The Spectator

A weekly, UK-based magazine covering current political, economic, and cultural issues. Articles include interviews, commentary, opinion pieces, essays, and cultural criticism.

Articles from April 2016

'A Little Lumpen Novelita', by Roberto Bolaño - Review
'Now I am a mother and a married woman, but not long ago I led a life of crime,' begins this really very short book (assisted here, in its lumpen-ness, by the ingenious placement of two or three blank pages in between each of its 16 very short chapters)....
Ancient and Modern: The Treasury's Prophecies
The Treasury has announced that an EU exit 'could leave households £4,300 a year worse off'. Since that only 'could' be the case, it could also not be the case, and given the accuracy of the Treasury's prophecies for one year ahead, let alone 14, one...
A Poem for Erdogan
Pen a foul verse in honour of the Turkish leader and be in the running for a £1,000 poetry prize!At the end of last month, a German comedian appeared on German television and read a poem mocking Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey. Jan Böhmermann's...
Arts Feature: Director Ivo Van Hove
In this much-heralded Shakespeare anniversary year, one might expect a certain respect for the works to prevail. In Holland it's different. Under the tutelage of a Belgian, Ivo van Hove, a huge slice of Shakespeare's history theatre has been filleted...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
The 'remain' campaign is having some success with the line that the 'leave' camp cannot say what Britain outside the EU would look like. (Nor can the 'remain' campaign, of course, though it doesn't stop it trying.) But it is crucial to the 'leave' cause...
Cinema: Jane Got a Gun
Jane Got a Gun is being sold as a rousing feminist Western although the truth is that it's about as rousing and feminist as my cat, Daphne, who is 17, and now barely moves but who, back in the day, made herself available to every passing Tom. So you...
'Cleopatra's Needles: The Lost Obelisks of Egypt', by Bob Brier - Review
On the banks of the River Thames in central London, an ancient Egyptian obelisk, known as Cleopatra's Needle, reaches towards the sky. Carved from a single slab of red granite, it is 69 feet tall, weighs a substantial 224 tonnes, is decorated with hieroglyphs,...
Dance: She Said; Mariinsky Ballet; the Winter's Tale
Tamara Rojo programmed three female choreographers for her English National Ballet spring bill because, she said, she had never danced a ballet by a woman, and wanted to see what women would produce. Just the two begged questions here. First, that female...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. A friend of mine's husband is in his nineties. They are a delightful couple but the husband has started refusing to wear his hearing aids. As a consequence his loving wife has to shout at him to get him to do what she wants -- which is only ever something...
Diary: Robert Hardman
The Queen's 90th birthday celebrations start this week with the real thing and barely stop until her official birthday in June. What should a grateful nation give Her Majesty? It's said what she really wants is a thing that has eluded every reigning...
Drink: Riders and Diners
Not quite nil humanum a me alienum , but I have always been interested in other people's trades and worlds. That was one reason why I enjoyed the late Woodrow Wyatt's invitations to the annual Tote board lunch. I always found myself on a table with racehorse...
Exhibitions: Picture Books for Grownups
Art Spiegelman, the American cartoonist behind Maus , the celebrated Holocaust cartoon, dreamt up a good definition of graphic novels: comics you need a bookmark for. This jolly show about the British graphic novel takes an even broader approach.It begins...
Gardening the Rainforest
What you can see from a tin house in the Australian rainforestWhen I suggested that I might build a little tin house in the subtropical rainforest of south-east Queensland, I was advised by well-meaning folk that this probably wasn't a very good idea....
'Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief', by Lawrence Wright - Review
At last! It has taken over two years, but a British publisher has summoned up the nerve to bring out Going Clear , an astonishing exposé of the Church of Scientology by Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker .Wright -- who won the Pulitzer Prize for The Looming...
High Life: Taki
My, my, the rich are under attack everywhere, and I thank God the Panama Papers didn't include the name of the poor little Greek boy. Legality being my middle name, I took legal advice and stayed away from offshore trusts and shell companies as soon...
