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 August 2012

Abroad
President Barack Obama of the United States said that if he saw Syria moving chemical weapons he would intervene. Fighting between Sunnis and Alawites spread to Tripoli in Lebanon. To thwart attacks by al-Qa'eda and the Taleban, Pakistan closed down...
A Fan's Notes
The best gadgets are the ones that do simple jobs really well When was the last time a piece of techno logy made you happy? Truly happy, so satisfied with the experience that you immediately wanted to repeat it? For me it was last weekend, in a pub...
A Fatal Disease
The Roxburghe Club: A Bicentenary History by Nicolas Barker Sotheran, £95, pp. 347, ISBN 97819019021116 Book-collecting fraternities are far from uncommon, but none of them is the equal of their British progenitor, the Roxburghe Club, either in age...
. . . and Another's Disdain Cressida Connolly
Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel Cape, £16.99, pp. 286, ISBN 9780618982509 Alison Bechdel's first book, Fun Home, enjoyed great acclaim: a memoir presented in comic-strip form, it described her father's suicide and hidden homosexuality, her childhood...
Between Heaven and Hell
Short Walks from Bogota: Journeys in the New Colombia by Tom Feiling Allen Lane, £20, pp. 266, ISBN 978184614834 Ten years ago a cartoon appeared in the Independent showing the New World Order - Bush and Blair peering at a distorted global map with...
Bill
62 I n 1911, bakers and dustmen were more likely than most to be called Bill, or at least William, according to one of those family genealogy companies, Ancestry. co. uk, which has been rummaging in the census for that year. My impression 101 years...
Branson Always Puts Up a Fight, but His Days as a Railwayman Are Over
In my list of things to do before I die, going up in a hot-air balloon with Sir Richard Branson ranks pretty low. But still I admire his fighting spirit: he hates to lose, or to let his enemies and critics get the better of him. He saw off British Airways'...
Cinema No Laughing Matter
The Watch 15, Nationwide It's a brave soul who buys a cinema ticket at this time of year, when all the studios try to bury their rubbish, and it's a brave soul who buys a ticket to The Watch. This is a comedy starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah...
CUL T U R E N O T E S the Great Wall of Peckham
The Peckham Peace Wall began life as a window: a long pane of shop glass in the front of Rye Lane's newly refurbished branch of Poundland. During the riots last summer, the glass went, along with some of Poundland's stock. The next morning, after the...
CUL T U R E N O T E S Working Men's Clubs
Where better to explore the history o f the city than at it s very hea r t? Guildhall Art Gallery, nestled between St Pau l's Cathed ra l and the Bank of England, is currently home (until 23 September) to Bu t ch e r, Bak e r, Cand l e s t ick Mak e...
Dear Mary Your Problems Solved
Q. My wife is known to run a very well-organised house. As a consequence, weekend guests often arrive without the right kit, assuming they can go and raid our boot room and borrow something belonging to one of our (seven) children rather than weighing...
Deeply Mysterious
Caspar David Friedrich by Johannes Grave Prestel, £80, pp. 288, ISBN 9783791346281 In October 1810, the poet and dramatist Heinrich von Kleist substantially rewrote a review submitted to a publication he edited, the Berliner Abendbl£tter. Indeed, as...
Diary
When in 2009 I published a book called The Real Global Warming Disaster it provoked contrasting responses from two members of the royal family. Prince Charles, protesting that he was 'bemused' by my views on climate change, struck me off his Christmas...
Dictating Terms
What has this era of 'international justice' done to deter genocide? When the International Crim inal Court (ICC) was set up ten years ago, it was meant to make the world a safer place. The Court and the various UN war crimes tribunals were supposed...
Driving to Shangri La
Annabel Howard discovers the allure of the Canadian wilderness I'd go to Canada if I wanted to ski, or fish, or see the Northern Lights, but in the end it was only to launch my (Canadian) boyfriend D.W.'s book that I ventured west. I hate to think of...
