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 January 2011

Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea
Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will by Judith Schalansky Particular Books, £25, pp. 129, ISBN 9781846143489 It must be heaven to wake up inside the imagination of a mapmaker. No magic carpet could take you to such...
An Aura of Sanctity
Serving Genius: Carlo Maria Giulini by Thomas D. Saler University of Illinois Press, £22.99, pp. 225, ISBN 9780252035029 According to Arturo Toscanini, 'any asino can conduct, but to make music is difficile' . The technical side of conducting did not...
Ancient and Modern
Last week Geoffrey Wheatcroft speculated whether a regiment of what he called Gay Gordons might not have something to be said for it, giving a whole new meaning to 'once more into the breach, dear friends'. Ancient Greeks would probably have approved,...
A Novel Approach
Philip Hensher examines the relatively new genre of classic writers themselves becoming the subject of fiction The Passages of Herman Melville by Jay Parini Canongate, £17.99, pp. 450, ISBN 9781847679796 By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham 4th Estate,...
Barometer
A collector's item - The Lord Chamberlain ruled that there would be no official commemorative tea towel for the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. Some manufacturers are going to produce them regardless. But will they be a good investment?...
Best in Show
Penelope Curtis, director of Tate Britain, talks to Ariane Bankes about the planned revamp of the museum and 100 different ways of showing sculpture The evening after first meeting Penelope Curtis, director of Tate Britain, I bumped into a mutual friend...
Cruel Cuts
You might be forgiven for thinking that the cuts to broadcasting have already been implemented, with nothing but Mozart on Radio 3 and the Bible on Radio 4 on Sunday. Meanwhile, we've discovered that the actor who played the unfortunate Nigel Pargetter...
CULTURE NOTES - Never the Same
Simon Starling's art often involves some form of recycling - his controversial 'Shedboatshed' won the 2005 Turner Prize - and his 'new' exhibition at Camden Arts Centre (until 20 February) is no different. Never The Same River (Possible Futures, Probable...
Dear Mary Your Problems Solved
Q. A friend gives regular dinner parties with all the potential to be brilliant events. She knows wonderful people and always has an interesting mix. She has a flat in Chelsea. She is a beautiful, stylish and generous woman but she rarely gets the food...
Diary
We spent New Year's Eve in Rajasthan in a kind of desert camp called the Serai, attended by every manner of hot tub and luxury. As 2010 staggered to a close we sat in front of the campfire, swaddled in blankets. There were ululating Rajasthani singers,...
Finding My Voice
Love helps a stutter more than speech therapy I was cured of a lifelong stammer by a technique even Lionel Logue, George VI's celebrated speech therapist, never tried. The cure lasted exactly three minutes, and has never been repeated. In the mid-1990s,...
Going for Gold
Ivona, Princess of Burgundia Network Theatre, until 30 January The Potting Shed Finborough, until 29 January There's gold out there. The search for lost masterpieces beguiles many a theatrical impresario but with it comes the danger that the thrill...
Grace under Fire
Almost 20 years ago, Samuel Huntingdon forecast a 'clash of civilisations'. In the past few months, this clash has become outright war. Christian minorities, who have lived peacefully in Muslim countries for generations, are finding themselves subject...
High Life
Gstaad Back in 1975 Adam Fergusson, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, published a very important book with a very apt modern title, When Money Dies. It was about the nightmare of Weimar hyperinflation, something our so-called leaders might...
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Naff
The building is somewhere on the Pembrokeshire coast, the only one in the world, and I have never managed to find it. It is the Church of St Elvis, commemorating the sixth-century Elvis (or Aelfyw) of Munster, famous only for baptising St David and...
Indian Winter
The annual Hastings tournament, held over the turn of the year, has been won by the I ndian duo of Deep Sengupta and Arghyadip Das. E ngland's David Howell led for much of the time, but ran out of steam in the home stretch, though he did win what was...
Let's Look This Pair of Gift Pandas in the Mouth
The Chinese are doing their panda thing again, buying international goodwill by depositing one of these doomed and slightly sinister creatures with any country which might otherwise have an objection to their foreign or domestic policy. Worried about...
Letters
Top dogs Sir: I very much enjoyed the excerpts from Dean Spanley (The Spectator's Notes, 8 January). Hitherto my favourite depiction of the canine mindset had come from Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome: Montmorency's ambition in life is to...
Liberal England Dies Again
The Lib Dems' troubles are a result not only of coalition and foolish promises, but of a resurgence of the old left-right division In 1935, George Dangerfield published The Strange Death of Liberal England , one of those rare histories that survive...
LIFE & LETTERS - Memoirs as Literature
Laurence Sterne remarked rather a long time ago that they order these matters better in France, and happily this is still the case. Fifteen hundred teachers of literature recently protested about the choice of a set book for Terminale L du bac - the...
Low Life
A kindly old charge nurse once took me aside after I'd appeared before a psychiatric hospital's disciplinary committee accused of drunken behaviour. 'Get yourself a good woman, old son, ' he counselled. 'That's what I did. Then you can take her to the...
