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 2006

A Hercules of the Isle
CALUM'S ROAD by Roger Hutchinson Berlinn, £9.99, pp. 196, ISBN 1841584479 . £7.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 On a good day there can be no finer view than that from the Applecross peninsula across the Inner Sound to Raasay and the Cuillins;...
An Ancient Modernist
Mantegna Padua, Verona, Mantua, until 14 January 2007 In 1944 an Allied bomb fell into the circular courtyard of the ancient Romaninspired house that Andrea Mantegna had built for himself in Mantua, bouncing off its frescoed frieze. It failed to detonate....
'Anti-Americanism Is a Form of Fascism'
What is most unusual about Bernard-Henri Lévy is not that he wears his white shirts open almost all the way down to his bellybutton; one would expect little else of a French philosopher who grew up hooked on the deconstructionist theories of Jacques...
A Trail of Blood and Bigotry
SACRED CAUSES : RELIGION AND POLITICS FROM THE EUROPEAN DICTATORS TO ALQAEDA by Michael Burleigh HarperPress, £25, pp. 557, ISBN 0007195745 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This is an even better book than the author's erudite, dense and sprawling...
Beware of Misleading Labels
LIONHEART AND LACKLAND by Frank McLynn Cape, £20, pp. 592, ISBN 0224062441 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 In the great prize-giving of history, there are only two truly 'bad' kings of England: King John and James II. Or three if you count...
Cameron Has Substance - but It's Nonsense
Maybe The Spectator will turn out to be correct that the Tories are doing everything right (Leading article, 7 October). There is always the knock-down argument against internal critics: David Cameron is following New Labour's successful recipe, New...
Carr's Coup
Dawson Carr is the approachable but authoritative curator of Later Italian and Spanish Painting at the National Gallery. Talking to him you soon sense a total engagement with his work. He was born in Miami and worked at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles...
Cheap Tricks
The telephone rings and a downmarket voice greets me with a cheery hello. 'This is Peter McKay, your old friend, ' says the bubbly one. 'We hear that Vanity Fair paid for your party.' For any of you unfamiliar with McKay, he is a scandalpurveyor of...
Colour Coding
The recently concluded Kandinsky exhibition at Tate Modern was widely appreciated for showing how music influenced the artist's move towards abstraction. Two concerts featuring seminal compositions by Schoenberg were held alongside talks which explained...
Correcting Received Opinions
EUROPE EAST AND WEST by Norman Davies Cape, £20, pp. 318 , ISBN 0224069241 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Norman Davies is always at his best challenging received ideas and inherited perceptions, and the areas covered by these essays provide...
Diary
'History in the making can be most exhausting.' When I first read these words -- by Noël Coward -- I immediately assumed they applied to the writing of it. Having just finished a long book about the loves of Louis XIV, I thought I knew all about that...
Diary of a Notting Hill Nobody
MONDAY NIGHT Am in spare room at Dave and Sam's! On 'webcameron' duty which means I have to follow leader everywhere, and help with that internet thingy he does. There's a huge team of people here, fussing about. As Jed says, spontaneity doesn't come...
Don't Attack the Veil: Attack the Misogyny That Created It
Here's how far things have moved in such a short space of time. Jack Straw, in an attempt to generate attention (and approval) for his quest to become deputy leader of the Labour party, lets it be known that he doesn't like talking to Muslim women who...
Don't Leave It All to Gordon by Mistake
If there is one thing worse than paying inheritance tax, it is discovering at the graveside that an expensive IHT-avoidance scheme has proved a waste of money, in addition to what you are going to have to pay HM Revenue & Customs anyway. A family...
E for Effort in a Hard School
CHRISTINE FALLS by John Banville writing as Benjamin Black Picador, £12.99, pp. 411, ISBN 0330445316 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Somebody, somewhere, must be writing a PhD exploring why authors of literary fiction so often try their...
Enjoy It While It Lasts
My friend Mitch rings up. 'Guess what my album of the year is?' He is trying to fool me into suggesting Donald Fagen's Morph the Cat, for Mitch and I are both Steely Danoraks of long standing. But I know he was a little disappointed by the album, and...
Every Home Should Have a Hedge Fund
Dave wins millions on the lottery, and the first thing he does is sprint down to the nearest Ferrari showroom and jump into the latest model with extra-deep bass woofers and a little fold-down table for his can of Red Bull. His mother spits out her...