Edinburgh Notebook
One of the rites of passage for a comedian is walking through the rain at the Edinburgh Fringe, looking down and seeing one of your own flyers being trampled underfoot. If you want a vision of the Fringe, imagine a boot stamping on a flyer of your own...
Exhibitions Conversation Pieces
Light Structures: Halima Cassell Francis Bacon to Paula Rego Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, until 16 September Anyone interested in art holidaying in the Lake District this summer - or indeed taking a short break in the Lakes - is in for a treat. The...
Food Cooking Witches
The Witchery is almost a themed restaurant; it is a weeping medieval tenement, just below E dinburgh Castle, which looks like a blackened tooth. I nside, it has wood panelling, wall paintings, red velvet table clothes and an enormous silvery head of...
High Life
With the exception of the French Academy immortals Michel Deon and Jean d'Ormesson, two wonderful writers and both the epitome of charm and graciousness, the French can be a pretty silly lot. They weren't always. They got that way sometime between the...
Home
After being granted asylum by Ecuador, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, addressed a crowd of supporters from a balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy, to which he had fled in June to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over allegations...
How a Nice Little Rabbit Can Win the Political Rat Race
'Nice people, with nice habits/ they keep rabbits/ but got no money at all, ' sang the popular duo Flanagan and Allen in my father's day. I can still remember Dad playing it on our gramophone in the early 1950s. My family liked these sentiments; secretly...
I've Left London. How Will I Ever Work Again?
They say that moving house is the third most traumatic thing after death and divorce and they're right about that, I reckon. For the past few weeks and months I've been treating our London house not like the beloved home where I've spent 12 happy years...
John Bull versus Hiawatha
Troilus and Cressida Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon A Midsummer Night's Dream (As You Like It) Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratfordupon-Avon Written soon after Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida is by a long chalk Shakespeare's most unpleasant play. With...
Kevin Pietersen Needs a Graeme Smith
Having reached the summit of the Test cricket rankings by thoroughly outplaying England in three matches that flew largely under the radar due to events in east London, South Africa continue their tour as summer winds down with some one-day cricket....
Letters
A place for sport Sir: Many of us in the education world are baffled by the political furore over school sports fields. Harris Federation runs 13 academies, largely in tight urban spaces. All manage to deliver outstanding sports lessons. Why? Because...
Long Life
What has happened to I taly, a country that not even Mussolini could discipline? It used to be cheerfully anarchic and self-indulgent: cars parked haphazardly all over pavements, long lunches and long siestas, fat tummies full of pasta. Officialdom,...
Low Life
Then she rented us a luxury apartment at Penzance in Cornwall for a week. Sightseeing was not high on our agenda. Bring cable ties, she'd said. I've been a naughty girl. She went down by train; I drove. I drove due west for three hours through a rainstorm...
Making Russia Great
Michael Prodger Catherine the Great: An Enlightened Empress National Museum of Scotland, until 21 October Catherine the Great was born neither a Catherine nor with any prospects of greatness. As Sophie Frederica Augusta of Anhalt-Zerbst she was a minor...
Malthus's Children
Population panic is back in vogue Two hundred years ago, the creepy Revd Thomas Malthus would take to his pulpit to rail against the copulating lower orders. Author of An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), Malthus was one of the first promoters...
Oh for the Prince Maurice
Around the middle of last year, I was approached by the writer Tim Lott to see if I 'd like to be a judge in the annual literary competition he organises. On the face of it, the prospect wasn't very appealing. I t's a romantic fiction prize and who...
One Mother's Devotion . .
The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton by Diane Atkinson Preface, £20, pp. 486, ISBN 978 1 84809 301 0 Caroline Norton seems an unlikely pioneer of women's rights. Born in 1808, the granddaughter of the playwright Sheridan, she was a black-eyed beauty,...
Opera Four Play
Tete a Tete Riverside Studios Going to the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith for the annual season of Tete a Tete is a chancy affair, though one can be sure of a very high standard of performance, both vocally and instrumentally. It helps, of course,...
