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 November 2011

A Banker's Redemption
I have a friend who brought shame on his family. Rupert Birch was educated at Westminster and the House. Descending from a long line of writers, artists and journalists, he was admirably qualified for a distinguished career of cultivated indigence....
After the Tyrants
What's the best way for a dictator to fall, wondered Owen Bennett-Jones on Saturday night's Archive on 4 (Radio 4, produced by Simon Watts). Is sending the deposed dictator into exile better for the recovery of the abused nation than execution? Would...
A Was an Artist
William Nicholson: Catalogue Raisonne of the Oil Paintings by Patricia Reed Modern Art Press/ Yale University Press, £95, pp. 672, ISBN 9780300170542 A pleasingly tactile canvas-like cover adorns this heavy book and proclaims its purpose; the boldly...
Barometer
Initial problems The leaders of the eurozone countries have hatched a plan to bundle up dodgy Greek government debt and sell it to the Chinese. Without any apparent sense of irony, the debt will be sold in the form of a Special Purpose Investment Vehicle...
Books of the Year
Our regular reviewers were asked to name the books they'd most enjoyed reading this year. More choices next week Philip Ziegler In her biography of William Morris Fiona MacCarthy opened a window onto the brilliantly talented yet curiously anaemic...
Call Me Crazy
As a former mental patient, I find being asked to 'embrace my diagnosis' far more offensive than words like 'bonkers' Mentally ill people can be troublesome but at least the rest of the population does not have to think about them much. The system is...
Crossed Wires
Too often, privatised utilities offer confusion without true choice Chris Huhne wants to know why we don't shop around more for our utilities. I'll give him one reason. The liberalisation of utility markets has created an impression of bewildering choice,...
Dear Mary - Your Problems Solver
Q. I appear in a reality television show - perhaps unreality would be a more accurate description. The erroneous impression that I am fabulously rich has been so well conveyed that, when having dinner with new acquaintances, I sense a certain anticipation...
Diary
How nice to find myself at the front of The Spectator rather than the back, where I make occasional appearances, albeit under a pseudonym, next to the crossword. I love these quirky, waste-of-time competitions, which at £25 for 150 words must make the...
Don't Blame the Greeks
One can't help but admire the Greeks. To be sure, they lied and cheated their way into the euro, and even the threat of a referendum on the bailout may yet tip the eurozone into a financial abyss. But there is something to be said for actually consulting...
Fireworks
There has been furious tournament activity around the world, while several of the elite were competing in the Sao Paolo/Bilbao grand slam. Matthew Sadler has returned to tournament chess with a bang; Kramnik has won a small but important tournament...
Get Well, Adele
The British singer-songwriter is the Vera Lynn of our times In his last months as prime minister, Gordon Brown sat down and wrote a fan letter to a young British singer-songwriter. 'With the troubles that the country's in financially, ' he told her,...
Heaven and Hell
Castor and Pollux English National Opera, in rep until 10 December Flavio English Touring Opera, until 23 November Rameau is the great baroque master who has yet to be properly rediscovered, at any rate in the UK. It isn't easy to see why, when...
High Life
New York According to Virgil, Libyans are 'a people rude in peace and rough in war'. The old boy wrote this a couple of thousand years ago, so we have to cut him some slack. And he was obviously not speaking about the present rabble. As far as I'm concerned,...
I'm Ready to Be Scared. Just Tell Me What to Be Scared Of
What I'm lacking, really, is any sense of the parameters. As I understand it, a best-case scenario involves the Greeks doing what they're told. Everybody else tightens their belts a bit and there's a bout of quite dispiriting inflation, followed by...
In the Back Bar of the King's Arms
My Dear Hugh: Letters from Richard Cobb to Hugh Trevor-Roper and Others edited by Tim Heald Frances Lincoln, £20, pp. 240, ISBN 9780711232402 Richard Cobb had many good friends, among them Hugh Trevor-Roper, who kept letters, and so made this selection...
