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 Vol. 285, No. 8970, 2000

African Encounters of All Kinds
MR BIGSTUFF AND THE GODDESS OF CHARM by Fiona Sax Ledger Picador, L12.99, pp. 290 With travel writing you tend to see too much of the author or not enough. Some like to brag about their epic adventures and petty mishaps, others act all invisible and...
A Game to Remember
Henry Kissinger gets on my nerves. He knew John Aspinall for three years, and in a short piece in the Daily Telegraph last week caught the essence of the man like no one else - all about that mystical union with nature and animals. I knew Aspers for...
Aiming at the Stars
NON-ZERO: THE LOGIC OF HUMAN DESTINY by Robert Wright Little, Brown, L22.50, pp. 560 The inevitable tendency of the entire physical universe to degenerate (unless perhaps ultimately destined for a Big Crunch which will be the minor image of the Big Bang)...
Al in the Mind
New Hampshire LAST week Bill Clinton did his best to boost Al Gore's confidence: `It's still more likely than not that he will win,' said the President. Hmm. Stand by for next week's ringing endorsement of Al: it's still not impossible that he might...
A Man's Gotta Do What a Man's Gotta Do -- Even If It Means Defending Mr Blair
The lunch mob has come for Mr Blair, as it does for every prime minister in the end. As so often, it largely comprises the Prime Minister's former friends, or at least those pretending to be his friends in order to do themselves a bit of good. In Mr...
Ancient & Modern
THERE has been great excitement in the Guardian about the 'discovery' of a unique female Roman poet called Sulpicia. Alas, she has been around for some time. Ancient literature survives largely because it has been copied and recopied (by hand, hence...
Another Father Gone Missing
UNKNOWN PLEASURES by Jason Cowley Faber, L9.99, pp. 256 It helps, when publishing a first novel, to have made a name for yourself in some other profession. Ann Widdecombe, no stranger to publicity, was off to a flying start with hers recently. Jason...
A Patriot -- Up to a Point
THE DEATH OF JEAN MOULIN: BIOGRAPHY OF A GHOST by Patrick Marnham John Murray, 20, pp. 290 In June 1999, the review ESPOIR, the monthly publication of the Fondation Charles de Gaulle, produced a special number largely devoted to Jean Moulin and to his...
Banned Wagon
THE graffiti at Pompeii are regarded as an international treasure, giving us an insight into the imagination of the real people who lay behind the pomp of Ancient Rome. Not so the scrawlings on the walls of Sutton in Surrey. The local Liberal Democrat...
Buyer's Market
With the government at last taking well-deserved flak over fuel tax (it has introduced 35-40 tax rises overall since May 1997, which means a tax hike every 30 days under New Labour), a bishop claimed on Radio Four that dearer fuel was good for the environment...
Coming Together
Just before he died, my father left my mother and me and went to live with a wealthy widow. But she chucked him out because he was seeing elephants that weren't there, and then he went into hospital, and then he passed away. None of his side of the family...
Dear Fanny or Feisty Frances?
Addison once expressed the view that making many words `saves one the trouble of thinking', which was a thought brought back by reading these, the fifth and sixth biographies (I think) of Fanny Burney to have appeared in recent years. For Burney enthusiasts,...
Dear Mary
Q. Last Sunday I sat down to breakfast in a hotel recommended by the host of a very enjoyable party I had attended the night before. I had every intention of tackling my poached eggs in the considerate silence appropriate to public breakfasting but almost...
Diary
In case you were under any other impression, the fashion industry is largely about kissing: a peck on the cheek, a smacker on both, an air kiss, a blown kiss (not so fashionable now) and - in circumstances that are becoming more common - the full-on...
Down with Meritocracy
WHEN asked what the significance of the French Revolution was, Zhou Enlai famously replied that it was too early to tell. Is it finally going to be exported to Britain, 211 years after the event? Looking at the pictures of Lord Frederick and Lady Gabriella...
