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 October 2009

A Colossal Achievement
OPERA FOR EVERYBODY: THE STORY OF ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA by Susie Gilbert Faber, £25, pp. 703, ISBN 9780571224937 £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 There is a slightly odd but pleasingly old-fashioned feel to the design for the dustjacket of this...
Africa's Time Has Come
You couldn't ask for a more devoted fan of Fabio Capello than me, but thank the Lord for that over-excitable defeat in the Ukraine last weekend. While the browfurrowed Italian has turned an underachieving bunch of good players into a remarkably highperformance...
A Lost Civilisation
THE COUNTRY FORMERLY KNOWN AS GREAT BRITAIN: WRITINGS 1989-2009 by Ian Jack Cape, £18.99, pp. 325, ISBN 9780224087353 £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 It's odd that a writer as excellent and long-established as Ian Jack hasn't ever written...
A New Reform Act
No sooner did parliament return than it was embroiled in the latest instalment of the expenses saga. The scandal is, by now, wearily familiar - but it has lost none of its capacity to shock. It is understandable that MPs feel aggrieved by the retrospective...
A Starring Role for the Tsar
RUSSIA AGAINST NAPOLEON by Dominic Lieven Allen Lane, £30, pp. 617, ISBN 9780713996371 £24 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In reviewing Robert Harvey's The War of Wars: The Epic Struggle Between Britain and France, 1793-1815 in these pages three...
Best Place to Be
Someone somewhere recently asked me in a public forum whether I would prefer to be a singer, the conductor or a member of the audience at the concerts we give. He himself was of the opinion that he would rather be a singer, saying that the music we...
Bottom of the Barrel
Couples retreat 15, Nationwide Couples Retreat and, if you have an ounce of sense, so too will you. Retreat from this movie, and retreat as fast as your little legs will carry you. I didn't actually intend to see this film this week. I intended to see...
But Then the Snow Turned to Rain
SEASONAL SUICIDE NOTES by Roger Lewis Short Books, £12.99, pp. 199, ISBN 9781906021764 £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 My daughter when small came home from school one night singing these extraordinary lines: 'Fortune, my foe, why dost...
Chasing the Ratings
In Competition No. 2617 you were invited, in the wake of Big Brother's demise, to submit a proposal for a new TV reality show guaranteed to pull in the punters. This assignment was an invitation to plumb the depths of bad taste. And plumb them you did....
Dear Mary
Q. I recently went to a birthday dinner. The tables were very big and round, meaning that conversation was only really possible with the people sitting on either side of you. The man on my right, however - someone I had never met before - had something...
Diary
Santa Barbara It was a long way to go for a first night: the 10-hour flight to Los Angeles, then a two-hour drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Barbara, a place fondly, but somewhat inaccurately, known as the Californian Riviera - fine beaches...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY Oh dear. What a sad day. Desperate calls from upset MPs to the Expenses Helpline. Many of them elderly and beside themselves with worry about how they are going to make the repayments. Some are even having to contemplate horrendous sacrifices...
Ferocious Fauna
Two things puzzle me about vegetarians. Whenever they come to visit us, we always provide a vegetarian dish for them. But if you go to a vegetarian's home, no one says, 'I know you won't like this lentil and halloumi lasagne, so we've cooked you steak...
Full of Heart
New York When A Moveable Feast was published in 1964 I had been living in Paris for six years. I was 27 and in love with Papa Hemingway's favourite city, one that he described as 'a mistress who always has new lovers'. One didn't speak this way back...
Golden Summit or False Horizon?
Scott Payton asks why the classic safe-haven commodity is still soaring even though financial panic has subsided Should you ever buy any investment - a share, a commodity, an acre of land - when its price stands at an all-time high, having risen by...
Greens, like Nazis, See the Entire World through the Prism of One Big Idea: Theirs
The Kindly Ones - Les Bienveillantes if you read it in French, which I didn't - is probably the most brilliant piece of trash fiction ever written. I dedicated most of the summer to Jonathan Littell's much-praised, internationally bestselling blockbuster...
Happy 30th Birthday Viz
Sinclair McKay celebrates 30 years of Britain's funniest, sharpest and most irreverent cartoon. David Cameron need look no further for a perfect picture of broken Britain Some night soon on the peaceful back streets of Bloomsbury, you might want to...
How Long Will It Be before the Word 'Voting' Is No Longer Associated with 'Governing'?
How long will it be, do you reckon, before the connotations of the word 'voting' are all about reality television, and hardly about government at all? Not long, I'd say. With President Blair, with goats and General Dannatt, I worry that voting and government...
How the Tories Plan to Avoid a Cultural Beating
Mud sticks. In politics everyone remembers the charge and not the denials - something Labour has exploited for years. Typically, it would denounce the Conservatives for being heartless, privileged bigots who care nothing for the poor, eat foxes and...
Islamic Finance Stakes Its Claim
Banking governed by Koranic principles is a rare growth market in a shaken financial world, says Edie Lush - but is it really more stable than its Anglo-Saxon equivalent? The clash of civilisations between the Muslim world and the West takes many forms....
It's Still a Good Thing
THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS edited by Eizabeth Knowles OUP, £30, pp. 1155, ISBN 978019923173 £24 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 A good dictionary of quotations is part-reference book, part-anthology. It is a place where you go to check things...
Karl Marx Got It Right
THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR by John Keegan Hutchinson, £25, pp. 394, ISBN 9780091794835 £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Whether the refusal to allow the Confederate states the right to selfdetermination, flying as it did in the face of the Declaration...
Letters
No Sants-culotte Sir: I was disheartened but, in these days of sloppy journalism, hardly surprised to read Charles Moore's snide remarks (The Spectator's Notes, 10 October) about Hector Sants's apparently palatial house in Oxford. I have no particular...
