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Christian Lorentzen: At the Conventions

27 September 2012
... around an artificial creek. A concrete bridge led to the kitchen. There was a wall posted with poems and a protest schedule, a pile of cough drops, vitamins, shampoo, plasters and deodorant, and a power station for recharging batteries and a wifi router. I saw signs spread out across the ground: ‘Obama Is a Fucking Traitor!’ Somebody said: ‘Obama’s not a traitor because he worked for the ...


John Lanchester: The Rise and Rise of Ian Rankin

27 April 2000
Set in Darkness 
by Ian Rankin.
Orion, 415 pp., £16.99, February 2000, 0 7528 2129 6
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... and Directed Exegetic Response, he has noticed that the names of the victims appear to make up a word: take the first letters of their Christian names and surnames and they spell out the word Samantha. That’s a rebus; it’s also the name of Rebus’s daughter. He dashes off to find her but she has already been abducted by the killer, an army buddy of Rebus’s who cracked during SAS training ...

Stuck in Chicago

Linda Colley

12 November 1987
by Naim Attallah.
Quartet, 1165 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 7043 2625 6
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... person she will have to convince will almost certainly be male. Only 11 per cent of medical consultants in this country are women. From all this one might conclude that female initiative and worldly power are still savagely limited. But how right would one be? Some of the answers can be found, though not alas at first reading, in Naim Attallah’s huge, rather silly and sporadically illuminating book ...

‘I worry a bit, Joanne’

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘The Casual Vacancy’

25 October 2012
The Casual Vacancy 
by J.K. Rowling.
Little, Brown, 503 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 4087 0420 2
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... hardly a binding rule. In other ways it seems perverse. What can top the experience of capturing a global audience, made up mainly of readers for whom your books have been an introduction to the power of fiction? It’s a readership Rowling has honestly earned. For quite a while her publishers seemed to be running to catch up with her sudden popularity, rather than scheming to promote it. Her ...


Amit Chaudhuri: Modi’s Hinduism

17 December 2015
... human beings.’ The BJP insists on a form of Hinduism that is wholly new: it accords a deep respect to science and the verifiable, and is tone deaf to figurative language. Soon after it came to power, one BJP minister proclaimed that ancient Indians must have possessed the technology to build aeroplanes since the epics mention flying chariots. Modi then added that the elephant-headed god Ganesh ...


Sean French: Fortress Wapping

6 March 1986
... Murdoch called in the Armed Forces? The truth turned out to be less sinister. The military vehicle had been summoned by the Sun newspaper in order to transport their big-busted page-three girl, Samantha Fox, inside the wire for a photo call. Not long afterwards the resulting picture was splashed across the front page of the Sun. The ‘story’ read: EYES FRONT! Sexy soldier Sam Fox inspects her ...


Edward Pearce

22 October 1992
by Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie.
Hutchinson, 589 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 09 173549 1
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... time and at any rate an interesting one. Significantly, the chaste (but not dull) Rupert Murdoch prints semi-dirt and pursues a certain political line because in large social groups the breasts of Samantha Fox and the opinions of Margaret Thatcher combine effectively. Lord Beaverbrook, a loving, unfaithful husband who had women the way most people have buttered toast, kept the Express smutless, while ...

Whitehall Farces

Patrick Parrinder

8 October 1992
Now you know 
by Michael Frayn.
Viking, 282 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 9780670845545
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... will break out of this one. Such impulses are no surprise to Terry, an ex-convict – he was done for theft, false pretences and ‘actual bodily harm’ – who knows that within the corridors of power there is ‘always someone bursting to tell. It’s the pressure. Like the garden hose.’ His campaign, which is called OPEN, thrives on people like Hilary who bring to it the secrets of the ...

Darling, are you mad?

Jenny Diski: Ghost-writing for Naim Attallah

4 November 2004
by Jennie Erdal.
Canongate, 270 pp., £14.99, November 2004, 1 84195 562 0
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... barrelled: Heathcote-Amery, Bonham-Carter, Sackville-West, Vane-Tempest-Stewart. And mostly their forenames ended, as well-bred girls’ forenames must, in ‘a’: Nigella, Cosima, Candida, Sophia, Samantha, Sabrina, Lucinda. ‘Famous Englishmen write to me about their daughters,’ Attallah shrugs. ‘What else can I do? I have to find a job for them.’ Erdal was brought up in Fife, the daughter of a ...

You have a new memory

Hal Foster: Trevor Paglen

11 October 2018
Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen 
by John P. Jacob and Luke Skrebowski.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, 252 pp., £45, July 2018, 978 1 911282 33 4
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Trevor Paglen 
by Lauren Cornell, Julia Bryan-Wilson and Omar Kholeif.
Phaidon, 160 pp., £29.95, May 2018, 978 0 7148 7344 2
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... that they mean at all (think of facial-recognition programs alone). The standard critique that contemporary society is swamped by spectacle, by images directed at us, may also have to be revised. If power today depends largely on data – on invisible information harvested, searched, surveilled and acted on by corporations, governments, insurance companies, credit agencies and police departments – ...
19 November 2015
... t make sense, as Masipa conceded, even while arguing that Pistorius’s confused, contradictory, evasive and unreliable testimony was not in itself a proof of guilt. Pistorius’s former girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, put it most simply: ‘It definitely didn’t make sense to me. I would … I don’t know, I find that kind of weird, I definitely wouldn’t close the door, especially if it’s not even ...
8 March 2007
... in 2003. Both were driven by an intermeshing of domestic tensions in the context of a peace-averse international environment defined by the War on Terror. On the one hand, there was a struggle for power within the political class in Sudan, with more marginal interests in the west (following those in the south and in the east) calling for reform at the centre. On the other, there was a community ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës

16 November 2017
... I needed then and still need today’. Barker tells us that ‘if anyone had asked me what was my ambition when I was a teenager I would have said that it was to write a biography of the Brontës.’ Samantha Ellis writes of Emily: ‘Her name has almost become synonymous with wild, unfettered imagination, and when I first read Wuthering Heights, as an awkward, stuck teenager, it made me feel free ...

American Breakdown

David Bromwich

9 August 2018
... has been done by the anti-Trump media themselves, with their mood of perpetual panic and their lack of imagination. But the uncanny gift of Trump is an infectious vulgarity, and with it comes the power to make his enemies act with nearly as little self-restraint as he does. The proof is in the tweets. Meanwhile his administration is well along – and not very closely watched – on its slow march ...

I, Lowborn Cur

Colin Burrow: Literary Names

22 November 2012
Literary Names: Personal Names in English Literature 
by Alastair Fowler.
Oxford, 283 pp., £19.99, September 2012, 978 0 19 959222 7
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... B’. There are more recent possibilities he doesn’t explore: Nicholas Clegg’s name suggests he could shift up a gear (‘I’ll change cogs’) or just slow things down (‘chain clogs leg’). Samantha Cameron should be warned that ‘David Cameron’ is an anagram of ‘adman divorce’, and we should all be wary of a politician whose name contains ‘random advice’. A really good anagram gives ...

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