Eerily Prophetic
Theatre 4.48 Psychosis (Royal Court) Orpheus Descending (Domar Warehouse) Much Ado About Nothing (Open Air, Regent's Park) Almost 20 years ago now, there was a remarkable director at Stratford-upon-- Avon called Buzz Goodbody; what made her remarkable...
Elementary Information
For reasons that I don't understand, some listeners dislike programmes that mark or celebrate anniversaries of people and events and think there are too many of them on radio. I like them, though, as they not only remind us of the past, they can also...
Every Man in His Humour
Hugh Massingberd DIARY OF A PROVINCIAL LADY by E. M. Delafield SUNSHINE SKETCHES OF A LITTLE TOWN by Stephen Leacock THE EDUCATION OF HYMAN KAPLAN by Leo Rosten THE SERIAL by Cyra McFadden Prion Humour Classics, L8.99 each, except E. M. Delafield at...
Fear of Swimming
FIN by James Delingpole Picador, L10, pp. 344 It can take great reserves of determination and character to break out of the easy life of idleness and dissipation. Are these really the qualities likely to be found in a youngish, still nearly hip, pop...
Gamesmanship, but Not Always Quite Cricket
Michael Davie BOYCS: THE TRUE STORY by Uo McKinstry Partridge, L (English pound)16 99, pp. 339 Despite its irritatingly chummy title `Boycs' being a nickname of the cricketer Geoffrey Boycott this book is far better and less gung-ho than most sports...
Glock Remembered
The death of Sir William Glock has brought his memory many accolades. From the composers he encouraged to the historians of classical music in Britain in the 20th century, he has been hailed as the man who crafted the current comparative state of health...
Hamlet for the Outdoor-Minded
GERTRUDE AND CLAUDIUS by John Updike Hamish Hamilton, L16.99, pp. 224 Trust The Spectator to give Updike's latest to a Hamlet buff for review. Have they got the wrong end of the stick? Are we about to have a rerun of the Field and Stream's immortal notice...
He Did Not Bat Her
THE West Indians may have batted pitifully in their second innings during England's astonishing victory at Lord's, but there was one Caribbean cricketer who performed even more dismally off the field. I am referring to Sir Vivian Richards, the former...
Highs and Lows
Opera Four Saints in Three Acts; Dido and Aeneas (Coliseum) La Battaglia di Legnano (Royal Festival Hall) The Snow Maiden; Mazeppa (Royal Opera House) It was a hectic week operatically, with several first nights coinciding, thanks partly to country houses...
If Only We Joined the Euro and Your Aunt Had Wheels, She Would Be a Motor-Bus
We owe to Sir Kit McMahon, economist and banker, the If-Only theory of economics. If only we pressed this button, the theory goes, everything would be all right. Ten years ago the If-Only button was wired to the European exchange rate mechanism. Today...
It Is Opening Time in the Gardens of the West, Thanks Be to God
A row has broken out over which county is entitled to the accolade `The Garden of England'. Nothing new about that, of course. Almost at their first meeting, Emma Woodhouse and the awful Mrs Elton have an edgy dispute on this topic. Seeking to arrest...
Letters
News that suits the viewer From Mr Roger Mosey Sir: My former colleague Michael Vestey is entitled not to like BBC News 24 (Arts, 1 July); but his arguments are pretty weird and in some cases just wrong. For a start, the BBC wouldn't `save 50 million...
Mea Culpa
Squelching down the Mll to Newmarket on a soggy grey Saturday it seemed appropriate to have Mahalia Jackson belting out that wonderful gospel number `Oh, Didn't It Rain'. That snatch about `Oh Brother Noah/Can't you take some more' followed by the response...
Mind Your Language
'WRONG and new and spreading' is the irritated response of a reader, Dr John Bell of Strathaven, to the construction `she was diagnosed with malaria'. As Dr Bell points out, the Guardian and Telegraph and BBC revel in its use. I like `revel' - as if...
Mr Campbell May Continue to Huff and Puff -- and Lose His Rag -- but His Day Is Done
Is Alastair Campbell finished? Until very recently the Question would have seemed preposterous. The Prime Minister's bel ligerent press secretary bestrode the narrow world. Journalists and government ministers quailed before him. We were told by the...