Love Works
It seems that marriage and success go together as surely as love and marriage. A new study by the Office for National Statistics suggests that married men are 33 per cent more likely to find another job after being sacked than men who are single or...
Mixed Message
Turner and the Masters Tate Britain, until 31 January 2010 Professor David Solkin, this exhibition's curator, opens his introductory chapter in the catalogue (a substantial tome, packed with scholarly exegesis, special exhibition price £19.99 in paperback)...
Moving Pictures
Dance Umbrella Cloud Gate Theatre of Taiwan, Barbican Theatre Cabane P3, University of Westminster Cloud Gate Theatre of Taiwan is not new to the UK dance scene. Yet, as stressed in an inflated, selfcelebratory programme note, Wind Shadow marks a neat...
New Departures
THE COMPLAINTS by Ian Rankin Orion, £18.99, pp. 429, ISBN 9780752889511 £15.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 DARK ENTRIES by Ian Rankin, illustrated by Werther Dell'Edera Titan Books, £14.99, pp. 216, ISBN 97818485663421 £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p)...
Philosopher in Transit
A WEEK AT THE AIRPORT: A HEATHROW DIARY by Alain de Botton Profile, £8.99, pp. 107, ISBN 9781846683596 £7.19 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Where do you meet a benign sho e sh in e , a prostitute writing a thesis on an obscure Eastern European poet,...
Plazas in Pain
Letters of a Love Betrayed Linbury Studio Carmen Royal Opera House Wozzeck Royal Festival Hall A hectic operatic week, three down and two (to be reviewed next week) to go, began lamentably with what I'm in danger of coming to think of as the archetypical...
Portrait of the Week
Mr Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, is to pay back £12,415.10p that he claimed in expenses between 2004 and 2008; he had received a letter, along with all other MPs, on the day Parliament returned from its summer recess, from Sir Thomas Legg, aged...
Ready for Anything
Henrietta Bredin talks to Simon McBurney about his latest challenge: doing Beckett for the first time I am standing in Simon McBurney's kitchen, discussing pigs (he's not only kept them but also slaughtered them, butchered them and made over 20 different...
Safer Savings and Clearer Consciences?
Janice Warman looks at two 'ethical' banks that are drawing customers away from the shamed high-street giants The credit crunch left most of our major banks in disarray, not to say disgrace. But it has been remarkably good for some of their smaller...
Taste the Difference
It's quite unusual to eat similar things together. If we're having carrots, for example, it's normal to eat only one type of carrot, but anyone who was to taste three completely different carrots one after the other - say a biodynamic baby carrot, a...
The Fact That Jacqui Smith Got off Scot-Free Says It All
Rod Liddle is appalled that, after knowingly swindling the taxpayer, the former home secretary faced no punishment at all. It seems unbelievable after all their grandstanding - but MPs really don't think they have done anything wrong 'We have got to...
The Generals Must Share the Blame
It's fashionable for military top brass to attack politicians when things go wrong. But, says Paul Robinson, many of the army's problems are of their own making In recent years, failure to 'support the troops' has become the ultimate political sin....
The Great Switch
Prince Philip is right about modern television sets. He says they are poorly designed. If one needs to adjust one's set, he told a television interviewer, one has to get down on all fours with magnifying glass, instruction manual, and a torch between...
The Man Who Saved Oxford University
As the controversial Dr Hood stands down as vice chancellor, those of us who resented his attempts to modernise should offer him our heartfelt apologies, says Justin Cartwright The Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford is an astonishing building, designed by...
The Quiet Agony of the Recession Generation
Each generation is defined by the economic experience of its youth, says Matthew Lynn. And Britain is breeding angry, thrifty cynics who are beginning to wonder if they were mis-sold university education It's easy to spot a member of the recession generation....
The Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards 2009
Our political representatives have returned to Westminster, and the air is still thick with the Ghosts of Expenses Past. As MPs are ordered to pay back their more extravagant claims - with most of them complaining as they do so - you'd be forgiven for...
The Spectator's Notes
People are missing what is wrong with Sir Thomas Legg's inquiry into MPs' expenses. It is not so much that it is unfairly retrospective: after all, MPs were supposed to decide themselves what was appropriate in the discharge of their parliamentary duties,...
The Teacher You Wish You'd Had
THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH by Richard Dawkins Bantam Press, £20, pp. 470, ISBN 9780593061732 £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Sometimes you can become too well known. For years Richard Dawkins was a more than averagely successful media don, an...
Twenty-Five Years on, the Game Begins Again
Richard Northedge says the gimmicks used to sell BT will soon have to be dusted off for RBS and Lloyds In the autumn of 1984, solicitors were allowed to advertise for the first time, but if the public failed to spot their modest announcements it was...
We Have Become a Nation of Shysters
Labour has such a blind spot for business that it cannot distinguish between honest enterprises and near-criminal scams like car-clamping, says Ross Clark Power cuts and uncollected rubbish form most people's memories of the economic debacle that was...
We're All Shanghai Gamblers Now
You might think yourself a fairly cautious investor. Maybe you dabble in a few shares and unit trusts, probably in major, well-established markets such as the US, Japan or Germany, as well as London. Emerging markets, and in particular the wild frontier...
What Does It Feel like to Be Young, Gifted and Grounded?
David Beaumont, 21 'I'd thought that a final year economics student at the LSE would get a job easily. But I've found it impossible to get even an unpaid internship. My plan after graduation is to get out: to travel, funded by a low-paid job. Getting...
Yiddish Vitality
Schmooze, schlep, schlock - all words that have such an evocative, onomatopoeic meaning and all from Yiddish, a language without a country, an army or a navy, which refuses to die even after one-third of its native speakers were annihilated by the Nazis....
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