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 October 2011

A Life in Letters
At 93, with a new epistolary memoir just published, Diana Athill remains as sharp a conversationalist as ever Diana Athill, now nearly 94, lives in what must be the nicest retirement home i n London, a large red brick house at the top of Highgate village,...
A Mystery Unsolved
The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill Chatto and Windus, £14.99, pp. 355, ISBN 9780701180010 This is a compelling and somewhat disturbing novel, conducted with Susan Hill's customary fluency. It features Simon Serailler, the author's usual protagonist,...
Bailout Country
Rage and fear in Athens and Berlin In a theatre in central Athens, over a thousand tax inspectors have gathered to shout crossly about the latest cuts to their pay and pensions. Eventually the argument, between the government-affiliated union leader...
Barometer
Late winners The Nobel Prize is not usually given posthumously; but an exception was made this week for Ralph Steinman, a cancer scientist who, unknown to the Nobel committee, had died three days before being awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine. He...
Beguiled by Weill
Street Scene Young Vic, on tour until 15 October Madama Butterfly Opera North, on tour until 2012 Street Scene may well be Kurt Weill's most successful work from his American period, but seeing it in as good a production as the Opera Group's at the...
Be My Baby
Men now behave like toddlers even in middle age Like the original Madonna and child, the young woman on the Tube has her beloved draped around her, his head nestling on her shoulder. As he snoozes, she texts idly with one hand, while the other absent...
Cameron Must Offer Women More Than an Apology
Shortly after he arrived in Downing Street as the chief political strategist, Andrew Cooper sent David Cameron a memo about the nation's hopes and fears. Cooper's research showed that voters' greatest concern was that their children wouldn't have the...
Champagne Conservatism
Puritanism is like sea water. When it meets resistance at one point, it promptly finds another route. I came to that conclusion during the Tory conference in Manchester. If you passed a couple of Tory representatives, they might well be discussing community....
Cliffhanger
In Competition No. 2716 you were invited to supply the gripping final 150 words of the first instalment of a serial thriller. Charles Reade, now mostly forgotten but ranked with Dickens in his day, summed up the art of the cliffhanger thus: 'Make 'em...
Dare to Care
Tyrannosaur 18, Key cities Tyrannosaur is very much in the British working-class miserablist tradition in the sense that it is full of masculine fury and the women who take the brunt of it, and if this does not sound an attractive proposition, it's...
Dear Mary Your Problems Solved
Q. I have been building a small business, so far single-handedly, with a tiny bit of input from my parents. We live in a tight-knit rural community and a couple of unemployed graduate friends, still living at home like me, on hearing that I may be expanding...
Deeply Perplexing
A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival by Caroline Moorehead Chatto & Windus, £20, pp. 374, ISBN 9780701182816 This book is about the fate of 230 French women sent to the German concentration camps in January 1943. Arrested...
Diary
This is not the best time to move from East to West. The thought occurs to me as I sit in a British bank, at its Westminster branch no less, waiting to open my first UK account. The procedure takes two hours, stretched across two appointments over two...
Evolution and the Airline Seat
How can something as complicated as a human eye possibly arise through a process of natural selection - through trial and error? Most people will have asked themselves this question at some point in their lives, but without bothering to find out the...
Giving It Some Elbow
What with one thing and another, I had rather lost track of what Sting was up to. Still on the lute? Moved on to nose flutes? Thrash metal rereadings of back catalogue? It turns out that he has taken to the road with an orchestra, in a heroic stand...
Half Time
Football is often defined as a game of two halves. This also applies very much to the Grand Slam tournament currently in progress, which is split equally between the two locations of Sao Paolo, Brazil, and Bilbao in Spain. After five of the ten rounds...
High Life
New York An English prof. made an earth shattering discovery about ten years ago - that there is a strong link between having money fall upon you and being happy. No, he didn't win a Nobel for it, nor for the conclusion to his findings, which was that...
House Rules
Britain needs more houses, and the government's highly unpopular draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) at least asks how to get them - the right question even if it gives the wrong answer. Anyone who deals with the planning system knows how...
How to Fix Orphanages
Really, most of them should be shut down Kigali, Rwanda Madame B has dressed up for our visit. She's sitting on a bench with her back to the orphanage wall, talking about just how much she loves each child, but it's her get-up that's most impressive:...
In Praise of the Police
Outside London, at least, there are still officers who have their priorities right - as I discovered when my home was burgled The moment we stepped through the front door we knew that something was wrong. There was a bitter coldness in the hallway,...
Letters
Boris and the Johnsons Sir: Toby Young speaks of 'the (Johnson) family's roots as Turkish immigrants' ('Plan B', 1 October). Though I'm always amused by what Toby writes, I have to point out that he is not always accurate. These are the facts. My paternal...
Like the Conservative Party, I Have a Problem with Women
There's a great bit in an episode of Ye s, Minister during which Sir Humphrey Appleby explains to Jim Hacker why women are a minority, despite there being so many of them. It's because, he says, they share the same sense of victimhood that is the defining...
