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The Robots Are Coming

John Lanchester, 5 March 2015

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies 
by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.
Norton, 306 pp., £17.99, January 2014, 978 0 393 23935 5
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Average Is Over: Powering America beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation 
by Tyler Cowen.
Plume, 290 pp., £12.99, September 2014, 978 0 14 218111 9
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... law. This isn’t really a law at all, but rather the extrapolation of an observation made by Gordon Moore, one of the founders of the computer chip company Intel. By 1965, Moore had noticed that silicon chips had for a number of years been getting more powerful, in relation to their price, at a remarkably consistent rate. He published a paper predicting ...

Diary

Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows, 7 October 1993

... of his, in the TLS, about a subsequent book of mine: ‘There is even a case to be made for Giles Gordon being the only true inheritor of the late B.S. Johnson’s mantle as one of the serious Anglicises of French modes.’ Heady stuff. No British reviewer or critic would write like that now. Many younger readers (older readers too) have no awareness of ...

Blame Robert Maxwell

Frederick Wilmot-Smith: How Public Inquiries Go Wrong, 17 March 2016

... Aberfan disaster to the death of David Kelly, Profumo to tabloid phone hacking. On 15 June 2009, Gordon Brown announced an inquiry into the Iraq war – to investigate, as Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry’s chairman, put it, ‘the UK’s involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as ...

Bullshit and Beyond

Clive James, 18 February 1988

The Road to Botany Bay 
by Paul Carter.
Faber, 384 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 571 14551 5
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The Oxford History of Australia. Vol. IV: 1901-1942 
by Stuart Macintyre.
Oxford, 399 pp., £22.50, October 1987, 0 19 554612 1
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The Archibald Paradox: A Strange Case of Authorship 
by Sylvia Lawson.
Penguin Australia, 292 pp., AUS $12.95, September 1987, 0 14 009848 8
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The Lucky Country Revisited 
by Donald Horne.
Dent, 235 pp., AUS $34.95, October 1987, 9780867700671
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... from him. The sad thing is that in real life Mr Carter is a literary journalist of some repute. As Robert Haupt’s successor to the editorship of the Age Monthly Review, he inhabits a milieu, or space, in which the standards of plain speaking were set by the redoubtable Michael Davie, who really should get back there and sort out his errant protégés as soon ...

Where mine is at

Gordon Burn, 28 May 1992

Outerbridge Reach 
by Robert Stone.
Deutsch, 409 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 223 98774 3
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... When Robert Stone’s best-known novel, Dog Soldiers, was published in 1974, there was a small but significant overlap of material with The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe’s souped-up, superheated journalistic account of the beginnings of the counterculture, published six years earlier. The coincidence of material was in many ways inevitable ...

Her pen made the first move

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 7 July 1994

Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Chatto, 418 pp., £17.99, March 1994, 9780701161378
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Shared Lives 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Vintage, 285 pp., £6.99, March 1994, 0 09 942461 4
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The Sickroom in Victorian Fiction: The Art of Being Ill 
by Miriam Bailin.
Cambridge, 169 pp., £30, April 1994, 0 521 44526 4
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... Brontë was not yet 21, she submitted a sample of her work to the reigning poet laureate, Robert Southey, together with a letter in which she apparently confided her ambition ‘to be for ever known’ as a poet. Three months later, Southey replied. Though he acknowledged her gift and encouraged her to continue writing ‘for its own sake’, he also ...

Mr Straight and Mr Good

Paul Foot: Gordon Brown, 19 February 1998

Gordon Brown: The Biography 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 358 pp., £17.99, February 1998, 0 684 81954 6
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... The guiding star of his youth has entirely vanished from his firmament. In 1975 the young Gordon Brown compiled, edited and published a socialist manifesto entitled Red Paper for Scotland. At 24, he had just completed a three-year term as rector of Edinburgh University and chaired the University Court in the face of continuous opposition from some ...

I even misspell intellectual

Rupert Thomson: Caroline Gordon v. Flannery O’Connor, 2 April 2020

The Letters of Flannery O’Connor and Caroline Gordon 
edited by Christine Flanagan.
Georgia, 272 pp., £31.95, October 2018, 978 0 8203 5408 8
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... expression in Christine Flanagan’s edition of The Letters of Flannery O’Connor and Caroline Gordon. The two women were introduced by Robert Lowell, who had met O’Connor at Yaddo in 1948. Gordon had impeccable literary credentials. As a young writer, she had been mentored by ...

