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. 286, No. 9021, 2001

A Bloody Learning Curve
How on earth did the Germans manage to lose the first world war? If Allied generals like Haig were as incompetent as popular legend would have it, and the battles they launched as disastrous, then the question needs to be asked. Nobody except Hitler...
A Choice of Recent Fiction
The professional migration from successful public career to part-time novelist provides an entertaining, if slightly inexplicable, sub-genre in literary art. There are few surer routes to ridicule and few quicker ways to boost the remainder pile. Politicians...
A Kind of Antisocial Pooh
Shrek (U, selected cinemas) I surrendered to Shrek at the moment where Lord Farquaard has the Gingerbread Man on the rack, torturing him for information on one of his fellow nursery-- rhyme characters. LF: `Have you seen the Muffin Man?' GM: `The Muffin...
A Man of Many and Curious Parts
Many of his compatriots would claim that Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) was, with the exception of Camoens, the greatest of Portuguese poets. If, as he certainly deserved, he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, whom would the Swedish jury have summoned...
A Matter of Taste and Choice
Morality & Architecture was something of a cause celere when it was first pubfished in 1977 and rapidly translated into Italian, French, Spanish and Japanese. Dr Watkin made an unanswerable case that English modernist architectural theory was based...
Ancient & Modern
IN a message for World Tourism Day, the Pope argued that the purpose of tourism should be to help people `discover themselves and others' by experiencing `other ways of life, religions and ways of looking at the world'. The younger Seneca (AD 1-65),...
And Mother Came Too
This January I acquired a Hungarian. On New Year's day, to be precise. There is a small village outside Budapest where some friends of mine live. The local priest had a girl leaving. She was going to London to learn English and needed somewhere to live....
A Tale of Two Hospitals
`THE challenge is to make the NHS once again the healthcare system the world most envies,' said Tony Blair before the election. `We will bring it up to European standards ... and deliver world-class public services to all the people all of the time.'...
Banned Wagon
ONLY three weeks into the new Parliament and already some of our legislators are off to a flying start. None more so than Bob Russell, Lib Dem MP for Colchester. As if anybody needed reminding that the Liberal Democratic party is no laissez-faire outfit...
Big Dividends from Little Magazines
Just as there can no be denying that Bellow's name will feature significantly in the promotion, reviews and sales of this book (a small sigh of relief and thanks, perhaps, from the estimable Toby Press for the alphabetical courtesy which allows him to...
Bonfires on the Beach
My boy has finally lost heart (there were tears at his last lesson) and asked me if he can give up playing the piano. `OK,' I said. (That's about four grand up the Swannee by my reckoning.) Because space in their council house is limited, as soon as...
Breathtaking Plunges
Dance Sleeping Beauty; Jewels; Manon (Royal Opera House) Long live the Kirov Ballet. The first half of the 2001 summer season has proved that the company's visits to London are a must for serious dance-goers, much as those by Diaghilev's Ballet Russes...
Brilliant but Horrifying
I've said before how annoying I find the phrase `I'm afraid I never watch television', generally said with a smug little smile which implies that the speaker spends the rest of the time finishing Proust, or writing their own novel, or making exciting...
Diary
When the 14th Earl of Home became prime minister in October 1963, the still fairly young William Rees-Mogg told readers of the Sunday Times that the Tories were `turning aside from progress'. Will his reaction be the same, I wonder, if another Borders...
'Did Mr Blair Need to Make the Promises?' Asked Alice in a Quiet and Thoughtful Voice
'What,' said Alice to the Red Queen, `does everyone mean when they talk about "delivery"? All the newspapers seem to be writing about it. One Sunday paper said that Tony Blair's priorities must now be "delivery, delivery and delivery". Does the Prime...
Escaping from the Boondocks
CHERRY by Mary Karr Picador, L14, pp. 276, ISBN 033048575X The fin-de-siecle fancy for novelised memoirs is still going strong - and very harrowing they are, too. Millions of people have read Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes and his sequel Ms, and the...
