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 July 2013

Architecture Wilful Expression
Richard Rogers RA: Inside Out Royal Academy, Burlington Gardens, until 13 October 'Lounge suit' is normally a reliable signifier of supine gentility. But there it was on the invitation to Richard Rogers's 80th birthday retrospective. Can this be the...
Battle of the Buildings
A rare jewel sits in the middle of the Hyde Park Corner roundabout. The Quadrant Gallery, run by English Heritage, occupies the Wellington Arch. The gallery is showing a series of exhibitions to mark the centenary of the 1913 Ancient Monuments Act,...
Blindness and Madness
Wreaking by James Scudamore Harvill Secker, £14.99, pp. 389, ISBN 9780091933791 An abandoned lunatic asylum, a nasty pornographer in a wheelchair, a bizarre glassceilinged viewing dome beneath a scummy lake, a vast henchman, a mother who hears angels...
Cheek by Jumbo
Josephine and I Bush, until 17 August The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart London Welsh Centre, until 3 August West End producers are itching to get their hands on the new show at the Bush. Mama Mia's director, Phyllida Lloyd, takes charge of a script...
Cinema Character Study
Frances Ha 15, Nationwide Frances Ha will make many spit 'Frances . . .Bah!' but I won't be among them. Yes, it is rather kooky, and highly self-conscious, with its New Wave references and its Woody Allen influences (it's a serious, black-andwhite,...
Conspicuous Consumption
Margaret Macmillan says that the ostentation of the Edwardian Age focuses the mind painfully on the horror that was so quickly to follow. Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century edited by Angus Trumble Yale, £50, pp. 417,...
'Correct Names'
In a very rum letter to the Daily Telegraph, the Mother's Union of all people joined with some other bodies to demand that 'primary schools should teach the correct names for genitalia'. What can they mean? A confederate of the Mother's Union in this...
Crime and No Punishment
The Annals of Unsolved Crime by Edward Jay Epstein Melville House, £12.99, pp. 333, ISBN 978140883766 Edward Jay Epstein is an American investigative journalist, now in his late seventies, who has spent at least half a century trying to find answers...
Dear Mary Your Problems Solved
Q. I know this seems petty but last year, on our villa holiday, my brother-in-law always took the best chair at the pool. This was a teak lounger with flat armrests on which books or drinks could be rested, and an adjustable section to prop up the knees....
Defying Type
Lloyd Evans meets the ever versatile David Haig. David Haig is one of those actors who can't escape the visual identity of his characters. He's the sad suburban salaryman. He's the pasty-faced petty bureaucrat. He's the bungling office curmudgeon with...
Detroit's Bancruptcy Isn't 'Creative Destruction' - It's Old Fashioned Mismanagement
One of the best articles I ever commissioned as an editor was an account by James Doran of a road trip from the steps of the New York Stock Exchange to the back streets of Detroit in October 2008, at the nadir of the financial crisis. At his destination,...
Diary
The pilot refuses to get going until everyone is seated and quiet. When we take off there are raucous cheers. I am on a midday budget-airline flight to Ibiza. Louder cheers welcome the drinks trolleys which are noisily ransacked. Along from my seat...
Exhibitions Proud to Be British
BP Walk Through British Art Tate Britain, Main Galleries Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life Tate Britain, Level 2 Gallery, until 20 October There has been much positive comment about the rehang of the Tate's permanent collection, which sees a welcome...
Food Eating the Shard
What to say about the Shard that isn't said by the fact it is 1,020 feet high and looks like a slightly elongated cheese triangle, and that it is designed as a home and office for those who want nothing more than to live and work in a building that...
GCSEs Are More Nature Than Nurture
An abstract of Plomin et al's forthcoming paper We have previously shown that individual differences in educational achievement are highly heritable in the early and middle school years in the UK. The objective of the present study was to investigate...
Help the Aged
The elderly are being scapegoated for the economic mosfortune of the young - when in fact they are driving the recovery. You can blame it on David Willetts. A while back, he published a book called The Pinch arguing that the older generation had swindled...
High Life
Thun 'Mokusoo!' All 200 of us already on our knees and sitting on our heels in the Japanese 'seiza' position remain dead silent at the command. No loud breathing, no movement whatsoever, just 'mizu no kokoro', a calm mind, like the surface of undisturbed...
I Don't Care about the Royal Baby. What's Wrong with Me?
Driving along in the car on a pleasant evening earlier this week, I was happily humming along to the toe-tapping sounds of the sadly defunct deathcore stalwarts Anal Prolapse, when my wife leaned over and turned the CD player off and the radio on. Those...
Intelligence? It's in the Genes
New research by Professor Robert Plomin shows genes are more important than we like to think. How pleasant it is to live in the 21st century, enlightened, no longer scared of science. We can marvel at the diversity of life with David Attenborough; ...
Letters
EU diplomacy Sir: Lord Lamont's article 'The EU's scandalous new army of overpaid diplomats' (Politics, 20 July) revisits his oft-repeated views on the European Union. It also shows scant regard for the facts and for the reality of the EU's Common Foreign...
Long Life
The people of Rome have always liked to believe the worst of their bishop. When I was a correspondent in Rome more than 40 years ago, I was constantly assured by its citizens that the Pope not only had the evil eye but was known for a fact to be living...
Looking at Books
The sexy thing this summer, as the TV ads tell us, is the e-book. Forget those old 1,000page blockbusters, two of which would put you over Mr Ryan's weight limit. Sand, sun, surf - and Kindle. The traditional 'beach book' is as obsolete as the Victorian...
