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It’s good to be alive

Gideon Lewis-Kraus: Science does ethics

9 February 2012
Sex, Murder and the Meaning of Life: A Psychologist Investigates How Evolution, Cognition and Complexity Are Revolutionising Our View of Human Nature 
by Douglas Kenrick.
Basic, 238 pp., £18.99, May 2011, 978 0 465 02044 7
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Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values 
by Sam Harris.
Bantam, 291 pp., £20, April 2011, 978 0 593 06486 3
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The Fair Society: The Science of Human Nature and the Pursuit of Social Justice 
by Peter Corning.
Chicago, 237 pp., $27.50, April 2011, 978 0 226 11627 3
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... interventions on a sound understanding of what people are really like, not on some fairy-tale version of what we would like them to be.’ That, at any rate, is what Douglas Kenrick has to tell us. SamHarris begins The Moral Landscape in much the same way: ‘The more we understand ourselves at the level of the brain, the more we will see that there are right and wrong answers to questions of ...

Short Cuts

William Davies: Jordan Peterson

2 August 2018
... keep going, cheer now.’ Uproarious cheer. ‘OK, we’ll keep going.’ He feigns surprise at this outcome, sinks back into his black leather regency armchair and turns again to his interlocutors, SamHarris and Douglas Murray. I’d cheered for the first option, not least because I was interested to know how on earth it was going to work. The O2 was less than a third full, but even so, that’s ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: The Hitchens Principle

21 March 2019
... DC and had a two-hour discussion around a marble table. The subject, it seemed, was the misguidedness, stupidity and sometimes dangerousness of religious belief. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, SamHarris and Christopher Hitchens: over the previous few years each had published a bestselling book condemning religion, and they were all rather pleased with themselves. Dawkins’s The God Delusion alone ...

The Atheists’ Picnic

Julian Bell: Art and Its Origins

10 June 2010
Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion 
by David Lewis-Williams.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £18.95, March 2010, 978 0 500 05164 1
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... There is no God.’ And so the intrepid mountaineer hauls himself up over the final overhang – and collapses into a company of picnickers. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens and SamHarris motored up to his chosen summit a while ago; and here, sure enough, stepping forward to pat the newcomer on the back and welcome him along, who should it be but Philip Pullman? ‘Magnificent ...

Wait a second what’s that?

August Kleinzahler: Elvis’s Discoverer

8 February 2018
Sam​ Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ’n’ Roll 
by Peter Guralnick.
Weidenfeld, 784 pp., £16.99, November 2015, 978 0 297 60949 0
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... One night​ in 1939, 16-year-old Sam Phillips jumped into a ‘big old Dodge’ with his older brother and a few friends a little after midnight and set out to drive from Florence, Alabama to Dallas, Texas to hear a celebrated First ...

Religion is a sin

Galen Strawson: Immortality!

2 June 2011
Saving God: Religion after Idolatry 
by Mark Johnston.
Princeton, 198 pp., £16.95, August 2009, 978 0 691 14394 1
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Surviving Death 
by Mark Johnston.
Princeton, 393 pp., £24.95, February 2010, 978 0 691 13012 5
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... atheists’ like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, who have doubtless noticed this correlation, and scolds them for their errors about Spinoza, but I find Dawkins and Hitchens (and SamHarris) companionable, as I find Johnston himself, and feel no resultant stress. Johnston gives ground to no one in his disdain for the idolaters – all ordinary believers – and there’s a great deal to ...

Where the Jihadis Are

Jeremy Harding: How to Spot a Jihadi

17 February 2011
Talking to the Enemy: Violent Extremism, Sacred Values and What It Means to Be Human 
by Scott Atran.
Allen Lane, 558 pp., £25, November 2010, 978 1 84614 412 7
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... back to the Russian Nihilists, and more recently to secular Arab movements in Syria and the Tamil Tigers. In his view, the ‘four horsemen’ of the new atheism – Dennett, Dawkins, Hitchens and SamHarris, author of The End of Faith – ride roughshod over the rich history of religion in the name of a ‘pulp fiction’ that ends happily ever after when they’ve argued faith into extinction ...

Who had the most fun?

David Bromwich: The Marx Brothers

10 May 2001
Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx 
by Stefan Kanfer.
Penguin, 480 pp., £7.99, April 2001, 0 14 029426 0
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The Essential Groucho 
by Groucho Marx, edited by Stefan Kanfer.
Penguin, 254 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 14 029425 2
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... to have been clever with words – Simon spoke French, German, Yiddish and English – and they were quick to absorb the cosmopolitan slang of the New York streets. Simon naturalised his name to Sam and set up business as a tailor out of the same three-room apartment on East 93rd Street that held Minna, her parents and the five boys; but the couple always had an air of waiting for something ...