Low Life
On Sunday morning we got up early, met the guide, Khalila, on the hotel steps and went on a cultural landmark and shopping tour of Marrakesh. We'd done the Majorelle garden, which we all thought we liked. We'd done the Koutoubia mosque and the Jemaa...
Nice Mr Fry
Whenever I find myself dreaming about how awful things would be under a red/green dictatorship - increasingly often, these days - the one person who gives me a glimmer of hope that I might get out of the hell alive is Stephen Fry. He's a leftie, of...
Northern Lights
Those BBC refuseniks will rue the day they passed up the chance to relocate to Salford, England's new cultural capital, says William Cook Standing on the roof of Daniel Libeskind's Imperial War Museum North, staring at the shiny new buildings down below,...
Pictorial Intelligence
Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement Royal Academy, until 11 December Sponsored by BNY Mellon Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was born into a banking family, always knew he wanted to be a painter and was fortunate enough to be encouraged in his enthusiasm...
Portrait of the Week
Home George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, told the Conservative party conference in Manchester that the Treasury would spend billions buying bonds from small and medium-sized businesses in an exercise called 'credit easing'. He announced...
Real Life
I'm prepared to do almost anything rather than apply to Lambeth Council for a bulk waste collection. Every human being has their limits of endurance, a line of suffering beyond which they begin to contemplate committing terrible atrocities themselves...
Refreshingly Outspoken
Instead of a Book by Diana Athill Granta, £20, pp. 328, ISBN 9781847084125 She was less bitchy than extremely shrewd and sharp-eyed, and didn't hesitate to say about people exactly what she felt - though she did, I think, sometimes choose frightful...
Smart Operator
Back in the Fifties, it was possible for a single TV sitcom to capture 92 per cent of the small-screen audience; 92 per cent? It sounds astonishing to us now. The idea of so many people watching the very same comic gags at the very same time. Those...
Spectator Mini-Bar
This offer, from the estimable Adnams of Southwold, Suffolk, could be called hidden treasures. You may well not have heard of the wines here, but each is wonderful in a distinct way. This is a fine opportunity to buy first-rate bottles for a very reasonable...
The Brilliance in the Room
Philip Hensher welcomes this account of the moralist, but misses the humorist Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin Viking, £30, pp. 576, ISBN 9780670917672 It is difficult to conceive of a writer more passionately loved by his audience than Dickens...
The Leprechaun Factor
The Playboy of the Western World Old Vic, until 26 November Terrible Advice Menier Chocolate Factory, until 12 November Riots at theatres, commonplace before the Great War, have mysteriously gone out of fashion. J.M. Synge's classic, The Playboy of...
The Osborne Doctrine
What with all the excitement over Italian courtroom dramas, not enough attention was given to a radical statement by George Osborne at the Conservative party conference. It was one of the few important pronouncements made in Manchester this week. He...
The Play of Patterns
The Killer is Dying by James Sallis No Exit Press, £7.99, pp.192, ISBN 9781842433690 Labels mislead. In the taxonomy of literature, both James Sallis and Agatha Christie are often described as crime writers. True, they have in common the fact that their...
The Radical Imperialist
'Orientalist Jones': Sir William Jones, Poet, Lawyer, and Linguist, 1746-1794 by Michael J. Franklin OUP, £35, pp. 396, ISBN 9780199532001 In the summer of 1780, at the height of the Gordon Riots, a London mob raised a cry of 'kill the lawyers' and...
The Spectator's Notes
Manchester 'Beer-battered sustainable fish', said the menu in the Palace Hotel: this great city tries to combine its incontestable northernness with its growing, but still insecure modernity. Everything has to be 'sustainable' now of course, which...
Well-Lived
But What Do You Actually Do? By Alistair Horne Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £25, pp. 398, ISBN 9780297848950 'Oh no! I'm keeping it for an officer, ' said a girl called Irma when the 17-year-old Alistair Horne made his first determined moves. A little...
What Does It Take to Save a She-Devil? Good PR
Here's a tip for nowt: if you're thinking of travelling to Italy, don't keep a dildo in your washbag. Put it somewhere that intimates to the authorities a certain discretion and reserve. You don't want to inflame the Italian public: show them a naked...
Wild Life
Israel Jerusalem was once a very sad place for me and I feared returning. I was mad with grief when I was last here in the 1990s. I remember my friend Julian tried to cheer me up by taking me to a gun shop where a South African who had made aliyah gave...
Will Ireland Follow Greece into the Abyss? Never Mind the Markets, Watch the Rugby
In the spirit of Richard Ingrams, who as our television critic many years ago reviewed a programme he had not seen but had heard through a hotel-room wall, I felt moved to write about Ireland on the strength of perusing a discarded copy of the Irish...
Work in Progress
Just Boris: The Irresistible Rise of a Political Celebrity by Sonia Purnell Aurum Press, £20, pp. 400, ISBN 9781845136659 At long last Johnson Studies is starting to take off. It had always been my hope, after publishing my own slim volume on Boris...
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