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 September 2010

Amid the Encircling Gloom
THE MASQUE OF AFRICA: GLIMPSES OF AFRICAN BELIEF by V. S. Naipaul Picador, £20, pp. 325 ISBN 9780307270733 Africa is the setting for several of V. S. Naipaul's finest fictional stories - In a Free State, A Bend in the River, Half a Life. And there...
Ancient & Modern
Only time will tell whether Tony Blair was wise to publish his memoirs. The first Roman emperor Augustus, who came to power in 31 BC after a bloody civil war, abandoned his. His purpose seems to have been to answer his critics, who were accusing him...
Bark: An Intimate Look at the World's Trees
by Cedric Pollet, translated by Susan Berry Frances Lincoln, £30, pp. 192, ISBN 9780711231375 This book is a work of art by an artistic photographer. It deals mainly with a large minority of the world's trees whose bark, as the trunk expands, peels...
Bliss with Stravinsky
Renard; Mavra; The Rake's Progress Glyndebourne Anyone who was lucky enough to go to Glyndebourne on one of three days last week had the option of seeing not only the opera they had booked for, but also, before it, a couple of brief works by Stravinsky...
Broken Trust
'You can't get better than a KwikFit fitter. We're the boys to trust!' I remember the TV advert well. When I was a child, the sight of the dancing men in blue overalls made me look forward to being old enough to drive a car so I could go to the cheerful...
Comfort-Zone Aniston
The Switch 12A, Nationwide As a rule, Richard Burton acted stupendously well in stupendously bad films. Jennifer Aniston has mastered half that duality. The Switch, her latest film, is comfort-zone Aniston: a charmless rom-com with a crass attempt...
Cricket Needs Pakistan
When the South African captain Hansie Cronje was accused of match-fixing ten years ago - the beginning of cricket's current crisis - the overwhelming reaction was shock, even disbelief. We clung to the hope (at best) that the whole story might be fabricated,...
Dark Satanic Thrills
THE ANATOMY OF GHOSTS by Andrew Taylor Michael Joseph, £18.99, pp. 467, ISBN 9780718147518 If you have not yet gone on holiday, do pack The Anatomy of Ghosts. It is excellent airport reading; and this is no trivial recommendation. Airports are where...
Diary
I have of late, for the most cheerful of reasons*, been getting up early to work. All well and good - deadlines have been met - but now I can't break the worm-catching habit. Long before dawn the eyelids flutter open and the brain begins its spinning...
Ed Miliband May Win the Labour Leadership, but He Will Never Take the Country
Other people's families are always strange. How much stranger when the idea of a political fight within a family is no longer a metaphor. Ed Miliband recently told of his parents' journey to England and his gratitude for their refuge here. This dramatic...
Have Pity on Pakistan
A life ban for the bowler Mohammad Amir would do little to punish the real villains, says Ed Smith. And now, more than ever, his country needs hope Cricket is often said to be a game of inches. An inch is the difference between a fatal edge to the...
Healing Hands
I turned up at Trixabell's massage studio in a lather. It was a hot morning and I'd been rushing. Sweat was trickling down the sides of my face and soaking through my shirt in the usual places. I'd better have a shower, I said. There wasn't one, she...
I Don't Think Tony Blair Has Written the Version of His Memoirs That I Want to Read
I don't care about Tony Blair's book. I'm sorry, but I just don't. Unless I really think about it, it's frankly quite hard to remember who the man was. He's just become this pious lurking bit-part character in tedious books by other people that I've...
If Only the Chilean Miners Could Be Replaced by Double-Dip Doomsters
If life was a Doctor Who series and I was the scriptwriter, I would have the courageous Chilean miners teleported instantaneously to the surface - and replaced at the bottom of the collapsed shaft by 33 gloomy economists and market commentators. They...
I Have Wasted My Life Working, and I Don't Want My Kids to Do the Same
'Boy, ' I said. 'I don't often give you serious father-to-son advice, do I?' 'I dunno.' 'Well, I'm about to give you some now. Maybe the most important advice I'll ever give you. You've got to learn to surf.' 'I don't want to.' 'Tough. It's part of...
In a Jam
In Competition No. 2662 you were invited to submit a poem composed in the midst of a travel hold-up. The entry, a magnificent collective letting-off-of-steam, was peppered with exasperated references to apoplectic rage, bursting bladders and bickering...
In the Steps of Larkin
Last month, when unveiling my all-time top ten favourite albums, I predicted that the list would probably have changed by the autumn. In fact, it changed within days of filing my copy. For along came Larkin's Jazz, which I think is the finest, most...
Jealous of the Gypsies
There's nothing new about this summer's outbreak of gypsy-bashing, writes Clover Stroud, who puts it down to our secret wish to enjoy the same freedoms they do It has not been a good summer for gypsies. In France, President Sarkozy has begun his purge:...