Even a 60-a-Day Person Might Feel Qualms about Ken Clarke Selling Tobacco to Vietnamese Children
How we want Ken to win! We so long for him that we try to convince ourselves that his visceral Europhilia is not really a problem. There he stands in the Institute of Directors fluently making his case, worldly and obviously competent. He is that rather...
Fat Chance
SO, it had finally happened. After a week spent skulking in Vietnam, allegedly peddling tobacco to underage children, the fat man had sung. In a speech at the Institute of Directors in St James's, Kenneth Clarke, bane of Eurosceptics everywhere, finally...
Follyrood House
THE architect is dead. So is the politician who commissioned him. Two project directors have quit in disgust. Prince Charles thinks it stinks, and nine out of ten Scots believe that those who sit in it have less influence over their lives than members...
From Prejudice to Indifference
This book starts in a more invigorating age, when the British Establishment still did Roman Catholics the honour of regarding them with profound suspicion. Sewell quotes the Times's horrified response to Lord Ripon's reception into the Catholic Church...
Genteel Bohemians
Today, the village of Cos Cob is one of four commuter rail stops within Greenwich, the. first and arguably smartest of the New York suburbs across the Connecticut state line. A century ago, Greenwich was a farming town, the railroads just starting to...
Innocence and Corruption
I wish that Britten's most ardent admirers would take him more seriously, in the way that the earliest reviewers of The Rape of Lucretia did. When the opera was broadcast from the Maltings in the brilliant new production by David McVicar, which has now...
January and April
THE DYING ANIMAL by Philip Roth Cape, L12.99, pp. 176, ISBN 0224061933 In an age of relentless ranting passing If off as commentary, Philip Roth may the only writer we have who is at once a itself off as commentary, Philip Roth may be the only writer...
Let's Go Nuclear
The newly re-elected government has made one good decision, which is also a courageous one. Earlier this week, Mr Blair announced a comprehensive review of energy policy, to be chaired by a middle-ranking minister, Brian Wilson. He is the right choice,...
Letters
The dangers of safety From Mr William Barter Sir: Gerald Corbett's much-derided comment that railway safety is like a journey without an end was in fact one of the most perceptive comments of the whole post-- Ladbroke Grove debate. One point that Ross...
Moms Defend a Baby-Killer
New Hampshire WHAT do you have to do to get a bad press these days? Last week, by her own admission, Andrea Yates of Houston killed all five of her children. Not in a burst of gunfire, but by methodically drowning them all in the bathtub. Anyone who's...
More Beam Than Face
Ascot's most colourful outfit of the week was not seen out until the Saturday, when David Sullivan, publisher of the Sunday Sport, wore his fuchsia-pink jacket to welcome in his winner Freefourinternet, winner of the Milcars New Stakes. Worn with the...
Mr Blair Has Virtually Unlimited Power: The Trouble Is That He Doesn't Know How to Use It
The Blair administration is set upon running Britain without reference to the institutions and common practice of state: Parliament, the monarchy and the system of common law. This week saw a fresh manifestation of this novel, direct, centralised method...
Myterious, Transcendent Beauty
In May 1921, all Paris was flocking to an exhibition of Vermeers at the Jeu de Paume. On the 24th, a strangely attired middle-aged man - muffled up as if in fear of the outside air - set out to join them. On the stairs of his home he suffered an alarming...
Oprah Winfrey Joins Diana, Princess of Wales
Something has gone wildly awry with this book. I am bemused. I am especially bemused because I am an Elaine Showalter fan. Over many years and generous books she has opened up aspects of feminist `critical theory' (both literary and cultural) to a wider...
Reagan and the Tories
IN 1964 the Republican far-right conservative presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, received only 39 per cent of the popular vote and carried only six states. In 1984 the equally conservative presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan, was re-elected with...
