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 March 2008

A Selection of Recent Paperbacks
Non-fiction: Stalingrad by Antony Beevor (Penguin, £9.99) Plain Tales from the British Empire by Charles Allen (Abacus, £14.99) You Cannot Live as I Have Lived and Not End up Like This by Terence Blacker (Ebury Press, £7.99) The Assassin's Cloak edited...
A Willingness to Believe Anything
COUNTERKNOWLEDGE: HOW WE SURRENDERED TO CONSPIRACY THEORIES, QUACK MEDICINE, BOGUS SCIENEC AND FAKE HISTORY by Damian Thompson Atlantic Books, £7.99, pp. 171, ISBN 9781843546757 £6.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 As I intend to dispute the entire...
Books
Few artists are such superb designers as Edward Bawden (1903-89). The 1930s represented a highpoint in book illustration and the allied design arts in Britain, but Bawden was perhaps their greatest exemplar, a consummate professional who also excelled...
Born Free
I met a wealthy widow in Monaco the other day who was so pressed for space to keep her designer frocks she paid $1.5 million to buy the apartment below her penthouse as a walk-in wardrobe. Sandi Tollman is an attractive blonde whose late husband made...
Both Sublime and Ridiculous
FABERGE'S EGGS by Toby Faber Macmillan, £17.99, pp. 324, ISBN 9781405053884 £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 What a great idea for a book, this is -- and how wellexecuted. Toby Faber has produced, at just the length to suit it, a hugely enjoyable...
Celebrating Renewal
Not Bach, or Beethoven, to celebrate the Easter season on Radio Three, but a series of programmes dedicated to Spring. Not that you would have discovered this from the Radio Times, which gave us a few lolloping rabbits and the strangest and most unappetising-looking...
Costly Charges
While J. Alfred Prufrock measured out his life with coffee spoons, I prefer to chart mine with the daily passing of one hundred pounds. Hence, and though there must be many ways to evaluate one's existence, I feel my days are best quantified as follows:...
Diary
It's not easy working out what to give Lord Lloyd-Webber for his 60th birthday. I mean he's got a few bob, hasn't he? Three ties and a shoehorn seem a bit inadequate. Particularly as his lordship flew 46 friends to Deià, a spectacularly beautiful village...
Flouting the Rules
MACHINE by Peter Adolphsen Harvill/ Secker, £10, pp. 88, ISBN 9781846551031 £8 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This intriguing novella tells the story of a drop of oil from its earlier form as the heart of a prehistoric horse to its combustion in...
Hancock's Hubris
Television feeds upon itself, which isn't surprising. Watching TV is by a huge margin our most popular -- or our most timeconsuming -- leisure activity. It's surprising there isn't more television about television. We have the occasional oleaginous...
His Mysterious Ways
ON GOD by Norman Mailer Continuum, £16.99, pp. 221, ISBN 9781847062864 £13.59(plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Norman Mailer spent his life hunting for a subject big enough to suit or satisfy his titanic ego. The posthumous On God suggests he finally...
I Know Why the Government Wants to Send Homosexuals Back to Iran to Be Hanged
Should we afford Iranian homosexuals political asylum in this country, or send them back to be hanged in their home country? I suppose there is a certain, dwindling, lobby in Great Britain which would argue we could hang them here and then bill Iran...
I Think I've Spotted the 'Trash and Cash' Merchants, Dining at Mayfair's Best Tables
A posse of hedge fund managers came round to The Spectator the other day, not to indulge in 'trash and cash' -- or the even less attractive 'pump and dump' -- but to participate in a breakfast discussion about how they are perceived by the media and...
Letting Down Mr B
New York City Ballet London Coliseum Despite the hype with which it was heralded, and an undeniably interesting programme of delectable choreographic offerings, the New York City Ballet season at the London Coliseum has not lived up to expectations....
Living to Tell the Tale
I happened to look up before I turned off the light just after 11 p. m. and there the snake was, writhing on the mosquito net just a few feet above me. It was not big -- no more than nine inches long -- but it looked to me, with its distinctive coffin-shaped...
Men Behaving Badly
Ashley Cole is a difficult man to warm to. The friends of Ashley, like the friends of Heather Mills, are small isolated groups emerging only after dark. But it's just possible that this tiresome berk may have sparked a revolution that will improve football....
Milburn: What's It All about, Gordon?
On the floor of Alan Milburn's office is a scroll signed by the Queen offering her 'wellbeloved councillor' £2,000 to be Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. It is a souvenir of his battles in the Blair-Brown days. He was appointed to this position...
Mozartian Magnificence
It's the best book about one of the greatest composers. I've devoted odd moments of this autumn and winter to absorbed intake of Hermann Abert's Mozart and am lost in admiration for its achievement, simultaneous with renewed wonder and delight at the...
Natural Beauty
Amazing Rare Things The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, until 28 September Do not be put off by the title of this show: in its barrow-boy eagerness to pull in the punters, such a naff title undermines the essential dignity of the exhibits (Leonardo...
Not Black and White
Sir: Marian L. Tupy deserves thanks for his excellent article ('Mugabe is the Mobutu of our time', 22 March), despite one seeming inaccuracy and an omission. Tupy says, 'It was 1980 and Zimbabwe had just gained independence from Britain. . . the first...
