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 June 2011

Abroad
Spain found it increasingly difficult to fund its deficit when Bankia, formed in 2010 from regional savings banks, asked the government for ?19 billion. Billions were also required by other banks, some of which contemplated a merger. A 12-carat pink...
A Date with Death
Midnight in Peking: The Murder that Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French Viking, £12.99, pp. 260, ISBN 9780143121008 On 8 January 1937, an old man was taking his prize songbird for an early morning walk in the eastern section of Peking...
After the Celebrations, a Summer of Discontent
The next few days will see David Cameron doing what he does best: looking the part. Whether it is the Jubilee celebrations or the Olympic torch relay, Cameron can be relied upon to know - or look as if he knows - what is expected of him as Prime Minister....
All the World's a Stage
Shakespeare in Kabul by Stephen Landrigan and Qais Akbar Omar Haus, £12.99, pp. 280, ISBN 9781907973208 In Translations, Brian Friel's play about English military and cultural imperialism, the frustrated teacher Manus explains how he uses 'the wrong...
ANC I E N T A N D M O D E R N Cicero on Leveson
Culture minister Jeremy Hunt's special adviser Adam Smith landed the minister in the soup by his too-cosy texts to News Corp about the proposed BSkyB takeover. He resigned, and Labour smells Hunt's blood. What can Hunt do? The buck stops with him, but...
And Thereby Hangs a Tale
The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa Faber, £18.99, pp. 401, ISBN 9780571275717 The heart sinks when news breaks that an already distinguished novelist is trying his or her hand at the Irish revolution. The track record is uninspiring. Anthony...
Ant I-Sem It I SM I S an Ev I L That Still Requires Examination
Can you explain, briefly, why some people are prejudiced against Jews? It's an interesting question. My late mum was a bit anti-Semitic, and I always found her mild animus incomprehensible and indeed weird, as did my father. It surfaced during the Yom...
A Taste of Heaven
I have drunk the Hallelujah Chorus. It was in Cambridge, circa 1970. I was walking back to College, past the 1950s extension to the University Arms hotel, a work of striking ugliness, even by the standards of postwar Cambridge architecture. Like Handel,...
Being BLunt
The actress Emily Blunt on coping with fame and not speaking American Emily Blunt is jolly busy. This year, she's in three movies - Salmon Fishing in the Yemen , with Ewan McGregor; The Five-Year Engagement , with Jason Segel; and the offbeat My Sister's...
BY T H E B O O K Monsieur Hollande and Madame Bovary
Francois Hollande has had it with austerity. Well, fair enough - austerity is dull and painful. No wonder other European leaders are keen to follow his example. But perhaps Hollande should take heed of what happened to Flaubert's Madame Bovary, who...
Changing Tack
Klimt, Hoffmann and the Secession Correr Museum, Venice, until 8 July Gustav Klimt first came to Venice in the spring of 1899, in pursuit of Alma Schindler, the young stepdaughter of his friend and fellow artist Carl Moll. The nascent love affair between...
Cinema Whisky Galore
The Angels' Share 15, Nationwide Ken Loach's The Angels' Share, which has just won the Jury Prize at Cannes, is part social realism, part comedy caper, and so good-natured, warm and affectionate it's rather a joy, even though it doesn't exactly add...
CUL T U R E N O T E S Frontier Dreams
When I was growing up, the Dallas theme tune was like a call to prayer. A s the Copland-e sque t rumpet s rang out, we ran to the television set. A hushed silence descended as cattle stampeded beneath the snazzy gold title credits. To watch the glamorous...
Dance Unconditional Love
Not many dance-makers have had their art celebrated in major, award-winning feature films. Pina Bausch has. Wim Wenders's 2011 Pina and Rainer Hoffmann's/Anna Linsel's 2010 Dancing Dreams offered unique insights into her creative genius, facilitating...
Dea R M a R Y Y O U R P R O B L E M S S O L V E D
96 Q. A very stylish woman with a much-admired house happened to drop into my rather dark cottage. She advised me that I should paint the inside of my fireplace white: it would look much better than the current black hole effect and would also reflect...
Design New Build
Bauhaus: Art as Life Barbican, until 12 August The Bauhaus was a sort of university of design, whose progressive ideas eventually fell foul of the Nazis. But as the exhibition Bauhaus: Art as Life is keen to impress, it was also a lifestyle, a modernist...
Diary
Whenever, in an idle moment, I dip into one of my own books, I am almost immediately consumed by an unstoppable fou rire. It is immodest of me to make this confession, but I find my own work irresistibly funny. It pleases me to know that other more...
