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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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... The pure products​ of America go crazy, William Carlos Williams wrote, but he was only half right: America’s crazy, and so sometimes its pure products go sane. Consider the eponymous narrator of PaulBeatty’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 ...

I did not pan out

Christian Lorentzen: Sam Lipsyte

6 June 2019
by Sam Lipsyte.
Granta, 304 pp., £12.99, March, 978 1 78378 321 2
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... books comes out of the mixing of high and low diction that intellectualises the vulgar and vulgarises the intellectual. But he is also one of the few working American novelists – along with PaulBeatty, 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 ...

Writing Absurdity

Adam Shatz: Chester Himes

25 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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...  what is now called Afro-pessimism – enjoys a growing vogue among black intellectuals. One can detect echoes of his jaundiced vision in Jordan Peele’s recent horror film, Get Out, and in PaulBeatty’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 ...

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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... people in whose interests he was then battling, now as Planning and Construction Minister swanning 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 ...

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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... of the Washington Monument, missiles launching, children watching TV, stills from Soviet propaganda 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 ...

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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... Little House on the Prairie (and of course The Simpsons) and doing numerous voice-overs and adverts for 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 ...

Medes and Persians

Paul​ Foot: The Government’s Favourite Accountants

2 November 2000
... In February this year she spoke in favour of the Government’s support for the controversial Ilisu 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 ...
25 January 2001
... puritan dark age, but rather to facilitate the stopping of one particular source of music: the Salvation 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 ...

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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... accept that the entailment fails, can argue on other grounds that the state is illegitimate. One ground 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 ...
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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... this paragon of the Establishment suffered a sudden conversion to Bolshevism. It sounds improbable 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 ...

Heathrow to Canary Wharf

Nick Richardson: Crossrail

11 October 2012
... was mothballed. In 1989, the Department of the Environment rebooted the east-west line. ‘More and 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 ...

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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... long since lost in the mists. The issue also contains a consideration of the sociologist David Riesman, 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 ...

Bloody Sunday Report

Murray Sayle: Back to Bloody Sunday

11 July 2002
... in the real world. The tall, London-based CNN presenter Richard Quest, in tailored trenchcoat, waited 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 ...

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