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 May 2008

A Career in the West
SERGEY PROKOFIEV : DIARIES 1915-1922, VOLUME II: THE BEHIND THE MASK translated by Anthony Phillips Faber, £30, pp. 775, ISBN 9780801447020 £24 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Was Sergey Prokofiev a better diarist than a composer? We embark on this...
American Beauty
The American Scene: Prints from Hopper to Pollock British Museum, until 7 September Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s Dulwich Picture Gallery, until 8 June Although the potent influence of all things American has had a pernicious not to say...
Ancient & Modern
Boris Johnson has vowed as mayor to emulate his hero Pericles, turning London into 'an education to Britain' as Athens was (Pericles claimed) to Greece. In one sense this will be difficult since the mayor has limited responsibilities, mainly transport...
An Inconvenient Truth
In its 6 October 2007 edition, The Spectator reported on Israel's air-strike on Syria exactly a month before. We noted that the 6 September raid 'may have saved the world from a devastating threat' and revealed that a senior British ministerial source...
Balls Wants a 100 per Cent Tax on Inherited Brains
Seemingly alone among my acquaintances, I see virtues in Ed Balls. He certainly is not mediafriendly, partly because he has the Brownian habit of trying to bury questioners under a barrage of verbiage, only some small portion of which is relevant to...
Battle Stories
Cass Pennant and his wife and son and son's girlfriend came round the other day for a cream tea. Cass used to be -- still is -- a top 'face' in the world of football hooliganism. When I was a kid I used to travel all over the country to watch West Ham...
Call That a Crisis?
Sir: Ian Hay Davison ('How to rescue a bank', 19 April) is right that the Northern Rock episode was far from unprecedented. But there is much more to say. The difficulties of a number of relatively minor institutions in the early 1990s, including National...
Changing Perspectives
'Could you account for everything that surrounds you in the course of a single second?' asks one of the characters in Peter Ackroyd's first play for radio, Chatterton: The Allington Solution (Thursday). 'All the intentions, the wishes, motives, perceptions,...
Cranial Craze
Babies scream. This is one of the first things you learn as a new parent (along with sleep matters, and labour hurts). What is more of a mystery is why. Is it hungry? Too tired? Overstimulated? Too hot, too cold? Angry? Isn't it amazing they can be...
Crescendo of Polyphony
As calling cards go, renaissance polyphony would not seem to promise a ticket to anywhere much, unless to heaven. When I started giving concerts in 1973, the received wisdom on the subject, even in the UK, was that whole concerts of it would never draw...
Diary
Vanity thy name is Nikki Bedi. I've just been for one of my biannual visits to my 'derm' Dr Nick Lowe. The Times recently called him Dr Botox. I've been his patient for 13 years; the first seven in Santa Monica, where my skin had begun to resemble a...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY Dear me! Why does everyone take what we say so literally? When Dave declared that he wanted to end Punch and Judy Politics he was speaking metaphorically. He didn't mean he was literally going to stop shouting abuse at Gordon. That would be silly....
Feeble Fidelio
Fidelio Teatro Real, Madrid For all its glories, Madrid is not a city that one associates with great opera performances, as one does Barcelona. Perhaps it's not surprising: it's only 11 years since the new Teatro Real opened, after delays on a British...
Fifties Glamour
New York So there I was, at the Waverly Inn, Graydon Carter's little toy, which has been the hottest ticket in the Big Bagel for two years, when the booth next to mine filled up with young people, all of them scruffy and dressed like the homeless, their...
Fighting His Corner
ISAAC ROSENBERG: THE MAKING OF A GREAT WAR POET by Jean Moorcroft Wilson Weidenfeld, £25, pp. 468, ISBN 9780297851455 £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This author said of her biography of the wealthy Siegfried Sassoon, 'A study of his life is...
For Formula One, Sex Sells; but Not the Way Max Likes It
Few sports have a sexier brand image than Formula One. Racecars snaking through the streets of Monaco past grandstands full of the world's most glamorous women; grid girls in tight T-shirts; top models such as Naomi Campbell and Heidi Klum hanging off...
Gordon Can Barely Speak English Either, So Why Don't We Swap Him for Sarkozy?
Say what you like about Nicolas Sarkozy, but he's a feisty little tyke, isn't he? Apparently, he put himself through an hour-long grilling on French TV last week. We've got our issues with the strange angry man in Downing Street, but the French, they...
Happy 60th Birthday, Israel: Well Done for Surviving
What would Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion have said if, on the day that he declared the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, he had known that six decades thence Israel would be encircled by its enemies, hopelessly outnumbered...
Happy Hour
'I'm going to look at the dandelions, ' I said. 'There's loads of them.' 'I'll come, ' she said. 'Come on. Hurry up, then. It's happy hour.' It was the end of the day and suddenly still and sunny. The star was taking a curtain call. Earlier there had...
His Nibs
As Samuel Johnson put it: 'No man was more foolish when he had not a pen in his hand, or more wise when he does.' A couple of years ago I was given a neat little Waterman -- midnight black and sleek as a beak -- and it transformed the way I write by...
Howling to the Moon
WOLF TOTEM by Jiang Rong, translated by Howard Goldblatt Hamish Hamilton, £17.99, pp. 527, ISBN 9780241143520 £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 During the Cultural Revolution Chairman Mao called for intellectual city-dwellers to spend time in...
Jane's Sex Problem
I'm always on the lookout for writers who've had well-paid, fun, fulfilled lives but I hardly ever find them. Jane Austen, for example. You'd think that the very least God would have given her in return for Emma and Pride and Prejudice would have been...