Generations

John Sutherland, 4 March 1982

The Survivors 
by Elaine Feinstein.
Hutchinson, 316 pp., £7.95, February 1982, 0 09 145850 1
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Helliconia Spring 
by Brian Aldiss.
Cape, 361 pp., £6.95, February 1982, 0 224 01843 4
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The Great Fire of London 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 169 pp., £7.95, January 1982, 0 241 10704 0
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A Loss of Heart 
by Robert McCrum.
Hamish Hamilton, 282 pp., £7.95, February 1982, 0 241 10705 9
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... sharp even against each other. The Katzes are a warmer, happier, less steady family. The Gordon gifted son makes himself a leading London publisher, wilfully disowning his origins. The Katz gifted son is a lame duck, unable to leave home. Benjy, the youngest Katz, has artistic talent, but he buries it for the service of the family. No ...

Travelling in the Classic Style

Thomas Laqueur: Primo Levi, 5 September 2002

Primo Levi’s Ordinary Virtues: From Testimony to Ethics 
by Robert Gordon.
Oxford, 316 pp., £45, October 2001, 0 19 815963 3
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Primo Levi 
by Ian Thomson.
Hutchinson, 624 pp., £25, March 2002, 0 09 178531 6
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The Double Bond: Primo Levi, a Biography 
by Carole Angier.
Viking, 898 pp., £25, April 2002, 0 670 88333 6
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... ethics survive Auschwitz’, shaken, challenged to the core, ‘but intact’, is the subject of Robert Gordon’s superb book. Its thesis is that very early in his career Levi moved beyond the language of testimony to the ‘language of ethics’, a ‘flexible, sensitive, intelligent language’ that extends his work on the death camps into ‘a ...

Cage’s Cage

Christopher Reid, 7 August 1980

Empty Words: Writings ‘73-’78 
by John Cage.
Marion Boyars, 187 pp., £12, June 1980, 0 7145 2704 1
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... status is, of course, more doubtful, even where a great composer is concerned. The Stravinsky/Robert Craft dialogues provide a case in point: can these unlikely confections, stilted essays in what one might call the comedy of conversational manners, really be taken seriously? In a sense, yes, they can. Their rhetoric – an arch, Nabokovian, dictionary ...

Short Cuts

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Gordon Brown, 7 June 2007

... Hope, to the simply intolerable: look no further than It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton. But Gordon Brown doesn’t need to write a job application. The spavined and gelded Parliamentary Labour Party has just anointed him by acclamation, and he thus becomes the first Labour leader in more than seventy years – and the first prime minister in more than ...

Matsanga

Jeremy Harding, 16 February 1989

... in Mozambique. The campaign is patronised by many young right-wingers, including Marc Gordon of the International Freedom Foundation, an anti-communist organisation which enjoys extremist American funding. Like many Western ideologues who sup with the devil, Gordon has the long spoon of ignorance to hand: he has ...

Thatcherism

Gordon Brown, 2 February 1989

Thatcherism 
edited by Robert Skidelsky.
Chatto, 214 pp., £18, November 1988, 0 7011 3342 2
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The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left 
by Stuart Hall.
Verso, 283 pp., £24.95, December 1988, 0 86091 199 3
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... When Thatcherism becomes a ‘wasm’, everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about. Abroad, the term means nothing, although there are probably one or two European politicians who think it has something to do with being rude to foreigners at conferences. True, in some other countries, but not in Germany or Japan, or not for long, New Right ideology has been translated into policy: but no one calls it Thatcherism ...

Dude, c’est moi

Edmund Gordon: Padgett Powell, 3 February 2011

The Interrogative Mood 
by Padgett Powell.
Profile, 164 pp., £9.99, November 2010, 978 1 84668 366 4
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... to spend a life; the extent to which a country property would be devalued if the cartoonist Robert Crumb were to move into the vicinity; and the provenance of urban legends. These subjects, though only transiently present, are neither insubstantial nor incidental to the book’s success. And behind each of them lurks the character of the ...

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