Second Opinion
FROM time to time I receive letters asking me why I have nothing good to say about the human race. Don't I ever have those inspiring little moments, my correspondents ask me, when life seems, despite everything, to be almost worth living? In short, why...
Space Invaders
APPARENTLY minimalism is dead - or so I read in the Financial Times's Weekend section. Finished. So last-millennium. I find this curiously satisfying. My family, I should explain, is privileged to live next door to a brilliant architect, John Pawson,...
Sporting Victories
High life Dear, oh dear. A perfect record has been spoiled. After losing one massive libel case to socialite Rosemarie Marcie-Riviere (now socialising somewhere down below) in 1986; another to the Aga Khan (we have since kissed and made-up) in 1987;...
Such Detested Sisters
RICHARD WILLIAMS repeatedly tells the world that the reason everybody hates his tennis-playing daughters is that they are black. He is completely wrong. That's the reason why nobody dares to hate them. It cannot be denied that there is a fair amount...
Tenderness at Twenty
Borges was of the opinion that G. K. Chesterton `restrained himself from being Franz Kafka'. Fr Vincent McNab suggested, more mysteriously, that `Chesterton died of a broken heart. Both remarks are far from the `Jolly Journalist' image that Chesterton...
The Conquest of Spin
Listening to that cheerful chappie Charlie Whelan, Gordon Brown's former spin doctor, on Radio Four on Monday evening, I began to wonder if one day there might be a retirement home for elderly practitioners of this relatively recent black art. One can...
The Family Way
AS part of his strategy to make the Conservative party seem more 'inclusive', Mr Michael Portillo has said that `families come in all shapes and sizes'. Indeed. You should have seen mine. Mad aunts and wild uncles all over the place. I had a great-uncle...
The World in the Palm of His Hand
There's no shortage of books about Duke Ellington, but there will always be room for one more. His inexhaustible inventiveness as a composer of popular standards, richly textured tone poems and a whole range of ambitious (if sometimes ramshackle) suites...
Tingles of Enjoyment
Why am I waiting 90 minutes on Ipswich station for a local connection, contemplating a spent tea bag and the ruins of an Anglia rock cake? Why, shoes and socks clutched to my breast, do I paddle through stagnant water meadows and over a broken bridge...
Totty Rules
THE sweetest words a freelance journalist can hear are: `This is Features on the Mail. Do you think you can do us 1,500 words on Leo Blair by four o'clock? A thousand quid OK?' And it is almost as sweet when they reprint a piece of yours that has appeared...
Turning the Town Around
Mit a boom, and a bang, and a bangbang-a-boom, the old Broadway is back: Mel Brooks's high-strutting musical Nazis have won The Producers an historic 12 Tony Awards and they deserve all of them, despite the disgruntled theatregoer who took a half-page...
Urban Degeneration
Inner-city apartments IT's summer, and urban England reverberates once more to the traditional sound of baseball bat on polypropylene riot shield. The great inner-city riot is back with a vengeance, rekindling memories of Toxteth, Lord Scarman and a...
Where the Abnormal Is Normal
The decayed, fifth-century Roman empire is threatened by Huns and Teutons. In this `Evening of the World', much is fearful and confused. Jehovah has officially ousted Jupiter, but Vulcan can readily become St Vulcan, patron of smiths, and Orpheus melt...
Winged Horses, Fiery Haloes
Exhibitions 1 L'etrange et le merveilleux en terres d'Islam (Louvre, Paris, till 23 July) Syrian friend who accompanied the Pope round the Umayyad mosque in Damascus a few weeks ago was very disappointed that John Paul II neither visited Saladin's tomb...
Wrong but Good
GRANTA: THE FIRST 21 YEARS introduced by Ian Jack Granta, L9.99, pp. 383, ISBN 186207464X Philip Hensher In 21 years Granta has established a position - perhaps the pre-eminent position - among literary magazines in the English-speaking world. If you...
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