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Altruists at War

W.G. Runciman: Human Reciprocity

23 February 2012
A Co-operative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution 
by Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis.
Princeton, 262 pp., £24.95, July 2011, 978 0 691 15125 0
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... that obtain in the real world. But they have by now been conducted in widely differing cultures and societies and have been supported by the observations of anthropologists working in the field. SamuelBowles and Herbert Gintis have themselves made influential contributions to this literature, and they come down firmly against the cynics. They do not believe that our other-regarding social ...

The Imagined Market

Donald MacKenzie: Money Games

31 October 2002
Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science 
by Philip Mirowski.
Cambridge, 670 pp., £24.95, February 2002, 0 521 77526 4
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... reveal the true nature of human beings is that apparently minor variations in experimental protocol can produce large changes in behaviour. One variant of the ultimatum game reported by the economist SamuelBowles ranks subjects prior to playing the game on the basis of how they performed in a trivia quiz; the privilege of making the offer is then given to those who know they have scored highly. Even ...


Mark Ford: Emily Dickinson’s Manuscripts

18 June 2014
The Gorgeous Nothings 
by Emily Dickinson.
New Directions, 255 pp., £26.50, October 2013, 978 0 8112 2175 7
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The Marvel of Biographical Bookkeeping 
by Francis Nenik, translated by Katy Derbyshire.
Readux, 64 pp., £3, October 2013, 978 3 944801 00 1
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... An envelope refolds discreetly, privately, even after it has been sliced completely open.’ Below her introduction there is a life-size image of the two-inch stub of pencil that Dickinson sent to SamuelBowles, the editor of the Springfield Republican (in which ‘Safe in their alabaster chambers’ was published anonymously under the title ‘The Sleeping’). Behold again the trinity of relics ...

A History of Disappointment

Jackson Lears: Obama’s Parents

5 January 2012
The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father 
by Sally Jacobs.
Public Affairs, 336 pp., £20, July 2011, 978 1 58648 793 5
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A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother 
by Janny Scott.
Riverhead, 384 pp., £18.99, May 2011, 978 1 59448 797 2
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... context, to econometrics, with its reliance on abstract mathematical models. Barack was a crack mathematician and held his own among his formidable classmates, who included Lester Thurow and SamuelBowles. Remaining aloof from the white mainstream, he hung out with the African students. ‘He spoke very firmly to us about education and what we needed to do,’ said one. ‘He sounded just like ...

Toolkit for Tinkerers

Colin Burrow: The Sonnet

24 June 2010
The Art of the Sonnet 
by Stephanie Burt and David Mikics.
Harvard, 451 pp., £25.95, May 2010, 978 0 674 04814 0
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... does in her mischievous sonnet of 2004 called ‘Homework. Write a Sonnet. About Love?’ When poets have written about the sonnet they have tended to represent it as a small orderly space. Samuel Daniel is often quoted as having said: ‘is it not most delightful to see much excellently ordered in a small room?’ But he preceded that remark by commenting ‘especially seeing our passions are ...


Michael André Bernstein: Norman Rush

22 January 2004
by Norman Rush.
Cape, 715 pp., £18.99, July 2003, 0 224 03709 9
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... and his new, epic-length novel, Mortals. Few American novelists have located their books anywhere but in the economic or cultural heartland of the global American imperium. Except for Jane and Paul Bowles in Morocco, only Robert Stone and Joan Didion suggest themselves, and neither of them is associated closely with any one setting. On the whole, American writers seem convinced that the vital features ...


Christopher Tayler: Beckett’s Letters

19 March 2015
Letters of Samuel​ Beckett: 1957-65 
by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 771 pp., £30, September 2014, 978 0 521 86795 5
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... by saying that to encourage plays like this would drive theatre to its ‘derniers spasmes’, and after two weeks the producers pulled the plug. The broadcast found a more receptive listener in Samuel Beckett, who wasn’t only in favour of an art of last gasps but had recently been brooding on radio drama as a pure play of sound and silence. ‘Merveilleux, merveilleux,’ he wrote the same day ...

On Needing to Be Looked After

Tim Parks: Beckett’s Letters

1 December 2011
The Letters of Samuel​ Beckett: 1941-56 
edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 791 pp., £30, September 2011, 978 0 521 86794 8
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... we remember, with the narrator’s obsessive search for his mother. At first, in his distaste for returning to work he claimed to loathe, Beckett assigned the task of translating Molloy to Patrick Bowles, a young South African. The decision was extraordinary. In the late 1930s, after an early attempt at collaboration, Beckett had taken over the French translation of Murphy and done the job himself ...

Of the Mule Breed

David Bromwich: Robert Southey

21 May 1998
Robert Southey: A Life 
by Mark Storey.
Oxford, 405 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 19 811246 7
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... rendition of one of his epics.’ The anecdote does ring true. What prodigious bores all the Lakers became as they stepped up into patronage and prudence and middle age. Beerbohm’s caricature of ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Table-Talking’ shows the addict and sage slumped in a stupor at the head of the table, his hand vaguely stretched for a glass of port, while the statesmen huddled on both sides ...

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