Gates to, or Escapes from, Reality
A BOOK ADDICT'S TREASURY by Julie Rugg and Lynda Murphy Frances Lincoln, £9.99, pp. 236, ISBN 0711226857 . £7.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This anthology is a sheer delight, full of good things. It gets off to a splendid start. On its dustcover...
Getting on and Getting By
NO! I DON'T WANT TO JOIN A BOOKCLUB by Virginia Ironside Penguin/Fig Tree, £12.99, pp. 247, ISBN 057122637X . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 This is the sketchy diary of a 60year-old woman with an amusing, runaway pen, written over 19 months....
Going for Gold
PATHFINDERS : A GLOBAL HISTORY OF EXPLORATION by Felipe Fernández-Armesto OUP, £25, pp. 428, ISBN 0199295905 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Trying to work out why he had not reached India after crossing the Atlantic in 1492, Christopher Columbus...
Journey of the Soul
It is a Monday morning, after a week's run of Summer and Smoke, and following the example of Tennessee Williams I have just brewed myself a coffee pot of liquid dynamite, and sitting down immediately after breakfast I am hoping its pressure on my heart...
Keanu Reeves Taught Me the Magic of Python
Some years ago I was writing a script with John Cleese in Los Angeles and we went for dinner at a buzzy brasserie called Chaya. When the waiter brought our steaks he also brought a $200 bottle of St Francis Cabernet Sauvignon. We hadn't ordered it;...
Labour Is Losing on Most Fronts to Cameron, Hence Its New Cultural War over Islam
The House of Commons has scarcely been back a week and already opportunities are falling from the sky for David Cameron. Government failures are spectacular and ubiquitous. Prisons are overflowing, hospital wards are closing and unemployment is rising....
Leadership, Clarity and a Very Thick Skin
If you get up early enough you might spy the solid frame of Allan Leighton running round one of the London parks before he pays a surprise visit to a Royal Mail delivery office. The reaction of the postmen and women is usually the same. 'They always...
Magic and Mischief
THE LADIES OF GRACE ADIEU AND OTHER STORIES by Susanna Clarke Bloomsbury, £25, pp. 256, ISBN 0747587035 . £20 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Susanna Clarke taps enchantingly into a vein of folkloric gold. She presents our world as existing in tandem...
Make North Korea Blink
The Korean nuclear crisis marks the bankruptcy of one style of post-Cold War diplomacy and should be the midwife of wholly new methods. It is not only essential that Pyongyang itself be punished for its flagrant act of provocation. The crisis must be...
Masterpieces in Miniature
Adam Elsheimer: Devil in the Detail Dulwich Picture Gallery, until 3 December Richard Wilson The Curve, Barbican, until 14 January 2007 Regular readers of this column will be aware that I champion small exhibitions which combine judicious selection...
MySpace , or Yours?
Parents' mortifying behaviour has long been an unfortunate but inevitable part of adolescence. Recently, however, kids have been getting their own back. Last month Washington DC, not unused to scandal, was presented with a problem of a more insidious...
Never Get into an Airport Taxi with a Kazakh Who Chatters like Borat
I have been following with interest -- not to say glee -- the spat between the government of Kazakhstan and 'Borat Sagdiyev', the latest alter ego of the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. Kazakhstan's autocratic President Nursultan Nazarbayev has evidently...
North Korea Is More of a Menace Than Iran
Washington North Korea's proud announcement on 9 October that it had exploded a nuclear bomb represents a serious danger to the world, and it is dismaying to see confusion about it in many Western capitals. Although North Korean nukes and missiles are...
Party Politics
A few weeks ago, a city trainee called Lucy Gao was widely mocked for sending out an extremely detailed email invitation to her 21st birthday party at the Ritz. Ms Gao, a real estate equity researcher, specified no flip-flops or denim and staggered...
Problems of Production
WAGNER AND THE ART OF THE THEATRE by Patrick Carnegy Yale, £29.95, pp. 461, ISBN 0300106955 . £23.96 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Shakespeare aside, there isn't a dramatist whose work has proved more protean than Wagner's. Patrick Carnegy explores...
Profit from the Sins of Emission
If you were 100 per cent certain that global warming was for real, it wouldn't be hard to think of ways of making money out of it. You could buy a farm in the Shetlands, as I observed here in August -- but this time with a view not to hobby farming...