More Real Art, Please
Norman Rockwell's America Dulwich Picture Gallery, until 27 March Percy Kelly: A Troubled Genius Messum's, 8 Cork Street, London W1, until 29 January Although I am an admirer of Dulwich Picture Gallery, and like to support its generally rewarding exhibition...
Neither Here nor There
Conviction 15, Nationwide Conviction is yet another film based on 'an inspirational true story' because, I'm assuming, Hollywood has now run out of madeup stories. (There isn't a limitless supply, you know; it's not as if you can just magic them out...
New Year Letters
In Competition No. 2680 you were invited to submit an acrostic poem of which the first letter of each line spells out the words Happy New Year. This challenge elicited a whopping entry, and there were plenty of unfamiliar names among the regulars, which...
Old School Ties
What Lord Adonis, who invented academies, thinks of education reform under Michael Gove Last week, Michael Gove marked an important moment in the coalition government's school reforms. The number of academies - that is, state schools granted independent...
On the Silver Trail
The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V by Hugh Thomas Allen Lane, £35, pp. 697, ISBN 9781846140846 The Spanish empire was the first of Europe's great overseas empires, and for many years the richest and most powerful. It was also unusual in...
Portrait of the Week
Home David Chaytor, the Labour MP for Bury North from 1997 to 2010, was sentenced to 18 months for false accounting under the Theft Act 1968 regarding his claims for parliamentary expenses. Eric Illsley, the Labour MP for Barnsley, who was re-elected...
Real Life
Golden corn spread out on the road; women washing in rivers; pots and baskets and sugar cane balanced on heads; a dead man in his best clothes being carried to his pyre; goats, bullocks, monkeys everywhere; baby elephants ambling through traffic. ....
Rising Petrol Prices and the Death of Nigel Increase My Sense of Foreboding
I returned from a New Year expedition to the Dordogne laden with wine, walnuts and a deep sense of foreboding - not provoked by the mood of rural France, which felt unchangingly placid, but by what I've been reading and hearing about Britain and the...
Smart Ass
Caroline: A Mystery by Cornelius Medvei Harvill, £10, pp. 153, ISBN 9781846553882 It's the way Caroline pisses onto the concrete during the lunch break that delights her work colleagues: in a steaming, splattery arc. 'It seemed to them an eloquent demonstration...
Spectator Wine
We passed Christmas in Kenya, on the beach. I'd spent Christmas abroad before but never in a hot country, and it took time to get used to - perhaps 20 seconds. Up late in the morning, open stockings in bed, pull on swimming trunks, descend for alfresco...
The Man Who Read Everything
John Gross, 1935-2011 Mark Boxer once drew a caricature of his friend John Gross half-buried beneath piles of hardback books while glancing up from a copy of Tatler . It's a caricature that contains a nugget of truth - it is rare, these days, for anyone...
The Spectator's Notes
The question of what is art vexes the tax authorities as well as philosophers. Last month, the Art Newspaper reported the latest twist in a wonderful, long-running row. The European Commission has decided that two pieces of installation art - 'Hall...
Timeless Miracle
Dotting through the list of composers' anniversaries in 2011, I was struck both by the number of people mentioned and by the utter lack of fame of almost all of them. Where on earth do the compilers of the Classical Composers Database find these people,...
Too Good for Words
A Kind Man by Susan Hill Chatto, £10.99, pp. 192, ISBN 9780701185916 I confess myself baffled by this fable. The narrative is as clear, the prose as uncluttered, as one expects from Susan Hill, but its very simplicity leaves me wondering whether I've...
Waste Not, Want Not
'I want everyone to be as angry as I am, ' says Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and I hope he succeeds for the thing that makes him so angry is one of the things that makes me most angry, too: the senseless eradication of the world's fish stocks. All this...
Westminster Just Isn't Built for Coalitions
The Liberal Democrats' current problems can be traced back to 28 October 1943. On that day, the House of Commons decided that the bombed Commons chamber should be rebuilt and its oblong structure preserved. This ensured that the British tradition of...
Why I'm Terrified of Ed Miliband
I've been trying quite hard to come up with some imagery for just how bad Ed Miliband is at being in charge of the Labour party. My best suggestion so far is that he's leading as though he's falling out of a building, desperately issuing responses and...
Wild Life
In the run-up to this week's referendum on Southern Sudan's future, I flew to Juba with a bottle of Bushmills. The whiskey was for Dan Eiffe. When Sudan's southern Christian rebels were on the brink of defeat, it was Dan who turned the war around. He...
Witch Craft
Hänsel und Gretel; Tannhäuser Royal Opera House Is Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel an opera for children of all ages, or for grownups and for children, or mainly for grownups? I went to the Royal Opera's revival of it just after Christmas, to a 12.30...
Yesterday's Heroes
Ages of Reform: Dawns and Downfalls of the British Left by Kenneth O. Morgan I. B. Tauris £27.50, pp. 314, ISBN 9781848855762 The Labour peer and historian Kenneth Morgan is perhaps best known for his accounts of the Attlee government, Labour in Power,...
You Can't Say That Here!
Thilo Sarrazin is breaking Germany's taboos on welfare and immigration - and selling over a million books in the process In Berlin in September, I noticed that Deutschland schafft sich ab ('The Abolition of Germany'), a taboo-breaking blockbuster by...
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