Bang-Bang, Kiss-Kiss

Christian Lorentzen: Bond

3 December 2015
directed by Sam​ Mendes.
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The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters 
edited by Fergus Fleming.
Bloomsbury, 391 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6547 7
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Ian Fleming: A Personal Memoir 
by Robert Harling.
Robson, 372 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 84 95493 65 1
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... because Blofeld neither escapes to menace Bond again nor dies at Bond’s hands, but because his defeat is the result of the joint efforts of Bond, M, Q (Ben Whishaw), Swann and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). Who ever looked to 007 for displays of teamwork? What would Fleming have made of all this? He would no doubt have been happy that the film’s box-office take has already exceeded $500 million. The ...

Welcome Home

Sukhdev Sandhu: Memories of Michael X

4 February 1999
Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multiracial Britain 
by Mike Phillips and Trevor Phillips.
HarperCollins, 422 pp., £16.99, May 1998, 0 00 255909 9
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... petrification, England the possibility of endless possibility. Only by fleeing Jamaica – however firmly they told themselves they would return in five or ten years – could they begin to exist. Harris, in George Lamming’s novel The Emigrants (1954), pinpoints this feeling when, setting eyes on England for the first time from a ship’s porthole, he thinks to himself: ‘There was life, life ...


Janet Todd

21 December 1989
Willa Cather: A Life Saved Up 
by Hermione Lee.
Virago, 409 pp., £12.99, October 1989, 0 86068 661 2
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... cropped her hair and adopted male dress. In due course her father borrowed money to enable her to become a student at Lincoln University. Much of this early life is caught in a late story ‘Old Mrs Harris’, tapes of which are used to accompany the modern pilgrim round the Cather shrine. At University she settled into literature when a teacher published a paper of hers on Carlyle in the Nebraska ...

Joe, Jerry and Bomber Blair

Owen Hatherley: Jonathan Meades

7 March 2013
Museum without Walls 
by Jonathan Meades.
Unbound, 446 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 908717 18 4
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... Or, like Basil Spence, believers of the flimsiest, C of E kind. ‘Much of the ecclesiastical work of the high modern years’ – Clifton Cathedral, the work of Richard Gilbert Scott or Sam Scorer – ‘prompts awe. But that awe is more likely to be aesthetic rather than religious; it is not different to that which is incited by a grand hangar or concert hall – the potency of a ...
11 October 2018
... in 1921 – at the tail end of the first major phase of Confederate commemorations – is more direct: ‘Erected to the memory of the heroes … Stephen Decatur Parish, James West Hadnot, Sidney Harris, who fell in the Colfax Riot fighting for White Supremacy, April 13, 1873.’ When EJI arrived in Montgomery there were more than fifty memorials of one sort or another to the glories of the ...
1 August 1985
Diplomacy and Intelligence during the Second World War: Essays in Honour of F.H. Hinsley 
edited by Richard Langhorne.
Cambridge, 329 pp., £27.50, May 1985, 0 521 26840 0
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. I: 1939-Summer 1941, Vol. II: Mid-1941-Mid-1943, Vol. III, Part I: June 1943-June 1944 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 616 pp., £12.95, September 1979, 0 11 630933 4
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... would satisfy Herr Hitler. Not then leader of the Conservative Party, he was pitifully weak politically. Did he not, as Denis Smyth shows in another article, agree under pressure from Halifax and Sam Hoare in Madrid to appease Franco and expel from Britain Juan Negrin, the Spanish Republican leader? And was he not stopped from doing so only by his Labour colleagues? We should note the exact words ...

Holy Boldness

Tom Paulin: John Bunyan

16 December 2004
Glimpses of Glory: John Bunyan and English Dissent 
by Richard Greaves.
Stanford, 693 pp., £57.50, August 2002, 0 8047 4530 7
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Theology and Narrative in the Works of John Bunyan 
by Michael Davies.
Oxford, 393 pp., £65, July 2002, 0 19 924240 2
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The Portable Bunyan: A Transnational History of ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ 
by Isabel Hofmeyr.
Princeton, 320 pp., £41.95, January 2004, 0 691 11655 5
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... 1661 and 1678 Smith had printed nearly all Bunyan’s books, but in 1678, when Smith was in permanent trouble and deeply involved in politics, Bunyan moved to another radical printer, Benjamin Harris (Nathaniel Ponder, however, published The Pilgrim’s Progress). Harris, too, was always in trouble with the authorities. He was pilloried and fined £500, a huge amount. Smith was committed to ...

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