Irony Is Everywhere
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides Fourth Estate, £20, pp. 486, ISBN 9780007441247 Jonathan Franzen. David Foster Wallace. Jeffrey Eugenides. Giant, slow-moving, serious writers, notching up about a novel per decade, all with their sights set...
It's So Annoying
So why do people feel compelled to start every sentence with 'so'? We live in the Age of So. Dot Wordsworth commented on it in these pages recently, though was lost for an explanation. The phenomenon was illustrated on Radio 5 Live's Drive programme...
Letters
Clock watching Sir: Peter Hitchens's cover story 'Hour of Surrender' (29 October) was predictable, reactionary and dangerously short-sighted. The argument for changing the clock is simple: daylight is a limited and valuable resource - to maximise the...
Low Life
Before I went to the party, I went to the pub for a pint. The pub was unusually quiet for a Saturday evening. Jay was on duty behind the bar. She leaned across the bar to embrace and kiss me. She had a terrible hangover, she said. I told her to have...
Making the Unnecessary Indispensable
Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson Little Brown, £25, pp. 656, ISBN 9781408703748 America has always idolised its entrepreneurs, even when it has proved a thankless task - if you can glamorise Bill Gates, you can glamorise anyone....
Mixing It
Fabulous Beast and Liam O Maonlai - Rian Sadler's Wells Louise Lecavalier/Nigel Charnock/ Edouard Lock Dance Umbrella, The Place The term 'fusion' is a trendy one, which hints at the interaction of ingredients from different backgrounds in many areas...
Mr Blair Goes to Kazakhstan
Western former leaders are making themselves available to corrupt regimes for PR purposes Ah, Tony Blair - you can't keep a good hustler down. One minute he's singing the praises of formaldehyde at the opening of a methanol power plant in Azerbaijan...
Next Bus
True or not, there is a persistent story about a former Duke of Devonshire who, seeing some silver napkin rings in Asprey's, asked his companion what they were for. 'Your grace, in some households they roll napkins inside these rings so that they can...
Odd Job
In Competition No. 2720 you were invited to supply a piece of prose written by a well-known author working in an unlikely context. Thanks to Brian Moore for drawing my attention to Samuel Beckett's flirtation with a career in grocery trade journalism,...
Organised Protest? Mass Alfresco Sulk, More Like
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has at last spoken on the issue of the great St Paul's Cathedral controversy, which has so far seen the departure of both the Dean of the cathedral and its canon. Dr Williams lamented the loss to the church...
Padding Out
One of the useful things about having teen and near-teenage kids is discovering what the vulgar masses watch. Last week, for example, during half-term, I got to see two hugely popular programmes which I would probably never have bothered watching on...
Potrait of the Week
Home St Paul's Cathedral decided not to take court action against anti-capitalist demonstrators who, since 15 October, had kept 200 tents pitched outside. The Corporation of London suspended its own legal action. The Rt Rev Graeme Knowles resigned...
Real Life
Sometimes I don't suspect the world has gone mad, I know it. For example, I took a black cab home from the theatre the other night and, as we passed Tooting Common, the driver wound down his window and threw a handful of raw sausages out of it. I tapped...
Rome and the World
The title of Boris's forthcoming book on the people of London claims that it is 'the city that made the world'. Whoa back, steady on, now. Surely Boris means Rome, centre of a vast ancient empire, not to mention the worldwide Catholic Church? When the...
Sensation Seeker
John Martin: Apocalypse Tate Britain, until 15 January For far too long, John Martin (1789-1854) has been dismissed as 'Mad' Martin, the prophet of doom. In the eyes of many, this unacademic painter was a grotesque curiosity, producing colossal pictures...
Some Mothers Are Worse . .
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson Cape, £14.99, pp. 230, ISBN 9780224093453 In the 26 years since the publication of her highly acclaimed first novel, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson has proved herself...