Low Life
'How was your journey?' I said. In summer, the place next door is let to visitors on a weekly basis. We share a driveway, and I generally get to meet whoever comes to stay. Last week's visitors were German. The father and the two teenage boys were tall,...
Music Neglected Maverick
When I was in my late twenties I discovered the joy of drinking alone. Well, perhaps 'joy' is putting it too strongly. I'd been thrown out of the flat I shared with one of my closest friends from university after a series of drunken rows about his social-climbing...
Must I Sponsor Your Misery?
Every Charitable donation now seems to come with a promise to suffer Within waving distance of blessed solid ground , Susan Taylor lost her bid to swim the Channel - and, with it, her life. She was 34 years old, brainy and beautiful, gifted and giving;...
Net Loss
It is not quite clear what Google did to David Cameron, but the Prime Minister seems to be exacting some sort of revenge. First, he wanted them to keep records of their customers' emails just in case his officials wanted to snoop later. Now he wants...
Opera Strauss's Swansong
Capriccio Royal Opera House Richard Strauss's operatic swansong Capriccio made an elegant and untaxing conclusion to the Royal Opera's season. It was done in concert, but there was a fair amount of acting, more from some of the participants than others....
Osborne's Indecent Proposal
The Chancellor is offering leftish council tennants like me a larger bribe than ever to abandon our principles. As a council house tenant who despises the idea of right-to-buy, I have to admit that George Osborne has put me in a quandary. Like all Tories,...
Plato on Today
A woman is invited to join the Today programme, and the chatteratae are immediately a-twitter on the subject of female equality. Unlikely as it seems, Plato was all in favour of it, as he argued in his Republic, and for a hysterically incorrect reason,...
Portrait of the Week
Home The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a boy, weighing 8lb 6oz, an heir to the crown, third in line to the throne. Great public excitement was expressed by taking photographs of an official notice of the birth posted on a gilt easel inside the...
Radio Celebrity Triumphs
The licence fee is both a blessing and a curse for the BBC. The clue is in that nickname - Aunty - both affectionate and slightly patronising. Aunty implies that the corporation is a friendly family affair, middle-of-theroad and just a teeny bit desperate...
Real Life
'Piccolo problemo.' Luigi, the hotel manager, delivered the fateful news as he served me my first lemon soda of the holiday on his sundrenched terrace. Francesco, an old flame, had discovered that my mother and I were booked in at the hotel this week...
Riding for Rwanda
Land of Second Chances by Tim Lewis Yellow Jersey, £16.99, pp. 304, ISBN 9780224091763 This is a book about Rwanda. It's a book about cycling. But it's not, in the end, a book about Rwandan cycling. Well, it is. Tim Lewis gives us the story of Adrien...
Royally Entertaining
Seeing the royal hack pack in full cry on Monday reminded me of the week I spent with the late James Whitaker, the Daily Mirror's chief royal correspondent. This was for a profile I was writing about him in a colour supplement in 1993. I t was a memorable...
Saints and Sinners
The Breath of Night by Michael Arditti Arcadia Books, £11.99, pp. 300, ISBN 9780957330450 There is always meat in Michael Arditti's novels. He is a writer who presents moral problems via fiction but is subtle and shrewd enough to know that 'issue books',...
Spectator Sport Can Anyone Save Aussie Cricket?
Insomniacs, invalids and cricket obsessives (step forward yours truly) were probably the only people who stumbled on it, but BBC4 put out a cracking drama from Down Under the other day called Howzat! It was subtitled 'Kerry Packer's War' and was a rumbustious...
Ste E R P I K E
Is there treachery at the top of Ukip? Westminster has been buzzing with the rumour that party treasurer Stuart Wheeler has laid money on the Conservatives to win an overall majority in 2015. Can it possibly be true? Mr Steerpike called Mr Wheeler who...
Television Public Lives
Watching Burton and Taylor (BBC4, Monday) I felt a bit like I do when I go to the theatre - or, more often, when friends have kindly taken me to the theatre. 'Are you enjoying it?' someone will ask. 'Oh, yes. Very much, ' I'll lie. For the truth is,...
The Contented Little Prince
On raising a royal baby I was delighted to hear that the Duchess of Cambridge had a healthy baby boy. The build-up to the royal birth during the last week has been phenomenal. Even my tiny 'Contented Little Baby' office has been affected by the birth...
The Good Iranian
If President Hasan Rouhani is anything like his mentor peace has another chance The installation of Hassan Rouhani as President of Iran next month heralds a new chapter for the country. It is clear that he was elected not only because it was felt -...
Walking in the Lake District
What is it about the Lake District? The weather is often filthy, the locals are famously surly ('sup up and sod off' reads the sign above the bar) and its lakes are dwarfed by the great waterways of the Alps. And yet I've been walking here more times...
Was Machiavelli a Machiavellian?
Niccolo Machiavelli: An Intellectual Biography by Corrado Vivanti Princeton University Press, £19.95, pp. 261, ISBN 9780691151014 The Garments of Court and Palace: Machiavelli and the World That He Made by Philip Bobbitt Atlantic Books, £22, pp. 238,...
When Party Leaders Depart from the Script
It is within the experience of even the humblest of MPs that those who oppose what you do will berate you with a great deal more passion than you will ever attract from those who support your plans. Any help you can give may be treated by its beneficiaries...
Wild Life
Kenya Home is beyond the perimeter of modern Kenya and way off the grid. When the ancient generator goes off in the evening we are left with a sky of untarnished constellations reflecting down on the star-spotted nightjars. Until morning we burn hurricane...
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