Divided We Stand
A single united Europe was never going to work. How about two? Many Native American tribes would consult a shaman before embarking on a hunting expedition. In one tribe, a shaman would take a caribou bone, carve on it images of the kind of prey the...
Everyone Gains
How unexpected for the Leveson inquiry ined this week, he let slip that profit-making schools are a bridge to be crossed, implying that they will be established in time. This is an excellent development. Though people have an understandable wariness...
Exhibitions Sculptural Conundrums
Ariane Bankes Caro at Chatsworth Chatsworth, Derbyshire, until 1 July Anthony Caro: New Reliefs and Standing Sculpture New Art Centre, Roche Court, until 24 June Anthony Caro: Works from the House series; Miro: Sculptor Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Caro...
Food Away with the Pixies
Dabbous is the place where stoned pixies would dine if they were into food. I have a fever and think of fairies and ghost trains to nowhere all day. But it is really Dabbous - Dabbous - that did this to me. Dabbous is a girl with her skirts up at Oxford...
Girls and Boys Come out to Play
In One Person by John Irving Doubleday, £18.99, pp. 429, ISBN 9780857520968 'You are in the polymorphous-perverse stage, ' the school psychiatrist tells the assembled boys of Favorite River Academy in Vermont in the late 1950s. Just how polymorphously...
Good Queen, Bad Subject
There is a paradox at the heart of all books about the Queen. The very thing which makes her such a successful constitutional monarch is what makes her an impossible subject for biography. We do not know anything about her. The only book which brings...
Hero or Villein?
Tolstoy by A.N. Wilson Atlantic, £25, pp. 572, ISBN 9781848879621 'Not one word', exclaimed Turgenev of Tolstoy, 'not one movement of his is natural! He is eternally posing before us!' The recurrent underlying theme of A.N. Wilson's prize-winning biography...
High Life
On board S/Y Bushido However you cut it, Greek demagogues are bluffing that the faceless suits of Brussels will give in to the blackmail and fold their hand. Greeks are gamblers to start with, and some are even very good poker players. The tragedy is...
High Society
The Astaires: Fred and Adele by Kathleen Riley OUP, £18.99, pp. 241, ISBN 9780199738410 One evening in 1923, Edward, Prince of Wales, pretty as paint in his white tie and a cutaway-coat, went to the theatre to see a new Gershwin musical. It was called...
Home
The government revised plans announced in the Budget to put VAT on warm Cornish pasties and supermarket rotisserie food, and reduced the proposed 20 per cent VAT on static caravans to 5 per cent. It launched an £82 million scheme to lend money (typically...
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being Hated
Girl: Dad, why do people want to punch your face in? Me: Er, I'm not sure that they do, darling. Where did you get that idea? Girl: It's on YouTube. Look, here: 'When Delingpole does that "air quotes" thing with his fingers I just want to punch him....
I'd Rather Be Disciplined by Madame Lagarde Than Governed by Labour's Truth-Deniers
I'm not quite as bowled over by IMF chief Christine Lagarde as the BBC's Robert Peston seems to be, but I'm an admirer - and I'm finding it hard to shake off a mental image of her as a teenage member of the French synchronised swimming team. That apart,...
I Hope Our Jubilee Queen, Unlike the Last, Outlives a Hopeless Foreign War. I Hope Our Jubilee Queen, Unlike the Last, Outlives a Hopeless Foreign War
I hope our Jubilee Queen, unlike the last, outlives a hopeless foreign war. War in South Africa -- the second Boer war -- was already brewing by Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Two years later it began. By the end of the century Britain was...
#JustStopIt
MP's endless inanities on Twitter risk dispelling the mystique of parliament 'Y ou know, if becoming an MP has taught me one thing it's respect, admiration for political opponents, ' tweeted Louise Mensch, the Tory MP for Corby, last week. 'My Labour...
Letters
Faith and addiction Sir: How right Damian Thompson is ('Addict nation', 26 May), and how shrewd of The Spectator to put the growing human disaster of addiction on its cover. We seem all too obsessed with euro crises and media intrigue to notice the...
Libya Notebook
The battle had the busy, obsessive yet irrelevant air of a point-to-point. It was a social event, held outdoors, a good place to see and be seen. The jeunesse doree of the western Libyan town of Zuwara were out in force. People had come from miles around....