How Baby Names Got So Weird
How Wolf and Skylar pushed out John and MaryYou have to pity the Welsh woman who was last week prevented by the Court of Appeal from naming her daughter 'Cyanide'. An unusual choice, admittedly. And the mother's defence -- Cyanide is a 'lovely, pretty...
Interview: Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith on the fallout from his shock resignationIain Duncan Smith may have lost his job, but he has found a new whisky. It's called Monkey Shoulder, and they became acquainted when he went to lie low in the Highlands after his resignation....
James Delingpole: Oxford in My Day Was Another, Better World
I was in the attic killing some Taleban on Medal of Honor when Girl interrupted and said: 'Dad, what's this?' What it was was a pile of memorabilia which I'd stuffed into a plastic shopping bag on leaving university and which I'd barely looked at since.We...
James Forsyth: Cameron's Heading for a Hollow Victory
Listen'Nothing except a battle lost can be half as melancholy as a battle won,' wrote the Duke of Wellington after Waterloo. David Cameron may well feel the same about referendums on 24 June. The EU debate is already taking a toll on the Tory party and...
Leading Article: Stop the Scare Stories
So far the campaign for the EU referendum has resembled a contest as to which side can spin the most lurid and least plausible horror stories. On the one hand, the 'in' campaign claims that we'll be £4,300 worse off if we leave; that budget airlines...
Letters
Safe keeping?Sir: James Delingpole will be relieved to hear that not everyone follows the fashion for demanding repatriation of historical treasures ('Give thanks for the tomb raiders', 9 April). When presenting my ambassadorial letters of credence to...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
As we prepare in Britain for our momentous referendum in June, Italy has just had one. It happened last Sunday while I was on holiday in Tuscany, and it was about as futile an exercise in democracy as there could be. Italy has lots of referendums. They...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
What consolation in life can Arthur and I find after that defeat at the hands of Manchester United in the quarter-final replay of the FA Cup, and the manner of it? West Ham and their always hiding fortunes are, and always have been, real life for me;...
Martin Vander Weyer: If You're Riding the FTSE Rebound You Might Still Want to Sell in May
When the FTSE100 fell close to 5,500 in February, we all said 'Mr Bear is back'. On Tuesday the index hit a high for this year of 6,400, and we all wondered whether Mr Bear had done what I said he wouldn't, and shuffled back to hibernation. But the truth...
Mind Your Language: Sex Worker
'Of course,' said my husband in his worst smirky way, as though waiting for an appreciative chuckle, 'as soon as she found out he was a politician, she broke off the affair.'That was not the only unoriginal remark about poor old John Whittingdale, who...
Notes On. Hieronymus Bosch
If you hope to inspire an appreciation of Renaissance art in your children, look to Hieronymus Bosch. Ideally, your children will not be sensitive types, nor prone to nightmares, but if they can handle a little, or indeed quite a lot, of fantasy, Bosch...
Obama's Overreach
The US President is in no position to lecture the British about foreign policyListenNobody could describe Donald Trump as lacking in self-confidence, but the billionaire egomaniac is emotional jelly compared with King Barack. Even before he won the Nobel...
Obama Speaks for America
Don't fool yourself about the anti-Brexit consensus in the US - or the excellent reasons for itListenYou don't like Barack Obama's foreign policy? Fine, I don't either. You are impatient to know who the next president will be? Me too. But if you think...
Opera: Elpidia; Alexander Balus; the Goose of Cairo
Disguises and mistaken identities are a staple of opera, but usually as part of the onstage, not the offstage, action. So what are we to make this week of a Handel opera that isn't by Handel at all, and a Mozart opera that was largely composed in 1990?...
Portrait of the Week
HomeGeorge Osborne, the Chancellor, said that if Britain left the European Union, households would be on average £4,300 a year worse off. He quoted a Treasury analysis that said the British economy would be 6 per cent smaller outside the EU by 2030 than...
Radio: The Refugee Crisis and the Streets of Kolkata
Sue Armstrong's programme on Radio 4 All in the Womb (produced by Ruth Evans) should be required listening for anyone dealing directly with the refugee crisis, with those who have fled from intense fear and terrible violence in their home countries....
