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Diary

Christian Lorentzen: At the Conventions, 27 September 2012

... 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 banks all along.’ Up the hill an ice sculpture that spelled ...

Rebusworld

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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... 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 and has held a grudge against him ever since. Rebus gets ...

Stuck in Chicago

Linda Colley, 12 November 1987

Women 
by Naim Attallah.
Quartet, 1165 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 7043 2625 6
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... 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, which is explicitly devoted to female ...

‘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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... 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 reward has been a relatively restrained backlash: Christian ...

Diary

Amit Chaudhuri: Modi’s Hinduism, 17 December 2015

... 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 was proof that plastic surgery existed in ancient ...

Diary

Sean French: Fortress Wapping, 6 March 1986

... 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 loyal troops in the war of Wapping.   Bravely ...

Hooting

Edward Pearce, 22 October 1992

Beaverbrook 
by Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie.
Hutchinson, 589 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 09 173549 1
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... 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 he promoted only those politicians he either ...

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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... 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 confessional. Officially, Terry’s campaigning appeal is based ...

Darling, are you mad?

Jenny Diski: Ghost-writing for Naim Attallah, 4 November 2004

Ghosting 
by Jennie Erdal.
Canongate, 270 pp., £14.99, November 2004, 1 84195 562 0
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... 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 woman who sold Spirella corsets from her bedroom and ...

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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... 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 – how are we to track it, let alone challenge it? Detail ...

Bantu in the Bathroom

Jacqueline Rose, 19 November 2015

... 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 connected to the bedroom. I don’t know why someone ...

The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency

Mahmood Mamdani: Iraq and Darfur, 8 March 2007

... 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-level split inside Darfur, between nomads and settled ...

American Breakdown

David Bromwich, 2 August 2018

... 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 through the institutions. One example can stand for ...

Flailing States

Pankaj Mishra: Anglo-America Loses its Grip, 16 July 2020

... a new status in large parts of the world. But the current regimes in the US and Britain gained power by fomenting hatred of experts and expertise. British ministers, chosen for their devotion to Brexit and loyalty to Johnson, have revealed themselves as dangerous blunderers. Trump, still promoting family, flunkeys and conspiracy theories, has obliged his ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës, 16 November 2017

... 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.’ What sort of problems might these readers run into when ...

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