Reach for the Sky
I've forgotten who I am. I've got loads of personalities and could I suppose become entirely convincing to myself in any one of them if I tried. But I've forgotten which is the real one. Location might have something to do with it. Although I've lived...
Remembrance of Things Past
Going to Venice with someone you don't really love is as recklessly short-sighted as intentionally losing your virginity during a meaningless onenight stand. It's a seminal adventure that should be saved up; the clichéd carrot dangled before every true...
Soggy in the Corps
Triple Bill Royal Ballet There are many different ways to start a ballet season, but an artistically disjointed triple bill is not the ideal one. Even on paper the Royal Ballet's opening programme for 2006/7 looks awkward, and the rationale behind joining...
South Africa's Future Will Not Be Civil War but Sad Decay
When the winter rains closed in on Cape Town I thought, bugger this, I'm selling up and moving somewhere sunny. To this end, I asked the char, Mrs Primrose Gwayana, to come in and help spruce up the house. We were scrubbing and painting and what have...
Spectator Mini-Baroffer
Stone, Vine & Sun of Winchester is one of my very favourite wine merchants. I've never tried anything of theirs that wasn't first rate, and I was not remotely surprised when they won the Best Small Independent Wine Merchant award from Wine International...
Striving for Special Effects
NORTH FACE OF SOHO : UNRELIABLE MEMOIRS , VOLUME IV by Clive James Picador, £17.99, pp. 264, ISBN 0330481282 . £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Even though I am, of course, a brilliant television critic here's something I promise I'll never...
Switching Channels
'Have you had an accident at work that's led to a loss of income?' 'Would you like to consolidate your debt?' 'Do you want to release equity from your property?' If you've ever had the misfortune to find yourself watching ITV1 during the daytime (according...
The Gang of Three
THE FRIENDSHIP : WORDSWORTH AND COLERIDGE by Adam Sisman HarperPress, £20, pp. 480, ISBN 0007160526 . £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 Adam Sisman begins his story of one of the most famous friendships in literary history with the vivid account...
The Rhetoric of Fairyland
HEAT by George Monbiot Penguin, £17.99, pp. 276, ISBN 0713999233 . £14.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 I have never met George Monbiot, and I know nothing personally about him to his discredit. I have no reason to think that he is other than polite...
The Shape of Things to Come?
MURDER IN AMSTERDAM : THE DEATH OF THEO VAN GOGH AND THE LIMITS OF TOLERANCE by Ian Buruma Atlantic, £12.99, pp. 278, ISBN 1843543191 . £10.39 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 The Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh had quite a sendoff. As per the plans...
The Spectator's Notes
From time to time, the parliamentary lobby journalists invite us to admire a particular politician. Minister X or shadow minister Y is suddenly presented as quite intensely able etc. For some time, Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary,...
The Sunset Burns On
THE LIGHT OF EVENING by Edna O'Brien Weidenfeld, £14.99, pp. 272, ISBN 0297851330 . £11.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 That beautiful, untamed brunette (or was she a woman in Zee & Co. ? ) was once more fervid than Elizabeth Taylor in party...
Too Faithful
The History Boys (15, nationwide) I love Alan Bennett. I seriously do. I once saw him in Marks & Spencer (Camden) and it was all I could do not to throw myself worshipfully at his feet. I had to hang on to the chiller cabinet until the moment passed....
Trailer Trash
Football is intrusive, all right; but mightily persuasive as well. It is impossible to steer clear of football, but at the same time -- I speak for myself -- it is hard not to be fondly enamoured of it. For sure, there is no remote escape from both...
Trivial Brilliance
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk Royal Opera House of the Gods Linbury Studio Each time I see Shostakovich's once controversial opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk I am impressed by what brilliant performances it seems to incite, fascinated by it dramatically and...
Two Stricken Strikers
BEST AND EDWARDS by Gordon Burn Faber, £16.99, pp. 255, ISBN 0571215807 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655 The most affecting moment in Gordon Burn's new book is only marginally connected to its subjects. Borrowed from Jackie Milburn's autobiography...
What's the Big Idea?
I think I may have worked out what's wrong with TV. Not just TV but newspapers, films, publishing, everything. It's that no one can accept things for what they are any more. There always has to be an angle. For example, suppose you were trying to pitch...
Woman's World
It's a great time now to be a woman of that certain age -- better health care, with more chance of fulfilment at work (and in bed), and more money to spend on personal grooming thanks to the Equal Pay Act of 1970 and women's own determined advancement...
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