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 February 2013

A Choice of Recent Crime Novels
Many novels deal with unhappy families. But happy families are relatively rare, especially in crime fiction, which is one of the many interesting features of Erin Kelly's third book, The Burning Air (Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99). The MacBrides have...
A Snapshot Moment in Old Havana
The Parque Matires '71 is pleasant, nothing special, hardly distinguishable from dozens of other little parks in Old Havana. Fairly safe, reasonably clean, shabby, some tatty greenery and a few trees, a bird-limed bronze statue to a forgotten hero,...
Beautiful and Damned
Handsome Brute: The Story of a Ladykiller by Sean O'Connor Simon & Schuster, £16.99, pp. 480, ISBN 9781471101335 According to his mother, Neville Heath was 'prone to be excitable'. He was that all right - and then some. In the space of two weeks...
BOO K E N D S A Hero of Folk
'This Machine Kills Fascists' was the ambitious slogan that Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) painted on his guitars. By fascists he meant the entire American capitalist establishment during the Great Depression and after. A self-taught socialist, Woody wrote...
BOOKS the Music Manwelcomes His Centenary - Which Brings All His Many Complexities Satisfyingly and Vividly to Life
Benjamin Britten: A Life in the Twentieth Century by Paul Kildea Allen Lane, £30, pp. 688, ISBN 9781846142321 Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters of Benjamin Britten, Volume VI, 1966-1976 edited by Philip Reed and Mervyn Cook Boydell Press, £45,...
Call off the Faith Wars
My fellow atheists, it's time we admitted that religion has some points in its favour. Sometimes a perfectly good argument can be stretched too far. I heard the resulting snapping noise last week in Cambridge during a debate with Richard Dawkins. We...
Cameron's Wrong Course
The Prime Minister is wasting his talents, and his luck Never has a government been better at exasperating its own supporters; rarely has a government been so politically inept. The Tories have formidable advantages. Even in the miseries of an economic...
Change of Heart
The Lion Sleeps Tonight and Other Stories of Africa by Rian Malan Grove Press, £17.99, pp. 317, ISBN 9780802119905 A stomping bestseller is a hard thing to recover from. The author is doomed to see all future works compared and found wanting. Is his...
Dance from Russia with Love
Onegin Royal Opera House If you want to know what's so great about John Cranko's choreography, look at the opening phrase of the final duet in Onegin (1965). The male dancer encircles the ballerina in an embrace that is not reciprocated, and then falls...
Dea R M a R Y Y O U R P R O B L E M S S O L V E D
Q. I understand that a free version of Eton will be opening in a village near Windsor next year. One of my boys is already at School, but for financial reasons I would like to get him moved across if the educational and aspirational standards at Freeton...
Diary
In a recent exchange of emails, my Member of Parliament, Mr Andy Slaughter, told me he intended to vote in favour of same-sex marriage. No doubt by now he has done so. He said he believed it to be an extension of human rights. I replied that, just as...
Dubai Notebook
Francois Hollande rolled into town for the World Future Energy Summit here recently, but hardly anyone noticed. There is little enthusiasm for his thoughts on clean energy deployment. In any case, in Dubai we prefer D-list celebs to A-list politicians....
Exhibitions Finding Beauty in Junk
Schwitters in Britain Tate Britain, until 12 May Although Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) did not invent the technique or theory of collage, he was one of the greatest practitioners of it, raising it in his work to the level of an independent art form....
Food Death's Own Restaurant
Maxim's! The very name is drool from Maurice Chevalier's lips, as he perved around Gigi and sang, 'Thank heaven for little girls/ And hebephilia generally.' Myths sprout up around Maxim's, which was always, in restaurant terms, a kind of Prince Michael...
Hall of Mirrors
At f i r st glance , Ho ly Mo to rs i s a l l about one astonishing performance - or several, depending on how you look at it. The performance in question is by Denis Lavant, who plays M. O sca r, a blank page o f a man who scribbles over himself w...
High Life
Gstaad Sir Roger Moore told the Sunday Telegraph that he enjoys the slow pace of life in Switzerland. As do I. One cannot have too much of a snowy peak under a blue sky, any more than one can have too much of Schubert. Looking out from my bedroom window,...
Indian Giver
Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie Grove Press, £16.99, pp. 480, ISBN 9780802120397 A 465-page volume of short stories by a Native American author - it's not, perhaps, the kind of thing everyone would automatically reach for, if they hadn't already heard about...
Letters
Respect the RSPCA Sir: You ask whether the RSPCA has 'gone feral' ('The RSPCA's secret war', 2 February)? The answer is 'no'. Since its founding, the society has promoted kindness to and respect for animals. We have done so through education, good science...
Long Life
This is a big week for gays on both sides of the Atlantic. By the time you read this, the House of Commons will have voted to permit gay marriage, despite an angry revolt by a large number of Tory MPs; and in Texas the Boy Scouts of America may also...
Lord Bramall's Last Stand
Why the former chief of the defence staff is turning his guns on the nuclear deterrent - and Joanna Lumley. Retreat to your bunkers. Repeat: this is not a drill . Field Marshal Lord Bramall, former chief of the defence staff and veteran of the Normandy...
Love Stories
Unexpected Lessons in Love by Bernadine Bishop John Murray, £16.99, pp. 384, ISBN 9781848547827 The Fault in our Stars by John Green Penguin, £7.99, pp. 336, ISBN 9780141345659 Unfortunately for the reading public, most of Bernadine Bishop's working...
Low Life
I've been to Mali. Oh, yes. We went overland from the east, 23 of us in the back of a Bedford truck, via the Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger. And even after that succession of astonishing countries, Mali stood out as having a unique flavour of its...