Of Vice and Men
Gstaad There's fear and loathing around here, and it has nothing to do with lousy snow conditions. Fear that UBS, the biggest Swiss bank, is in trouble, loathing for those whose greed brought this about. 'Reckless' is now a synonym for 'banker' as the...
Pistols at Dawn
THE DUEL: CASTLEREAGH, CANNING AND THE DEADLY CABINET RIVALRY by Giles Hunt I. B. Tauris, £20, pp. 214, ISBN 9781845115937 £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Early on the morning of 21 September 1809 two ministers of the crown in the Duke of Portland's...
Reading the Speech of MCain and Obama Has Made Me Ashamed of Our Political Class
Rather less than two years ago, bored and with time to kill at a Conservative party conference, I decided to do what is for a British journalist a rather unusual thing. I decided to read a whole speech, a long speech by a politician, a speech with no...
Reflexive and Reflective
Punch and Judy Linbury Studio La vie parisienne Guildhall School of Music and Drama Harrison Birtwistle's Punch and Judy is very much a piece of its time, the late 1960s, but returning to it after many years I was pleasantly surprised to find how much...
Rental Block
Dartmoor, said the box ad. One-bedroom cottage. Five hundred pounds a month. I called the number and an elderly woman answered. I'm interested in renting the cottage, I said. Is it still available? Are you single? she said. I am, I said. You don't have...
Rural Poor
Laikipia Gabriel Barasa was a week dead and already trouble was brewing. I could tell that as I stood at his grave on the farmstead. In 1966, Kenya's government allocated Gabriel 27 acres of land, subdivided from a farm previously owned by a colonial...
Sounding a False Note
CURRENCY WARS: FORGING MONEY TO BREAK ECONOMIES by John K. Cooley Constable, £18.99, pp. 350, £15.19 (plus £2.45p&p) 0870 429 6655 In this book John K. Cooley, who has spent a lifetime writing about international intrigue, investigates the subject...
Supplementary Benefits
Walking into the Young Vic these days is a hugely pleasurable experience, and it's even more of a pleasure to see the delight with which David Lan, its artistic director, looks around him at a theatre that has become so lively, busy and welcoming. The...
Taki Is Right: We Are All Still Snobs
I was recently upbraided in this magazine by your High Life columnist, a person I've liked and admired for many years, regarding a piece I'd written for Tatler on the ski resort of Gstaad. Taki can sometimes get painfully close to the bone, but he let...
Thanks for the Memories
As was so often the case, P.G. Wodehouse reached deep into the heart of the matter: collecting sporting memorabilia requires dedication, a willingness to speculate, a tolerance of risk and, too often, a certain amount of the 'iron in the soul' that...
The Abolition of Fatherhood
To date, the government's handling of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill has resembled what might be called 'Vicky Pollard politics'. Challenged to grant MPs a free vote on these far-reaching and ethically contentious proposals, the Prime Minister's...
The Soft Diplomacy of Belgian Chocolates
Strange things happen to countries hermetically sealed by their dictators. Under Hoxha, Albanians fell in love with Norman Wisdom. Under Lukashenko, the Belarusians have seen mandatory beauty contests nationwide, and as I arrive at the customs desk...
The Spectator's Notes
For some weeks, I was thinking of writing against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, but despair crept over me. What is the point, I asked myself, when opinion seems to have moved so decisively against the idea that a human being is an inviolable...
Thinking like a River
Century, £14.99, pp. 310, ISBN 9781846051692 £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 'Y ou can tell a river-lover. They cannot help but pause on a bridge to investigate what lies beneath.' It is hard to imagine anyone not doing that, but our author...
To Bring Peace to the Afghans, Talk to the Taleban
They do not like the F-word in Whitehall, but failure stares us in the face in southern Afghanistan. For three years we have deluded ourselves that we can defeat the insurgency in the Pashtun tribal belt through our much talked-about plan for a 'comprehensive...
Vintage Dining
The Chancellor is such a fool. If anything is going to drive us to drink it's the soaring cost of wine, beer and spirits. Are these muddle-headed puritans going to tax or prohibit every single one of our simple pleasures? There will soon be some diktat...
Waste of Life
Beaufort 15, Key Cities Beaufort is the Israeli war film that won the Silver Bear at Berlin and was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film and it is very, very dull. After I had seen it I sent a friend to see it who is much more war-literate...
We Live in a State of Emergency: And We Are Getting Angrier
The ills of Western democracies are afflicting the most liberal societies known to history. Among other things, Britain suffers from growing inequality, housing shortage, a falling quality of health provision, rising rates of many types of crime, a...
Which Watch?
A practical time-keeping necessity or a frivolous fashion accessory? The opinion on time-keeping devices seems to divide neatly into two camps: pretty versus practical. The divide, however, runs far deeper and has wider-reaching consequences. The watch...
Women on Top
Brilliant Women: 18th-Century Bluestockings National Portrait Gallery, until 15 June It's refreshing to discover from a new and beautifully judged exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery that there was a time when women were in charge -- successful,...
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