Long Life
I have bought myself a floating wooden duck house for my pond in Northamptonshire. It is not a fancy one, just two little back-to-back nesting boxes on a raft under a pitched roof; and it cost £270, roughly a tenth of what you would now have to pay...
Love Conquers All
Just Send Me Word by Orlando Figes Allen Lane, £20, pp. 333, ISBN 9781846144882 Anyone who has ever written a history book will feel a twinge of envy on reading the preface to Just Send Me Word: We opened up the largest of the trunks. I had never seen...
Low Life
Our Scottish visitors, man and wife, came bearing lavish gifts: a beribboned fruit cake in a Union Jack cake tin; a bottle of Bollinger; a bottle of Bailie Nicol Jarvie old Scotch Whisky (their favourite tipple); a bottle of nubile white Burgundy; four...
Mayoral
I heard a man say mayor on the radio recently as though it were mayo (of the kind that one goes easy on) followed by 'r'. I suspect that this weird pronunciation (which could only be adopted by someone who had never heard Larry the Lamb bleat at 'Mr...
Monarchy's Golden Future
Prince William: Born to be King by Penny Junor Hodder, £19.99, pp. 432, ISBN 9781444720396 In a recent issue of The Spectator Freddy Gray warned that some royal press officers now resemble celebrity publicists, spoon-feeding whole narratives to lapdog...
Muddling Through
How England Made the English by Harry Mount Viking, £20, pp. 340, ISBN 9780670919130 It so happened that in 1961 I was part of a little group - three of us - which welcomed 'Mr Jazzman' to London. That was the code name for Rudolf Nureyev, the dancer,...
Music Proms Promise
On first opening a new Proms prospectus, the enthusiastic amateur immediately looks for the things that are there, the things that are not there and, a mixture of the two, the things he hopes will be there. What I hope for every year goes roughly like...
Old Man of Corfu
Happy 200th birthday, Mr Lear 'The woes of painters ! ' lamented Edward Lear in a letter to a friend in 1862. Earlier that day, he was pottering around his apartment in Corfu Town, when, glancing out of the window, he spotted a troop of soldiers marching...
Once You've Seen Eurovision, London 2012 Looks like a Noble Last Stand
Jetlagged in the small - hour darkness of Santa Monica last week, and perusing various write - ups of the previ ous evening's Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan, I had a sudden epiphany as to why America holds all these sporting contests with 'world'...
Opera Star Quality
The Barber of Seville; Eugene Onegin English Touring Opera Caligula English National Opera, in rep until 14 June English Touring Opera ended its spring tour in Cambridge this year with three performances of The Barber of Seville and two of Eugene Onegin,...
Paving Paradise
Rural wannabees are killing out countryside The gamekeeper at the Surrey farm where I keep my horses has been banned from his local pub for looking too scruffy. Like the two farm workers in Berkshire who made headlines when they were turfed out of their...
Pushing the Envelope
What's so good about email? Well, it's quick and easy for you to write an email, you can copy in lots of people, it's immediate and it's free. And the worst thing about email? Well, it's very quick and easy for other people to send you an email, or...
Queen of the World
A jubilee for the Commonwealth and beyond Recently I took a flight to my native Malaysia to celebrate my mum's 79th birthday. I knew that, since I am currently living in London, a birthday present that screamed BRITAIN was in order - a 'Keep Calm and...
Radio Time to Reflect
It was my first Jubilee moment - Judi Dench on Radio 4's Today programme suddenly launching into Shakespeare mid-glam (incredibly glam) party. She was talking to Jim Naughtie at the Queen's gala for the arts at the Royal Academy and bewailing the decline...
Real Life
Perhaps I should be flattered. There was I thinking I was getting old and frumpy. But it turns out the reason I waited for so long in the ambulance before they took me to hospital was that they thought I was on drugs. The boyfriend has just revealed...
Right Thinking
David Frum has spoken for American conservatism for a generation - now he despairs of it David Frum has been a major force in American conservatism for more than 20 years. He was a speechwriter in President George W. Bush's first administration and...
Rus in Urbe
The London Square: Gardens in the Midst of Town by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan Yale, £30, pp. 304, ISBN 97803001542012 One of the pleasures of my week is walking across St James's Square. The slightly furtive sense of trespassing as one opens the ironwork...
Spectator Mini-Bar
Jubilee weekend, and Adam BrettSmith of Corney and Barrow has had the smart idea of offering all the wines his company do under the royal warrant. I cannot promise you that the Queen will be drinking these as she kicks off her shoes at the end of the...