Knife Cuts
This week's column should be guestwritten by Hillary Clinton, who has shown herself a master at sinking the knife into Barack Obama's all-too-yielding flesh. But at home we can learn valuable lessons in wielding the knife from our own politicians. The...
Labour Politicians Are Already Preparing for Opposition. the Race to Succeed Gordon Is On
Over lunch about a year ago, I tried to tease out the intentions of someone tipped as a possible successor to Gordon Brown. He was feigning optimism and loyalty to the anointed leader-inwaiting, so I advanced some hypothetical scenarios involving various...
Last but Not Least
CATHERINE PARR: HENRY VIII's LAST LOVE by Susan James Tempus, £20, pp. 348, ISBN 9780752445915 £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 'Love is but a frailty of the mind when 'tis not to ambition joined . ' So Thomas Seymour , destined to be Catherine...
Not Even Science Fiction Foresaw the End of Fathers
'Down with Clause 14(2) (b)' is hardly a snappy slogan. It is not even as succinct as 'Abolish Clause 28 now!', the phrase that so resonated back in the days of the furore over the teaching of alternative lifestyles. But this dense little bit of the...
Oasis in a Foodie Desert
South Northamptonshire, where I live, has been for as long as I can remember an area of the deepest gastronomic gloom. There isn't a decent restaurant anywhere, and the pub food is unfailingly disgusting. It's not that the people here don't eat themselves...
Our New Puppet-Masters
McMafia: CRIME WITHOUT FRONTIERS by Misha Glenny The Bodley Head, £20, pp. 426, ISBN 9780224075039 £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This book is about large-scale organised crime. The Sicilian mafia was the prototype which gave its name to a whole...
Recent Crime Novels
Laura Wilson specialises in acutely observed psychological thrillers, in most cases set in the recent past. Stratton's War (Orion, £18.99) marks a departure for her in that it is the start of a series. Set in London during the phony war before the Blitz,...
Ruling the Waves
BREATH by Tim Winton Picador, £16.99, pp. 205, ISBN 9780330455718 £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Tim Winton is a prodigy among novelists, publishing his first novel when barely out of his teens and one of the great masterpieces of world fiction...
Say Farewell to Gentlemany Capitalism
Ever since social arrangements became complex enough to write into laws, we have regulated the behaviours that have the potential to mess up our common lives. Look at the Book of Deuteronomy. It's all there: health and safety (diet and hygiene), taxation,...
Sorry, but Family History Really Is Bunk
When I visited the National Archives at Kew last week the place was full of them, scurrying about with their plastic wallets in hand, a look of eager concentration on their faces. It was impossible to escape their busy presence as they whispered noisily...
Spectaor Mini-Bar Offer
SWIG of west London offers some of our most successful mini-bars, and when you try these bottles you will see why. They are exciting, adventurous, mostly New World wines, hard if not impossible to find anywhere else, all at reduced -- some very reduced...
Strip Clubs Are a City Girl's Sanctuary
It appears that women's rights activists have hijacked the credit crunch. There could be no better time for the Fawcett Society, led by their director, Katherine Rake, to launch an attack cannily entitled 'Sexism and the City' -- complete with a handy...
The Greatest Oddity of All
On the way to the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea I inquired of our driver, Mohammed, 'Will I need to cover my head, or wear long clothes when swimming in the sea?' He was puzzled, asking, 'But what for?' 'Well, you know -- to be respectful...' Thumping...
The Last Laugh
DEAF SENTENCE by David Lodge Harvill Secker, £17.99, pp. 294, ISBN 9781846551673 £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 David Lodge's writing career spans nearly 50 years. Coincidentally, my son was reading (and hugely enjoying) How Far Can You Go?...
The Specatator's Notes
If, when you read this, Boris Johnson is the Mayor of London, it will, I have just discovered, be thanks to me. When the idea of Boris's candidacy was first suggested, I spoke on the telephone to Mary Wakefield, who is now the deputy editor of The Spectator....
The Thrill of la Chasse
The arrival of the faster Eurostar to France will doubtless bring more people to Paris and the new bridge in the south is already cutting driving times to the fashionable Riviera. But for those with more time on their hands it is still possible in Burgundy...
The Wiki Man
If the climate-change debate has accomplished anything, it has proved people never say sorry. When I was about 12 the families of the people who now wince at every gramme of carbon we burn carried on their cars a yellow sticker reading 'Nuclear Power...
This Austrian Horror Gnaws at Our Fears about How We Treat Children
You may, by now, be losing track of Austrian nutters who lock women in basements. The latest is Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter Elisabeth imprisoned in a dungeon for more than 20 years and fathered a total of seven children with her. The last nutter...
Tired Old Friend
Iron Man 12A, Nationwide Iron Man is a Hollywood superhero blockbuster and probably the first of a franchise, even though it already feels like the 64th. These movies are always, in their way, whopping piles of junk, but they can be hugely enjoyable...
Twelve to Follow
Experiments don't always come off. Like the train company trying out new safety glass for drivers' cabins. It adapted technology from an aviation manufacturer which had developed new cockpit protection against bird strikes. But when the bird projectiles...
What Shakespeare Thought and Felt
Why did Shakespeare choose to publish his sonnets in 1609? This isn't the most difficult question they invite, nevertheless an interesting one. His long poems, The Rape of Lucrece and Venus and Adonis, were published soon after being written, but, though...
Why Frederick Was Great
So much of Germany is disappointing to the tourist, as indeed England must be. The reasons for this are similar: the most beautiful cities were bombed and are filled now with hideous buildings from the 1960s, the remnants of a more aesthetic past either...
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