Spectator Mini-Bar
The great thing about The Spectator is that it services all of your wine needs, from the European classics through to happy wines for daily glugging. Or, as Christmas approaches, for gatherings where you want to serve really nice bottles without emptying...
Stealing Beauty
At the heart of Angela Rosengart's art collection is a series of striking portraits by Picasso that capture her as a young woman. William Cook went to meet her I'm standing alongside Angela Rosengart, in a room full of portraits Picasso drew of her,...
. . . Than Others
Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller Simon & Schuster, £14.99, pp. 238, ISBN 9780857201270 There is always a special risk, says Alexandra Fuller, when putting real-life people into books. Not all those who recognised...
The Amis Papers
Sam Leith is disappointed that our most famous living novelist remains an enigma Martin Amis: The Biography by Richard Bradford Constable & Robinson, £20, pp. 418, ISBN 97871849017015 Where's Invasion of the Space Invaders? That's what I want...
The Cult of Corpses
The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses by Paul Koudounaris Thames & Hudson, £29.95, pp. 224, ISBN 9780500251782 In one Capuchin monastery in Sicily, the socalled Palermo Catacombs, locals used to buy a niche where...
The Euro Is Killing Europe - Can the Coalition Turn the Chaos to Its Advantage?
Last week's rebellion by David Cameron's backbenchers in support of an EU referendum ended eight years of peace in the Tory party on the European question. Now, the offer by the Greek Prime Minister of a referendum on the bailout package - designed...
The Generation Game
'Intergenerational fairness' is simply the latest cover for envy Towards the end of last month, a gang of youthful policy wonks started beating up the elderly. This is something we will have to get used to. The proposal from the Intergenerational Foundation...
The Ripple Effect
How It All Began by Penelope Lively Fig Tree, £16.99, pp. 248, ISBN 9781905490882 Penelope Lively's new novel traces the consequences of a London street mugging. As the culprit sprints away with a handbag, the victim, Charlotte, a retired widow,...
The Spectator's Notes
It being All Saints' Day on Tuesday, we sang 'For all the saints' in church: 'Oh, may thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold, "Fight as the saints, who nobly fought of old" And win with them the victor's crown of gold.' Meanwhile, the Dean and Chapter...
To Quell This Divisive Surge in Top Pay, We Need Less Transparency, Not More
'The boom in top people's pay is gathering momentum, ' I wrote before some of you were born - those of you who are still at school, that is. I went on to quote a leading industrialist of the day: 'Shareholders won't be able to stop it. Moderation will...
Triple Bill
Sound It Out 12A, Key Cities Jack Goes Boating 5, Key Cities The Future 12A, Key Cities Three films for you this week, amazingly, and they are all at the smaller, independent end of the spectrum because I've had my fill of mainstream blockbusters,...
Voices from beyond the Grave
AfterWord edited by Dale Salwak University of Iowa Press, £17.50, pp. 229, ISBN 9781587299896 'Conjuring the Literary Dead' is the subtitle of this outlandish, sometimes beguiling book. Its editor, Dale Salwak, coaxed 19 writers - of the status...
What's in a Name?
There was a time when 'classical music' meant something you could put your finger on. It denoted the musical period between roughly 1750 and 1800, when Haydn, Mozart and many others wrote symphonies, concertos and instrumental pieces with a sense of...
Wild Life
Kenya I am proud of Kenya for taking on Muslim extremists in southern Somalia. Rather wisely, the Kenyan military has so far prevented hacks from reaching the field. But for anybody in the outside world who cares, this is not a new battle. Operations...
Worst Possible Scenario
After America: Get Ready For Armageddon by Mark Steyn Regnery Publishing, £19.95, pp. 424, ISBN 9781596981003 There are people sent to depress us, and prominent among them is Mark Steyn, whose speciality is apocalyptic predictions. Following his...
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.