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 September 2012

Abroad
German judges refused to block the formation of the European Stability Mechanism, a permanent eurozone rescue fund. The European Central Bank had announced it would buy unlimited bonds from eurozone countries that formally requested funds and abided...
A Civilised Way of Death
The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China Fitzwilliam Museum, until 11 November 'Luxury high-rise duplex: lower floor comprising entrance hall with recessed guard posts, grand reception area, kitchen with crockery store, larders and walk-in...
An Exercise in Torment
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers Sceptre, £14.99, pp. 240, ISBN 9781444756128 In this intense, painful, excellent war novel, former Private John Bartle, a young man from rural Virginia, looks back on his tour of duty in northern Iraq in 2004. He tries...
A Snake in the Grass
Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Hay MacLehose Press, £18.99, pp. 272, ISBN 9780857051257 'He walked straight past the wolf and picked up the dead garter snake.' This is the exemplary sentence that young teacher Connie writes out for a good-looking,...
A Speech for Europe
What the EU president should have said in his state of the Union address. On Wednesday the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, gave a 'State of the Union' address at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Here is the text of the...
A Way with Clay
The Potter's Hand by A.N. Wilson Atlantic Books, £17.99, pp. 508, ISBN 9781848879515 Most cultural tourists, apart from the Japanese, skirt the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent. They are wrong. The bottle kilns have tumbled and the smoke-ridden skylines...
BOO K E N D S Our National Obsession
If Britain is serious about this Olympic legacy thing, we should get 'talking about the weather' added to the list of official sports. We'd clean up at Rio. Strange, mind you, that we don't actually know very much about the subject which consumes so...
But Why Didn't Grant Shapps Mentions That He's a Keen Karaoke Rapper?
What's wrong with editing your own Wikipedia entry, anyway? I've never touched mine, but only because I'm scared people would find out, which would be bad, although for reasons which elude me. I don't even know why I've got a Wikipedia entry, actually....
Connecting Threads
Andrew Lambirth talks to the painter Jock McFadyen about British art's inferiority complex and his debt to Sickert. The past few months have been busy for Jock McFadyen. Substantial commercial shows of his work have been held in London and Edinburgh,...
Contrarian to the Last
Mortality by Christopher Hitchens Atlantic Books, £10.99, pp. 106, ISBN 9780857897657 We all love Oscar Wilde for saying, with his final breath, 'I am dying beyond my means'. We love it because it's funny, but also because it shows that he was dying...
Dear Mary
Q. I was fishing in the Highlands and had to take a two-hour taxi from Inverness to the cottage where I was staying. In such a situation, how does one silence a well-meaning but overly chatty driver? - Marcus W. , London A. Ideally, you should take...
Design Science Fiction as Reality
What's that in your pocket? Magic or art? The near ubiquitous iPhone may be rammed with very new technology, but it is a witness of very old, even mysterious, values. Few of us understand its inner workings, even as we indulge ourselves daily with its...
Diary
My postbag is mostly things like: 'I once played tennis against you in the Provence in 1981. My daughter is now bicycling through Spain to raise money and I wondered. . . .' So picture my surprise to get one that instead began like this: 'In your novel...
Drink Some Eggs and a Glass of Wine
Caviar feasts stay in the memory. I remember one occasion when I scoffed a satisfactory quantity of the stuff with that old monster Bob Maxwell. As he wanted a favour, he was the acme of charm and encouraged me to dig in to a tin of beluga 'given to...
Exhibitions Artistic Response
Van Gogh to Kandinsky: Symbolist Landscape in Europe 1880-1910 Scottish National Gallery, until 14 October Edvard Munch: Graphic Works from the Gundersen Collection Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, until 23 September Van Gogh to Kandinsky presents...
Fights of the Femenists
When it comes to sheer nastiness in public debate women are now more than equal to men. Naomi Wolf's Vagina is not an organ so significant it needs italics; it is a book, and a catalyst for a swiftly assembled feminist lynch mob. In the New Statesman...
Hancock's Hour
The new skills minister's time has come. David Cameron has made clear where he thinks the future of the Conservative party lies. In his reshuffle last week, he brought 12 of the 2010 Tory intake into government. This chosen dozen are clearly on a fast...