Letters
U and Pre-U Sir: I am, as a student approaching the A2 year, sick with envy at the small number of my friends lucky enough to be currently taking the Pre-University course. Not only did John Witheridge ('An answer to the A-level debate - and Gary Lineker',...
Opiate for the Masses
One of the few things I respect about mainstream TV is how utterly shallow and addictive it is. In many ways it's like crack: it doesn't pretend that it's good for you but it gets you to where you want to go way more effectively than tofu or wheatgrass...
Pick Up a Penguin
What must it have been like for Allen Lane to wander into a bookshop in the 1940s and see the serried ranks of pale-blue, cerise, green, yellow, dark-blue and grey Penguins on display, knowing that he was responsible for all of them? His genius idea...
Potrait of the Week
Mr Tony Blair, the former prime minister, published his political memoir, A Journey, in which he said that Mr Gordon Brown drove him to drink, but not an 'excessively excessive' amount: 'The curse of Gordon was to make these people co-conspirators,...
Prodigal's Return
Oh, how we love a prodigal who makes it. And oh how quickly we will dismiss those who remain on the wastrel path. A year ago this week, Kieren Fallon, the six times Champion jockey and winner of 15 Classics, started riding again in Britain for the first...
Red Czar
Mikhail Botvinnik was the Red Czar of Soviet chess. On and off he held the World Championship from 1948 until 1963, when deposed definitively by Tigran Petrosian. It has taken a long time but a full account of this match has now been produced, with...
Rites and Wrongs
As Pope Benedict's visit approaches, Katie Grant, a cradle Catholic, feels torn between her loyalty to the Church and anger at its callous insensitivity In 2005, shortly after Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, my then 19-year-old daughter...
Ruling the Planet
THE FACEBOOK EFFECT: THE INSIDE STORY OF THE COMPANY THAT IS CONNECTING THE WORLD by David Kirkpatrick Virgin, £11.99, pp. 153, ISBN 9780753522745 'Facebook', says the excitable author of this hero-gram, 'may be the fastest-growing company of any...
Science Fictions
What is it about international organisations that makes them so impervious to criticism? If the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were a British ministry or quango, it is inconceivable that its chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, would still...
Seaside Renaissance
Roderick Conway Morris on how Genoa's glorious Villa del Principe has been brought back to life Palazzo Doria Pamphilj houses the most important private art collection in Rome. But the family possesses another treasure, the Villa del Principe in Genoa....
Shared Affection
Victoria & Albert: Art & Love The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, until 31 October We all know that the Victorians were adept at making their own entertainment, singing round the piano or essaying often rather competent watercolours, but...
Spectator Mini-Bar Offer
This week's mini-bar comprises two pairs of delicious French wines, the first brace made by an English couple working in Bordeaux. There is a long association between our country and Bordeaux, dating back to Eleanor of Aquitaine, when the King of England...
Taki
I used to keep Bushido in the port of St Tropez but moved to Palma in Spain because the Frogs kept upping the ante. In other words the fix was in. Pay more for your berth or we'll give it to a Russian. The port captain's name was Fauconnier, Falconer...
The Motherland's Tight Embrace
A MOUNTAIN OF CRUMBS: GROWING UP BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN by Elena Gorokhova Windmill Books, £8.99, pp. 323, ISBN 9780099537649 At nursery school, along with her warm milk, little Lena Gorokhova imbibed the essence of survival in the post-war Soviet...
The Rise and Rise of Blair Inc
This memoir is not a requiem for Tony Blair's past, says Fraser Nelson. It's a manifesto for his future - as a highly paid freelance statesman with no electorate to hold him back Many prime ministers view their memoirs as their pension, but Tony Blair...
The Worst-Written Memoir by a Serious Politician
It is bizarre. As he often demonstrated in the House of Commons, Tony Blair knows how to use words. He could also have mobilised a team to help him write his memoirs. Instead, it is all his own work, and the words mutinied. This book is not just badly...
We Are Being Engulfed by the Moronic Inferno of the Internet
The outrage against Mary Bale is ineffably stupid, says Rod Liddle. We would be better off ignoring people who go online to vent their idiotic anger Well, thank the Lord there were no CCTV cameras around when I caught Mr Tibbles in my garden a few...
Young and Beautiful
Spetses I was filled with unbearable nostalgia. There I was again, boating, swimming, sunning, drinking wine with good friends, feeling the ecstasy that only a Mediterranean afternoon can arouse in me. Transforming one's feelings into language is difficult....
Your Problems Solved
Dear Mary Q. My teenage son, who has started a new school, wants to bring some friends to stay over an exeat. He is keen not to alienate these new friends by appearing to have overly authoritarian parents, but I have reason to believe they will bring...
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