 333 90164 9
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No Logo 
by Naomi Klein.
Flamingo, 501 pp., £8.99, January 2001, 0 00 653040 0
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... round the world with executives from the construction industry, including (several times) Balfour Beatty, the potential privatisers of the London Tube and the company which holds the record for the biggest fine ever imposed under Health and Safety legislation, even before the authorities have fully investigated its crucial role in track maintenance at ...

Very like St Paul

Ian Sansom: Johnny Cash, 9 March 2006

The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend 
by Steve Turner.
Bloomsbury, 363 pp., £8.99, February 2006, 0 7475 8079 0
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Walk the Line 
directed by James Mangold.
November 2005
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... car manufacturers. He was also the author of a novel, Man in White (1986), about the life of St Paul, with whom he liked to compare himself: ‘Also interesting, for me at least,’ he writes in Cash (1997), ‘were the parallels between Paul and myself. He went out to conquer the world in the name of Jesus Christ; we in ...

Medes and Persians

Paul Foot: The Government’s Favourite Accountants, 2 November 2000

... dam in Turkey. She was the only speaker in the debate to back the project. The accounts of Balfour Beatty, the British construction firm most closely involved in the dam project, and its parent BICC, had been prepared by Arthur Andersen. When Andersen Consulting wanted a ‘keynote speaker’ for a conference last July on e-business the choice was obvious: the ...

A Narrow Band of Liberties

Glen Newey: Global order, 25 January 2001

Profit over People: Neo-Liberalism and Global Order 
by Noam Chomsky.
Seven Stories, 175 pp., £26, October 1998, 1 888363 82 7
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Acts of Aggression: Policing ‘Rogue’ States 
by Noam Chomsky and Ramsey Clark, edited by Edward Said.
Seven Stories, 62 pp., £4.99, May 1999, 1 58322 005 4
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The Umbrella of US Power: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Contradictions of US Policy 
by Noam Chomsky.
Seven Stories, 78 pp., £3.99, December 1998, 1 888363 85 1
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The New Military Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo 
by Noam Chomsky.
Pluto, 199 pp., £30, November 1999, 0 7453 1633 6
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... for saying this, apparently endorsed by Chomsky and certainly held by anarchists like Robert Paul Wolff, is that coercion itself – the state’s big shtick – is never justified. The truth is not that power corrupts, but that power’s rationale is corruption, and the best to be hoped for from its use is not that it makes people better, but that it ...

Heathrow to Canary Wharf

Nick Richardson: Crossrail, 11 October 2012

... more people are coming to work in the tightly packed central area,’ the then transport secretary Paul Channon wrote in the preface to the Central London Rail Study: ‘This is putting severe strains on London’s transport system.’ The study included a map of Central London’s train routes captioned ‘Extent of Overcrowding in 1987’, a spaghetti mess ...

Dummy and Biffy

Noël Annan, 17 October 1985

Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community 
by Christopher Andrew.
Heinemann, 616 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 02110 5
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The Secret Generation 
by John Gardner.
Heinemann, 453 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 434 28250 2
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Two Thyrds 
by Bertie Denham.
Ross Anderson Publications, 292 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 86360 006 9
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The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany 1933-1939 
by Wesley Wark.
Tauris, 304 pp., £19.50, October 1985, 1 85043 014 4
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... but, after all, sudden conversions occur. ‘Personally, I would have had the watchers out on St Paul for a long time if I had been in charge of the Christian secret service when he came blundering into Damascus yelling that he’d gone blind, and Christ was the Messiah.’ Railton does his work only too well and on the last page we see one of his younger ...

What are judges for?

Conor Gearty, 25 January 2001

... Army. The case was one of many from this era involving the Army, the most famous of which was Beatty v. Gillbanks (1882). In modern terms, the majority had used its power to curb the religious freedom of an unpopular minority. Was Lord Russell right or wrong to stand by, or should he have allowed his respect for the democratic process to have been (to use ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides, 24 October 2019

Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... since no intellectual journal back then was complete without a Riesman snorkel dive; a piece by Paul de Man (remember him?) which begins on the stirring note, ‘Ever since the war, American criticism has remained relatively stagnant’; and an omnibus review of four books by Northrop Frye. ‘Notes on “Camp”’ transmits on an entirely different ...

Bloody Sunday Report

Murray Sayle: Back to Bloody Sunday, 11 July 2002

... impressively for his gear. CNN was here for some really significant story – the marriage of Sir Paul McCartney and anti-landmine campaigner Heather Mills, perhaps; a shade less probably, the wedding in St Eugene’s Cathedral, Londonderry, of Gráinne, daughter of Northern Ireland’s Education Minister Martin McGuinness (not yet knighted for his varied ...

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