Heritage at Home with the Pre-Raphaelites
Wightwick Manor and Gardens, Wolverhampton Andrew Lloyd Webber cried when he first came to Wightwick Manor, and standing in the Great Parlour of this magnificent Victorian villa you can see what moved him to tears of joy. Lloyd Webber loves the PreRaphaelites...
High Life
Gstaad It was far, far worse than the Rodney King El Lay riots of 20 years ago, and it made last year's London summer fires look like a kindergarten's Guy Fawkes party. This was our Kristallnacht, and then some. They had hard faces, harder than a hedge...
Home
George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said the autumn statement would be on 5 December, and commentators said he would confront the dwindling chance of meeting debt targets set for 2015. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, said the government...
Is Clegg's Bright Idea Another Satire from the Makers of Twenty Twelve?
Could there be a more vivid cautionary tale for Vince Cable and others who yearn for interventionist industrial policies than the Commons Public Accounts Committee's report on the failures of the Regional Growth Fund? This £1.4 billion bundle of largesse...
Letters
For richer, for poorer? Sir: Liza Mundy ('The richer sex', 8 September) concludes that 'history has shown that human beings are above all adaptable', and should therefore adapt to women earning more than men. Her article appears to be mostly about women...
Long Life
There are moments when I suddenly realise how old I am, and one was during the closing ceremony of the Paralympics last Sunday. The pride that had gradually swelled within me during this long patriotic summer was extinguished at a stroke by the performance...
Low Life
Back in July I booked a cottage in its own wood for the last week of the school summer holidays. I was fondly thinking of my boy and his partner's five kids, aged between one and nine, and what larks they would have running free in Nature. I was, I...
Mexico Notebook
Four a. m. Something was triggering the motion sensor on the outside light. One minute darkness, the next a window full of flailing palm leaves, bright with rain. I blinked for a bit, then remembered: hurricane! There was one on its way, we'd been told...
MIN D Y O U R L A N G U A G E Fudge-a-Rama
' I t's just a fudge-a-rama, ' exclaimed Boris Johnson of the government stance on Heathrow. 'And it's just an excuse for a delay, ' he added by way of gloss. I was surprised to find that a fudgea-rama, or Fudgeorama, already existed: Salerno F udgeorama...
More Vindictive Than Merry
The King's Revenge by Don Jordan and Michael Walsh Little, Brown, £20, pp. 383 ISBN 9781408713274 At first I thought this was going to be a terrible book. It starts like a Hollywood B-movie Western on which Ingmar Bergman has done a quick rewrite. This,...
Music New Light
Lucerne Summer Festival Lucerne Grimeborn Festival Arcola Theatre The third concert I went to at Lucerne last week was under two aegises: first 'Faith', the theme of this year's Festival, and second 'Pollini Perspectives'. Maurizio Pollini coined this...
Nowhere to Hide
The proposed Communications Data Bill would give the government extraordinary powers to spy on us all. Ever since the millennium, I have wondered how long the utopian faith in the emancipatory potential of the web will last. Of course, we know the new...
Over-Cooked
John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk Bloomsbury, £16.99, pp. 416, ISBN 9781408805961 Starting with Lempriere's Dictionary - an unexpected worldwide hit in the early 1990s - Lawrence Norfolk has never been a man for the slim novella. Complicated...
Pigeonholing the Poets
Beyond the Lyric: A Map of Contemporary British Poetry by Fiona Sampson Chatto, £16.99, pp. 284, ISBN 9780701186463 Fiona Sampson has produced a vigorous and valuable guide to 'the diversity and eclecticism' of present-day British poetry. It isn't a...
Pitch Perfect
The Footballer Who Could Fly by Duncan Hamilton Century, £16.99, pp. 343, ISBN 9781846059803 It is fashionable, in the wake of all those rowers and cyclists and runners, abled and otherwise, who do what they do for something - glory, pride, joy of physical...
Pop Fame Game
The summer is over, the Olympians have gone, and Lord Coe has been put back in his box for another year. But some memories will linger on, like a stubborn cold. Music fans, in particular, will struggle to forget George Michael's performance in the closing...
Radio Classic Celebrations
It's 20 years since Classic FM launched itself on the airwaves with a blast from Handel's 'Zadok the Priest'. Its mission was to play 'the world's greatest music' non-stop to an audience for whom the classics was a no-go area. On paper it's worked a...