Medieval Mystery
Alasdair Palmer on how the restoration of a castle in northern Italy could change the established view of 15th century art history Medieval castles are generally dark and forbidding places that look as if they were built to prove the proposition...
MIN D Y O U R L A N G U A G E Vulnerable
' I 'm a vulnerable adult, ' said my husband when I asked him why he was shouting the other morning. He had spilt some water from the hot kettle on his slippered foot. Unlike Achilles, his vulnerability extends beyond the pedal extremities. But I shouldn't...
Opera Blank Canvas
La clemenza di Tito Opera North, Grand Theatre, Leeds, until 22 February, and then touring I approach any production of Mozart's last opera, La clemenza di Tito, in a state of acute trepidation: it's not pleasant sitting bored through nearly three hours...
Pop Built to Last
It's all been happening in the pop world since I was last here. David Bowie released a new song, arguably his best in several decades. Wilko Johnson announced that he had terminal cancer, and a lot of men in their fifties wept for their own lost youth....
Portrait of the Week
Home The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was given its second reading in the Commons by 400 votes to 175. Of Conservative MPs, 127 voted for it, and 136 against. David Cameron, who did not attend the debate, called the result 'an important step forward'....
Radio the Sex Test
'We hear women's voices differently from men's, ' concluded Anne Karpf at the end of her search back through the radio archives to seek out the first women newsreaders on the airwaves. In Spoken Like a Woman (Radio 4, Saturday night), she decided this...
Real Life
Throwing oneself at the feet of the transport secretary at a posh lunch is not a dignified thing to do. I realise that. But since my parents found out that the HS2 rail link is going past the end of their garden - though just a few metres far enough...
Remember the Lesson of Shaun of the Dead: Some Zombies Eventually Come Back to Life
Funny how little phrases go viral. Suddenly everyone's talking about 'fasting diets', 'zombie companies' and 'leadership plots'. As to the first, the idea of the '5:2 intermittent fasting diet', I gather, is to eat as little as you can for two days...
Sickness in the Health Service
The Mid Staffs scandal shows that we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to NHS failings A former editor of this magazine, Nigel Lawson, once described the NHS as 'the closest thing the English have to a religion, with those who practise in it regarding...
Spectator Sport A Classic Weekend at the Six Nations
Has there ever been a more wondrous start to a tournament than the first weekend of this term's Six Nations? In any sport for that matter. England playing like the All Blacks, with Owen Farrell in stupendous form and Billy Twelvetrees, the face of a...
Steerpike
Stanley Johnson, replete with energy and charming as ever, is touring the country looking for a safe Tory berth to ease himself into at the next election. No takers so far, I'm told, but the wily old bird has devised a brilliant ruse to boost his chances....
Stoicism at the Doctor's
It has been proposed that, to deal with certain sorts of emotional problems for which we go to the doctor, we should be given an improving book to read. Quite right too, the Stoic would reply. 'Stoicism' derives from the Greek stoa, the portico in Athens...
Taking on Cattle Raiders with a Macbook Pro
One of my reasons for coming to Kenya was to visit Tango Maus, the farm of Spectator 'Wild life' columnist Aidan Hartley. I 've read so much about this mystical place -the skirmishes with the local elephant population, the troublesome livestock, the...
Technology Making Music
Since the birth of the peer-to-peer file-sharing service Napster in the late 1990s, the record industry has been the unwilling poster child for entire businesses being overthrown by the march of technology. The major labels, once all-powerful, now stand...
Television Old School Joy
Let's not beat about the bush: Howard Goodall's Story of Music (BBC2, Saturday) is landmark television, a documentary series that deserves to rank with such unimpeachable classics as Kenneth Clark's Civilisation and which, if you haven't seen it yet,...
Theatre English Eccentrics
Quartermaine's Terms Wyndham's, until 13 April Old Times Harold Pinter, until 6 April Quartermaine's Terms is a period piece within a period piece. It's set in that part of the early 1960s which was still effectively the 1950s. St John Quartermaine,...
The Battle of Eastleigh Will Be Bloody
This week's Cabinet meeting was a deceptively straightforward affair. Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers met as usual, and discussed economic competitiveness and their priorities for the next Queen's speech. It was a convivial gathering of...
The Defender of Faith
If the secret of success is to follow failure, then Justin Welby has had the perfect start as Archbishop of Canterbury. He was appointed at a time when the Church of England's efforts to reach a conclusion on women bishops have collapsed and when its...
The Forgotten Ones
How can things change for the children of Bulgaria's institutions It was something about the twins that got to me; after seeing so many baby institutions and children's homes, I had almost grown used to abandoned children in ranks of cots, staring at...
The Spectator's Notes
It was rude and impolitic of David Cameron not to sit in on the parliamentary debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. The whole thing was his idea and would not have come to Parliament without his insistence. Of all his measures so far, it is...
War on Wh I St Leblower S E Off
My guard goes up when people in powe r say tha t they be l ieve in investigative journalism. Everybody says they do, of course. Then everyone says they have a sense of humour, most especially when they don't. Just as I doubt the merriment of someone...
What Makes Me Feel Sorry for Chris Huhne
If Chris Huhne hadn't copped off with that woman who looks remarkably like the late comedian Jack Douglas, I suppose we would have been deprived of all the tumultuous glee which has attended both his utter collapse, as a man, and his likely incarceration....
Winning the War with Wheezers
The Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers who Turned the Tide in the Second World War by Paul Kennedy Allen Lane, £25, pp. 436, ISBN 9781846141126 The Anfa Hotel in Casablanca has seen better days. Seventy years ago it was the grandest hotel in...
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