Spectator Sport Gold Standard
Heavens, we do like a moan. Sure the traffic will be hell; the commercialism mindnumbing; the Zil lanes a pain; and the presence of the egregious will. i. am, a man so irritating he makes Stephen Fry seem likable, lugging the Olympic torch is preposterous....
Television Royal Watch
This is the week we almost drowned in Jubilee programmes. Sadly, many of these were unavailable to reviewers, possibly because to criticise such a programme would itself amount to lese-majeste, or perhaps they just hadn't finished the edit. But I doubt...
The Art of Monarchy
Andrew Lambrith reflects on the images that help shape our perception of the Queen Her Majesty the Queen has been a global celebrity for 60 years, and she carries her status with a naturalness and dignity that many of the more tearaway celebs would...
Theatre Problem Play
What the Butler Saw Vaudeville, until 25 August Chariots of Fire Hampstead, until 16 June It's all Kenneth Halliwell's fault. By bashing in Joe Orton's head with a hammer, he brought the playwright's career to a premature halt when Orton was still experimenting...
The Courage of Countless Generations
The Highland Furies: The Black Watch, 1739-1899 by Victoria Schoeld Quercus, £35, pp. 734, ISBN 9781849165501 The most stirring sermon I ever heard was delivered by a company sergeant-major in the Black Watch to a cadre of young lance-corporals, barely...
The Dirty Dozen
The Twelve Caesars by Matthew Dennison Atlantic, £12.99, pp. 385, ISBN 9781848876835 I have this fantasy in which I'm the Emperor Nero. I'm relaxing in my toga, and there are these slave girls dancing for me, and one of them has the most incredible...
The Main Event
Buckingham Palace could teach the International Olympic Comittee a thing or two about getting a whole country in the festive spirit The tickets have all been handed out fairly and efficiently. No one has grumbled about crashing websites or foreign tour...
The Pen Was Mightier Than the Brush
Joanna, George and Henry: A Pre-Raphaelite Tale of Art, Love and Friendship by Sue Bradbury Boydell, £25, pp. 336, ISBN 9781843836179 Of the making of books about the PreRaphaelites, it appears, there is no end. Like the Bloomsberries, most of the...
The Queen and I
Well it's all too terribly, terribly exciting: 60 glorious years on the throne of England and almost more than that in my consciousness. I first became aware of the then Princess Elizabeth when I was a young evacuee in Ilfracombe. In my parents' sudden...
The Silver Age
I was ten years old during the Silver JubiI I lee in 1977. That perfect, daft summer I I formed and cemented my view of the I I country I live in, and still makes me feel a wave of unconditional affection every time I think back to it. Social historians...
The Spectator's Notes
'Chilly day with frequent showers, ' begins my grandfather's entry for Tuesday 2 June 1953, the day of the present Queen's Coronation. He hoisted the Union flag in one of his fields, where the bonfire was being prepared, and walked up to a disused chapel...
The Turf All the Queen's Horses
Royal trainer Richard Hannon, we learn from an intriguing new volume about the Queen's lifetime love affair with horse-racing, is essentially a stockman. He recognises horses by their shape and mannerisms rather than by what their owners choose to call...
The Virtue of Restraint
As Britain prepares for a week of peaceful celebration, Syria will be bracing itself for more bloodshed. The Assad regime, perhaps emboldened by the knowledge that the West has no appetite to intervene in Syria, is becoming ever more brutal in its repression....
The World in Arms
The Second World War by Antony Beevor Weidenfeld £25, pp. 863, ISBN 9780297844976 The long summer that led up to the last days of peace in Europe in 1939 - the vigil of Hitler's assault on Poland and the subsequent Phoney War - gave little hint of...
Thirty Days to Live
Death is a beautiful woman, always by my side. She'll kiss me one day, I know. She's a companion who reminds me not to postpone anything - 'Do it now, do it now, do it now.' Her voice is not threatening, just constant. It tells me what matters is not...
What Did He See in Her?
The King's Mistress: The True and Scandalous Story of the Woman Who Stole the Heart of George I by Claudia Gold Quercus, £20, pp. 353, ISBN 9781849164115 When King George I came over from Hanover in 1714 to claim the crown he had inherited from his...
Women on Their Mettle
Park Lane by Frances Osborne Virago, £14.99, pp. 336, ISBN 9781844084791 Edwardian Park Lane was lined with grand houses. The occupants, conspicuous consumers and domestic servants, acted out layers of deception. Gamblers ruined Victorian fortunes....
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