Real Life
Being blonde and female, I should have known better than to take my Fiat to a main dealer to get it serviced. It's not that I'm stupid, per se. It's just that main dealers have an invisible automatic scanning system so that, when a blonde woman walks...
Rebel Island
The people of Hong Kong are increasingly fierce in defence of their freedom Hong Kong isn't what it was. Under British rule it was meek and mild, careful not to rock the boat, forever nervous about its future under China. The rich bought property in...
Royal Rocks
It's a sma l l i sh da rk room but , wow, what a lot o f spa rk ler s . There a re more than 10,000 d iamond s set in tiaras, crowns (Diamond Diadem, above), brooches, swords, earrings and necklaces, on display at Buckingham Palace in a special exhibition...
Sisters
These two, DOROTHY AND CLARICE DENCH - A pair of local spinster sisters, as I guess - Both died, two years apart, aged ninety-five. Yet 'We are only here a little while' Is carved, with names and dates, into this bench: A saying of theirs, perhaps,...
Spectator Wine
An offer from Corney & Barrow, with their amazing range of wines and wonderfully efficient service, is always welcome. Corney & Barrow specialise in some of the finest wines available to humanity (copyright Withnail and I) - think Domaine de...
Spirit of the Wild Water
Otter Country by Miriam Darlington Granta, £20, pp. 368, ISBN 9781847084859 I was sheltering in the dunes on a Hebridean beach, reading this book, when I happened to glance up and see an otter galumphing out of the machair and down onto the sand, 20...
Star Quality
Hope Springs 12A, Nationwide Hope Springs is a comedy drama about a long-term marriage that has effectively stalled, and is one of those films that is only as good as its stars. Luckily, in this instance, the stars are Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones....
Sweetness and Light
Everybody Matters: A Memoir by Mary Robinson Hodder & Stoughton, £20, pp. 344, ISBN 9781444723311 Yes, shamefully, I did immediately look myself up in the index, since I had known Mary Robinson (nee Bourke) when we were both young feminists in Dublin...
Television Identity Crisis
The greatest moment in the history of television - and one which will surely remain unsurpassed for ever - was the final episode of The Sopranos. Part of its genius was to reward all of us who had stuck with it so loyally for the previous 85 episodes...
The Athenians' Mansion Tax
Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, has said he may support Nick Clegg's suggestion of a mansion tax. All houses worth more than £2 million will annually pour a certain percentage of that down the Treasury black hole. But how appealing is that going to...
Theatre Song and Strife
Without You Menier, until 15 September Life for Beginners Theatre 503, until 29 September Without You is a show that requires a bit of prior explanation. However, if you're a gay jobless thesp living in New York in 1994, and your Mom's dying of cancer...
The End of Men
Bad news for those of us with only one X-chromosome: men are on their way out. That's the view of Hanna Rosin, an enterprising young American journalist who has turned an essay she wrote for The Atlantic two years ago into the most talked-about book...
The Green Party Is Outdoing Itself with Its Own Tolerance
My father once told me that tolerance was a great and precious British virtue, and that we shouldn't waste it on homosexuals. Even at the time this struck me as a somewhat illiberal and unkind point of view to which I privately objected. It was easier...
The People Are Making Their Choice on Cameron. So Are Tory MPs
There's an intensity to politics this autumn. The government is churning out as many announcements in a week as it used to in a month. Ed Miliband's staff are striding around the Palace of Westminster as if they have somewhere to be in hurry. The reason...
The Turf Quality Will Out
Ronald Reagan once told his staff that they were always to wake him if there was an emergency 'even if I am in a Cabinet meeting at the time'. All of us, Mrs Oakley included, have our definition of an emergency and the other night she shook me awake...
The Universal Credit Crunch
Exactly three years ago, The Spectator devoted its cover to a revolutionary proposal for welfare reform. The proposed Universal Credit seemed, then, to be one of those ideas too sensible actually to be implemented. It proposed replacing the rotten,...
The Wiki Man New Kinds of Housing
If the all-party Parliamentary Housing Sub-Committee were to embark on a week-long fact-finding tour of Barbados, it would create a tabloid scandal. Yet it might be a good idea all the same. For among the palm trees they will find remnants of a fascinating...
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