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 2010

A Choice of First Novels
Write what you know. Isn't that what aspiring novelists are told? While two first-timers have taken the advice this summer, there is also an exception to prove the rule. In The Imperfectionists (Quercus, £16.99), Tom Rachman draws on his time at the...
A Foot in Both Camps
CROSSING MANDELBAUM GATE by Kai Bird Simon & Schuster, £17.99, pp. 424, ISBN 9781847379337 As a five-year old in the Arab quarter of Jerusalem in the 1950s, Kai Bird overheard an elderly American heiress offering $1 million to anyone who could solve...
All at Sea
Last weekend I returned from France on a cross-Channel ferry. The decks were crowded with young people jabbering away in French, German, Dutch, English. It occurred to me that whichever language they spoke these kids were very much alike in dress, conduct,...
Ancient & Modern
So we are all going to have to work longer, and everyone is thrilled ? The ancients would have thought us barking. The 7th century BC Greek farmer-poet Hesiod laid down the marker when he lamented that he lived in the age of iron, when men 'will never...
A Place in the Pantheon?
Blair Worden argues that Hugh Trevor-Roper was a greater historian than reviewers of his recent biography have allowed Hugh Trevor-Roper might have been a great historian, taking his place in the Pantheon alongside the great historians of the past,...
Art on Water
On board S/Y Bushido If a boat can be called a work of art then surely ones designed by William Fife qualify him as the Degas of yacht construction. Fife was a Scot, but unlike fellow Scots such as Blair and Brown, he handed down beauty, not misery,...
A Smooth Passage
DRIVING HOME by Jonathan Raban Picador, £20, pp. 604, ISBN 9780330375511 Jonathan Raban left Britain and moved to Seattle in 1990, when he was 47. He sold his Volkswagen on his way to Heathrow airport. He bought a Dodge with Washington state plates...
Banks Behaving Badly, Yet Again: What They Need Are Steadier Relationships
It's nonsense to accuse high street banks of failing to lend to businesses because the money they might have lent has been siphoned off for bonuses - that just isn't how it works - and it's good news that they have been announcing restored or increased...
Bed Hopping
In Competition No. 2658 you were invited to submit a bedroom scene written by a novelist who would not normally venture into such territory. A wise choice, it seems: even literary giants come a cropper when writing about sex. John Updike was shortlisted...
Capital Stuff
Boris Johnson's new bicycle-sharing scheme has had its share of 'teething problems', as the Mayor himself admits. Some Londoners have had to be refunded, for instance, after they were overcharged by the complicated bike 'docking' system. But it's a...
Cause for Celebration
Thanks to jams on the A3 it took me nearly four hours driving from central London for the last day of Glorious Goodwood. It would have been worth it if it had taken 24. It was the day of the good guys with whom we all enjoy sharing success. Critical...
Damp Squib
Sargent and the Sea Royal Academy, until 26 September John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) is an artist whose name arouses hopes of dazzling technical virtuosity even when his subjects are fairly run-of-the-mill. Famed as a portrait painter, his art (at...
Diary
We're in a moral maze and the exit eludes me. A couple of weeks ago we sat entranced over supper in the garden as the pretty roe deer and her two fawns strolled past in the evening sunlight, about 150 yards away. But days later the husband went to inspect...
Double Standards
Some prime ministers settle immediately on the international stage, others take their time to adjust to the nuances required in dealing with the assortment of democratically elected politicians, benign dictators and outright rogues who lead the world....
Dr Short
As the British Championship nears its close I hear that Nigel Short has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bolton, his home town. Photos of Nigel in impressively mediaeval attire can now be seen on the chessbase site www.chessbase.com....
German Challenge
The Prince of Homburg Donmar, until 4 September Danton's Death Olivier, in rep until 14 October Welcome to London. This month we're hosting the world's very first, but probably not its last, Useless German Playwright Festival. Here's a scribbler you...
Good at Bad Guys
THE BURNING WIRE by Jeffery Deaver Hodder, £18.99, pp. 423, ISBN 9780340937280 Thriller writers, like wolves and old Etonians, hunt in packs. In the summer months, roaming from city to city, we can be found at assorted festivals and crime fiction conventions,...
'How Many Must Be Shot before Kashmir Is News?'
The vicious, long-lasting conflict between India and Pakistan is ignored in the West, but it is the key to understanding the region, says Jonathan Foreman It was unfortunate timing. At the very moment David Cameron was pleasing his Indian audience...
I Know Exactly What I Want to Read This Summer-If Only I Could Find It
What I thought I'd do this summer holidays is catch up with all those classics I've been meaning to read for ages: A la recherche du temps perdu, Moby-Dick, David Copperfield, Crime and Punishment, Madame Bovary, Vanity Fair, everything by the Brontes,...
Impossible Questions
'I wish I knew, ' said the doctor in a rare moment of candour when asked, 'What do you do with children who don't want to take the tablets?' He was talking about Tanya, an HIVpositive teenager who was refusing to take the life-giving anti-viral drugs...
In 100 Years We Will Be an Entirely Urban Species
Doug Saunders has visited 30 villages and cities on five continents to explore the great irreversible migration: from the countryside to vast megacities. This is the single most important change mankind faces Chongqing is a dense and smoky inland city,...