Real Life: Melissa Kite
The cottage of my dreams (or possibly worst nightmares) proved rather difficult to purchase, not least because the agent selling it did not want to sell it.You may remember he showed me round by plodding dolefully between the cramped rooms in his long...
Rod Liddle: Moderate Muslims Are Not Particularly Moderate
'What's in the news this week?' I asked my wife as she browsed the first newspaper we had seen for a whole week, having hitherto been blissfully disconnected from the rest of the country, without phones or the internet.'Muslims, largely,' she replied,...
Secondary Feature: How Did Shakespeare Kick the Bucket?
How did Shakespeare kick the bucket? Lloyd Evans considers the evidenceListenHow did the Bard kick the bucket? The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death reignites interest in a great literary mystery. All we know for sure is that he was buried on...
Shakespeare: A Mirror to the World
The best new books celebrating Shakespeare's centenary are full of enthusiasm and insight -- but none plucks out the heart of his mystery, says Daniel SwiftListenWho's there? Shakespeare's most famous play opens with this slightly hokey line, and the...
'Shakespeare's Binding Language', by John Kerrigan - Review
Given this year's 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, there was always going to be a slew of new publications; few, I suspect, will have as long-lasting an effect as John Kerrigan's. His field of inquiry is both straightforward and complicated....
'Six Four', by Hideo Yokoyama, Translated by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies - Review
The plot of Hideo Yokoyama's Six Four begins in 1989, with the murder of Shoko, a seven-year-old girl. Fourteen years later the perpetrator has yet to be apprehended, and the case is viewed as Tokyo's police force's most damning failure. The commissioner...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
In Reflections on the Revolution in France , Edmund Burke warned that 'pure democracy' was as dangerous as absolute monarchy. 'Of this I am certain, that in a democracy the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions...
Television: Inside the Portland, and OJ Simpson
Five Star Babies: Inside the Portland Hospital won't, I suspect, have been a hard sell to BBC2's commissioning editors. Childbirth and rich people are both reliably popular subjects for TV documentaries. So why not combine them into one handy package...
Theatre: Corbyn the Musical: The Motorcycle Diaries; Boy
Corbyn the Musical feels like it comes from the heart. Did the writers live through the 1970s when the hard-left was full of hope and confidence? Socialists then genuinely believed they could see off capitalism (which seemed in its death throes anyway)...
'The Blade Artist', by Irvine Welsh - Review
Irvine Welsh's 1993 debut novel Train-spotting flicked a hearty V-sign in the face of alarm-clock Britain. 'Ah choose no tae choose life,' crows its giro-cheating antihero Mark Renton, proudly enslaved to heroin instead of mortgage repayments. But when...
The Fairytale Factory
Leicester City's triumphs demonstrate once again sport's capacity to replay archetypal storiesIt's one of the oldest stories of them all, deeply embedded in our nature and our culture. In some ways it's the story that defines our humanity and we have...
The Heckler: Shakespeare400
The feeding frenzy over the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death has reached its peak. Recently we've had Shakespeare's complete works performed through the puppetry of kitchenware. On books pages, you can read about everything from Edward...
'The Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and outside) a Bird's Egg', by Tim Birkhead - Review
What is it about birds? They are the wild creatures we see most often, their doings and calls a daily reassurance that humans are not isolated in our sentience. They descend from the first reptiles, while we come from the first mammals. Across a gulf...
The Wiki Man: Rory Sutherland
I have always been intrigued by the scoring systems for different sports, and the degree to which they contribute to the enjoyment of any game. As a friend of mine remarked, had tennis been given the same scoring system as basketball it would be tedious...
Why You're Stressed
It's not work that's killing us. It's the irritation and confusion of modern office lifeIn the 1920s, the anthropologist Margaret Mead studied the people of New Guinea. She noticed that they hunted birds and squirrels but not flying squirrels. The tribesmen...
Wild Life: Aidan Hartley
LaikipiaI sip my Tusker beer on the veranda, staring at the elephant. He's not the elephant in the room. He's the elephant on what should be my croquet lawn. I thought he might go away, but he hasn't. Instead he's brought his friends -- more and more...
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