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Think like a neutron

Steven Shapin: Fermi’s Paradoxes, 24 May 2018

The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age 
by David N. Schwartz.
Basic, 448 pp., £26.99, December 2017, 978 0 465 07292 7
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... and one thing it’s useful to know is when not to tell everyone that you know everything. It’s no great surprise that there doesn’t seem ever to have been a ‘woman who knew everything’ – while there are several books about women who ‘knew too much’. It’s often said that some quite ordinary people ‘know everything’, but that usually comes ...

None of it is your material

Madeleine Schwartz: What Zelda Did, 18 April 2019

Save Me the Waltz 
by Zelda Fitzgerald.
Handheld Press, 268 pp., £12.99, January 2019, 978 1 9998280 4 2
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... modest things, you may be able to turn out one collection of short stories … [but] there is just no comparison. I am a professional writer, with a huge following. I am the highest paid short story writer in the world. I have at various times dominated – Mrs Fitzgerald: It seems to me you are making a rather violent attack on a third-rate talent then. Mr ...

Don’t be a Kerensky!

David Runciman: Kissinger looks for his prince, 3 December 2020

The Inevitability of Tragedy: Henry Kissinger and His World 
by Barry Gewen.
Norton, 452 pp., £22.99, April 2020, 978 1 324 00405 9
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Henry Kissinger and American Power: A Political Biography 
by Thomas Schwartz.
Hill and Wang, 548 pp., £27.99, September 2020, 978 0 8090 9537 7
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... died, and is 97 now. Still the books keep coming. This latest pair, by Barry Gewen and Thomas Schwartz, have moved beyond outrage to something more like bafflement, tinged with affection. Each begins with an effective admission of authorial uncertainty: why, they ask, am I writing about Henry Kissinger, when so much has been written already? The answer is ...

Eskapizm

Michael Wood: Oblomov, 6 August 2009

Oblomov 
by Ivan Goncharov, translated by Marian Schwartz.
Seven Stories, 553 pp., £15.99, January 2009, 978 1 58322 840 1
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... slothful hero. Other translations describe his favourite posture as lying down, but Marian Schwartz boldly goes for ‘recumbence’, with its suggestion of ornate Latin repose: For Ilya Ilich, recumbence was neither a necessity, as it would be for an ill or sleepy man, nor an occasional occurrence, as for someone who was weary, nor a pleasure, as for ...

The Browse Function

John Sutherland, 27 November 1997

Webonomics: Nine Essential Principles for Growing Your Business on the World Wide Web 
by Evan Schwartz.
Penguin, 244 pp., £11.99, October 1997, 9780140264067
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... the early days, he would drive down to the local post office to dispatch orders by hand. Bezos is no tweedy ‘bookman’. He originally had 20 product categories in mind, but settled on books as the most appropriate for web-merchandising. It was an astute choice. If they are to attract customers, bookshops have to lumber themselves with vast quantities of ...

Maigret’s Room

John Lanchester: The Home Life of Inspector Maigret, 4 June 2020

... to display an admiration that he considered indecent in front of a foreign witness?Maigret had no hesitation in silently scoring himself a point.To be fair, in the restaurant car, Mr Pyke had marked one up in turn. A trivial matter. A faint pinch of the nostrils at the arrival of the bacon and eggs, incontestably inferior to those of his own country.There ...

Not Just the Money

Mattathias Schwartz: Cybermafia, 5 July 2012

DarkMarket: How Hackers Became the New Mafia 
by Misha Glenny.
Vintage, 432 pp., £8.95, July 2012, 978 0 09 954655 9
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... in Swarming and the Future of Conflict (2000) by the RAND Corporation’s John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt. Technology, Arquilla and Ronfeldt argue, will soon make it possible for small clusters of loosely organised military units to conduct brief and co-ordinated strikes, then disperse. Message boards, similarly, allow lone hackers to share targets and ...