Much Too Jammy
Years ago, in Paris, I went to a lecture by Peter Ustinov. He was introduced by Sir Christopher Soames, then our ambassador. `Peter Ustinov,' said Sir Christopher in the clumping style of French adopted by all our great statesmen, `est ecrivain, humoriste,...
Political Courtship
I was christened in the crypt of the House of Commons. My father was a Labour MP and one of my godfathers was a Tory MP, the late Julian Amery. Only he was on time then. In those days cross-party baptisms were quite common. Now, if young Leo came across...
Portrait of the Week
A game of `hunt the leaker' began after a telegram from the British ambassador in Japan was made public; it suggested that investment in British enterprises would be hampered if Britain stayed outside the euro zone. Supporters of Mr Gordon Brown, the...
Rejects of the World Unite
THERE I was, keen, swotty, fresh-faced, and sitting opposite a particularly forbidding don from Pembroke College, Cambridge. I had applied to read Arabic and French, and the don told me that he would conduct the interview in French. What, he inquired,...
Return of a Has-Been
I LAUGHED when I read of his selection. No exaggeration: I laughed out loud, ho ho ho, and more than a trifle hollowly. Is there no end to selectorial folly? They had clearly lost all sense of reality and made a crucial selection of someone who had gone...
Slandering the Pound
They never learn, do they? On Sunday Ken Follett, the bestselling author, launched a plea for honesty and decency in government. It was time to end this unmanly leaking, by the `rent-boys of politics', against those who had incurred the Prime Minister's...
Striking, Diverting, but Strange
Establishing what is going on in art at any given time is like trying to get your bearings in a blizzard. There is simply too much going on, too many swirling, eddying flakes shooting past your eyes; better to wait until the storm has died down and then...
Superb Balance
Dance Mark Morris Dance Group (Coliseum) Royal Ballet (Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House) No one does it like Mark Morris. In the hands of many of his colleagues, the structural simplicity of L Allegro, Il Penseroso ed il Moderato, arguably one of Morris's...
The Barmy Army
THE summons came in a plain buff envelope, delivered by the postman: Dear Sir, in accordance with the National Service Act you are required to present yourself on Thursday 19th May, 1947, to Number 5 Selection Unit. A travel warrant and a postal order...
The Endearing Grouch
What inspires you?' an Australian journalist asked Walter Matthau at a press conference a couple of years back. `What kind of ridiculous question is that?' said Matthau. `Everything inspires me. Even you.' He wasn't exaggerating. Interviewers like that...
The Prerogative of the Harlot
NEITHER the word `liberal' nor `elite' (in either isolation or conjunction) quite describes the coteries I wish to indict. The cabal I have in my sights spans the entire spectrum from the extreme Left to the extreme Right. It consists of a self-regarding...
Was It Wise of Mr Blair to Say That Issues Don't Matter to the Average Voter?
Hell bath no fury like a luvvie scorned, and Ken Follett's comments on Tony Blair had more to do with pique than with critique. There are those who say that Mr Follett is Jeffrey Archer after a lobotomy and others who insist that it is the other way...
Welsh Justice
Last week the Welsh Assembly voted that it should be allowed to decide policy on hunting in Wales. The Secretary of State's response was to confirm the government's position that the sport's fate will be decided at Westminster. I have warned in the past...
When the Party Was Over
LA PRISONNIERE: TWENTY YEARS IN A DESERT GAOL by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi Doubleday, L10.99, pp. 288 The few Moroccans I know did not like their late king Hassan II. Those who were not too frightened to discuss politics, for fear of being hauled...
With One Eye on the Camera
AMONG INSURGENTS by Shelby Tucker The Radcliffe Press, L24.50, pp. 415 Shelby Tucker is an American lawyer. His book comes highly recommended, not least by Robin Hanbury-Tenison. His credentials, suggests the jacket blurb, are impressive, and his journey...
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