It's a Knockout
Die Walküre Longborough Not having been to Longborough and its opera festival before, I was bowled over by it in all respects. The much-referred-to extended garage is an extremely comfortable theatre, with more than 400 seats, and with plenty of space...
Letter from the Far East
In a tiny flat in Peking I heard a 105-year-old Chinese man explain how he was responsible for the capital of China being called Beijing. The centenarian, Mr Zhou Youguang, was the founder of Pinyin, the system of phonetic transliteration for all the...
Letters
Neocon Coughlin Sir: Con Coughlin's article ('How we lost the war', 31 July) criticising David Cameron's supposed disenchantment with our bogged-down campaign in Afghanistan confirms him as the Henry Newbolt of our day. He does not see this conflict...
Looking Back
Bolshoi Ballet Royal Opera House, until 8 August At the beginning of the second week of its new London season, the Bolshoi Ballet presented the classic Giselle , a ballet which, not unlike other 19th-century works, underwent myriad changes, cuts and...
My All-Time Top Ten
Regular readers may have noticed an embarrassing lacuna in this column. Having urged you to come up with your top ten albums of all time, to which you responded in such numbers, and with such entertaining and illuminating results, the sadist who set...
Portrait of the Week
Mr David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and Mr Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, rather oddly wrote a letter to the rest of the Cabinet. 'Deficit reduction and continuing to ensure economic recovery is the most urgent issue facing Britain, ' they...
Raining on Their Parade
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA by Adrian Goldsworthy Weidenfeld, £25, pp. 470, ISBN 9780297845676 Julius Caesar's deputy, Cleopatra's second lover, Marcus Antonius is the perennial supporting act. In books about Caesar (like Adrian Goldsworthy's recent biography)...
Right-Wingers Have a Bad Reputation, but We Do More for the Poor Than Anyone Else
I am a right-winger. There, I've said it. I'm out of the closet and proud about it. And what have I communicated to you in this act of confession? Do you picture me in a wide, pin-striped suit? Do you fear that I wouldn't stop talking about the evils...
Shape of Things to Come
I don't know about China, but here it's the Year of the Jaguar - 75 years since baptism, sales up 42.5 per cent, the launch of the new XJ - and for one of their birthday parties, Jaguar took some hacks to try out the current model range on Germany's...
Spectator Mini-Bar Offer
This offer is a choice of French classics, but classics that have been ignored lately and are only now making a comeback, like those forgotten actors who suddenly reappear after two decades as national treasures. Beaujolais in particular has had its...
Spectator Sport
Well, at least one Rooney did well this summer. That's Martyn of course, one of the second tier of Britain's medal winners at the European Athletics Championships who played a blinder to pick up an individual bronze and a relay silver in the 400 metres....
The Dying of the Light
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN WINTER: A MEMOIR IN BLINDNESS by Candia McWilliam Cape, £18.99, pp. 482, ISBN 9780224088985 The phrasing of the subtitle is exact: a memoir in blindness, not of blindness. Like a portrait in oils - blindness being not just the subject,...
The French Connection
THE HOUSE WITH BLUE SHUTTERS by Lisa Hilton Corvus, £7.99, pp. 419 ISBN9781848874664 If ever there was a novel to which that old adage about not judging a book by its cover could be applied, it's this one. What you'd expect, picking up Lisa Hilton's...
The New Alternatives
William Cook goes to Skegness and watches Cannon & Ball attract an adoring audience It's August and Edinburgh is full of fashionable young comedians, but here in Skegness the Festival Fringe seems a million miles away. With its amusement arcades...
Time Out
Every so often I like to visit the 'service' centre of Lambeth Council, mainly because if I'm feeling down it is good for a laugh. So proved to be the case on my annual outing to renew my residential parking permit, surely the highlight of the season...
Train a Grande Vexation
The marvels of French rail travel are a myth, says Ross Clark. Travelling by TGV is a rip-off - and the customer service is appalling Which Ryanair passenger, left fuming by lousy service and lashed by Michael O'Leary's tongue, hasn't opined that, if...
What Is Zardari Doing at Chequers?
Pakistan's President has provoked outrage by taking a tour of Europe with his son while thousands die in the floods at home. Isabel Villiers reports Lahore Pakistan's worst monsoon rains continue, and thousands are now dead, many more trapped, surrounded...
Why Didn't Labour Have a Leadership Contest When It Mattered?
Did you know that David Miliband's favourite snack is a Twirl? I learned this yesterday while trawling the various Labour leadership websites, desperate to find some reason - any reason - to care about any of it. In his photograph at the top, David's...
Why Is the 'Director BBC North' Staying Down South?
On his vast salary, Peter Salmon could buy Wigan, says Rod Liddle . But he and the rest of the corporation's managerial elite will not be abandoning their cosy London lives any time soon Do any senior BBC executives wish to move to Salford, as is being...
Your Problems Solved
Dear Mary Q. I am a British MEP which is, you will agree, a heavy social cross to bear. For six years I have tried to set a sartorial example to my fellow MEPs, wearing nothing that did not emanate from Jermyn Street or Savile Row. Now an old rugby...
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