No Such Thing as Women

Madeleine Schwartz: Reproduction Anxiety, 23 September 2021

Heaven 
by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd.
Picador, 176 pp., £14.99, June, 978 1 5098 9824 4
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... But her proper interest, in these two books, is in the reality of the body; there’s no financial redistribution or piece of law that will make Natsu’s choices any easier. At one point, the two sisters sit in a bath house together and Natsu imagines ‘a bunch of tiny people’ crying out ‘THERE’S NO SUCH ...

Superficially Pally

Jenny Turner: Richard Sennett, 22 March 2012

Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Co-Operation 
by Richard Sennett.
Allen Lane, 323 pp., £25, February 2012, 978 0 7139 9874 0
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... and mentoring’ jobs: all of this sounds great, and necessary and sensible, except that no one’s going to make it policy any time soon. What, then, of the ‘new creative or green economies’ we keep hearing so much about? ‘A fantasy,’ Sennett says, in his new book, Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Co-Operation. We are in the ...

More than a Million Names

Mattathias Schwartz: American Intelligence, 16 June 2016

Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror 
by Michael Hayden.
Penguin, 464 pp., £21.99, February 2016, 978 1 59420 656 6
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... he was an innocent man, a German citizen on vacation. He made a living selling cars. He had no connections to al-Qaida or any other jihadis. After el-Masri had spent 149 days in captivity, the CIA realised he was telling the truth. The man they had arrested was not Khaled el-Masri the jihadist, he was Khaled el-Masri the used car salesman. The CIA ...

Like a Mosquito

Mattathias Schwartz: Drones, 4 July 2013

Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield 
by Jeremy Scahill.
Serpent’s Tail, 642 pp., £15.99, May 2013, 978 1 84668 850 8
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... Journalism) to more than 90 per cent of all the deaths in drone strikes (the ex-military officers David Kilcullen and Andrew McDonald Exum). In March 2012, the New York Times reported that all military-age males, armed or unarmed, are considered to be combatants unless there is posthumous evidence proving otherwise; the Obama administration recently disputed ...

Performing Seals

Christopher Hitchens: The PR Crowd, 10 August 2000

Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals 
by David Laskin.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., $26, January 2000, 0 684 81565 6
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... Norman Podhoretz). Queenie Leavis of course became an official widow, and it is les veuves on whom David Laskin relies most heavily in this relatively orderly account of sexual and matrimonial chaos. Diana Trilling outlived Lionel by many a book; Mary McCarthy enjoyed the same revenge on Edmund Wilson; the witches of Eastwick (lacking only their Hardwick) have ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: Reagan and Rambo, 3 October 1985

... Times magazine, and took us over the usual jumps. Gone are the days of Partisan Review, Delmore Schwartz, Dwight Mac Donald etc etc. No longer the tempest of debate over Trotsky, The Waste Land, Orwell, blah, blah. Today the assimilation of the Jewish American, the rise of rents in midtown Manhattan, the erosion of ...

Sad Stories

Adam Begley, 5 January 1989

Capote: A Biography 
by Gerald Clarke.
Hamish Hamilton, 632 pp., £16.95, July 1988, 0 241 12549 9
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... her son, she tried to bully him into becoming an ‘ordinary, masculine boy’. Capote himself saw no reason for concern: ‘I always had a marked homosexual preference ... and I never had any guilt about it at all. As time goes on, you finally settle down on one side or another, homosexual or heterosexual. And I was a homosexual.’ He was equally confident ...

The Unstoppable Upward

James Wolcott: ‘The Life of Saul Bellow’, 24 January 2019

The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 864 pp., £35, November 2018, 978 0 224 10188 2
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... highly anticipated successor to his wunderkind biography of the brilliant, bedevilled Delmore Schwartz, whose combustible presence served as the inspiration for Von Humboldt Fleisher in Bellow’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Humboldt’s Gift. With Delmore Schwartz: The Life of an American Poet, Atlas had performed a ...

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