Punch Lines
The 'story slam', imported from Chicago, is the latest craze at the Edinburgh Fringe. Alexander Fiske-Harrison, author and bullfighter, enjoys this novel literary blood sport The Edinburgh Fringe is a place of youthful hopes, naive dreams and occasional...
Radio Crime and Punishment
Kate Chisholm Just a snippet on an edition of Today last spring taken from the programme that had just won an esteemed Sony Gold radio award was enough to create an impact. Ray and Violet Donovan were talking about the murder of their son, Chris, on...
Real Life
Being the girlfriend of the world's most devastatingly handsome gay celebrity nutritionist has its disadvantages. I know, how could that statement possibly be true? What could be more divine for a girl than lounging by a Spanish poolside with an eye-wateringly...
Sins of the Fathers
Philida by Andre Brink Harvill Secker, £14.99, pp. 310, ISBN 9781846557040 The location of Philida is a Cape farm which used to be named Zandvliet and is now the celebrated vineyard Solms Delta, owned jointly by Richard Astor and the eminent neuropsychologist...
Television Conduct Becoming
Every so often a programme appears which can be recommended even to people who hate television. Parade's End (Friday, BBC1) is such a work. The awkward - one might think impossible - problem of shortening Ford Madox Ford's 800-page masterpiece into...
The Accidental Director
She's certainly a class act. But how did she manage it? Nina Raine, the 36-year-old writer-director, has established a formidable position in the British theatre. Her first play, Rabbit, opened at a pub venue in Islington in 2007. It transferred to...
Theatre Edinburgh Snippets
I saw a few car crashes at Edinburgh but I'll mention only one. Hells Bells (Pleasance, Courtyard) by the excellent Lynne Truss is a peculiar experiment. Truss sets her play in a TV studio and she spends the first 40 minutes explaining the storyline....
The New Country Garden
Like Nostradamus, the vision is flickering but I believe I have glimpsed the future - at least, the future look of garden and landscape design. I wonder whether, in these dark times, we are at the threshold of a new enlightened age. There were two great...
The Powers and Perils of Storytelling
The twist in Ian McEwan's latest tale of espionage and romance will leave you spellbound says Sam Leith Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan Cape, £18.99, pp. 320, ISBN 9780224097376 'I'm trying to help you, Serena. You're not listening. Let me put it another...
The Worst Result
This week, the GCSE results envelope landed on doormats across the country. The results ought, on any rational basis, to shame the nation. Never mind how well or badly pupils may have done individually, taken as a whole the results point to a chillingly...
Virtue and Vice Versa
The Heart Broke In by James Meek Canongate, £17.99, pp. 550, ISBN 9780857862907 This is a big juicy slab of a book, as thrilling and nourishing as a Victorian three-parter. It resembles its forebears thematically, too. It asks a straightforward question:...
Vitruvius on Rail Franchising
Ever since nationalisation was invented in the 19th century, private franchising (e. g. the West Coast Main Line) has raised the question: why should private business profit from a public service which the state 'should' run for all? Ancients, obviously,...
War on Games
On a visit to my old school not long ago, I found myself confronted by my former PE teacher, now the deputy head. She fixed me with an icy glare. 'Oh no, ' I said, 'I've forgotten my note.' The icy glare froze completely so I explained: 'You remember?...
Why Do a L L the Fat Te St People L Ive on I Sland S ? Why Do All the Fattest People Live on Islands ?
Here's a mystery which has been keeping me awake at night recently. Why do people who live on islands, and even more so very small islands, tend to be grotesquely overweight? I stumbled across this strange apparent correlation the other evening, while...
Wild Life
Eighteen years after Rwanda's bloodbath I disembarked from my flight and was surprised to see that mortar craters no longer pitted the airport tarmac. At a city cafe where I recall Hutu militias swigging lager next to a pile of severed hands, I saw...
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.