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. 290, No. 9096, 2002

A Choice of Funny Books
I don't know if it is a sign of old age,' wrote P. G. Wodehouse in the mid-1950s, 'but I find I hate Christmas more every year.' Another marked change that the Master noticed in 'the senile Wodehouse' was that he no longer had the party spirit and preferred...
Ancient & Modern
TALKING about wills, St Augustine remarked on the paradox that `while the dead man lies, insensible, under his tombstone, his words retain their full legal validity'. Time, surely, for New Labour to 'modernise' this transparent absurdity at a time when...
A Selection of Art Books
I cannot think of many less festive offerings than Richard Avedon Portraits (Abrams, L24.95), but it has to be admitted that his merciless exposure of such grotesques as a blood-and-guts-spattered rattlesnake-skinner and a Duncan Goodhew-lookalike beekeeper,...
A Veteran under Fire
THE CAGE: AN ENGLISHMAN IN VIETNAM by Tom Abraham Bantam, L16.99, pp. 299, ISBN 0593049683 The Domino Theory that a communist takeover of all Vietnam would cause the other nations of South-east Asia to topple, one by one, was disproved at vast cost in...
A Walk on the Wild Side
Singular life I wrote last week, there I was in the middle of the South African bush wrapped in a blanket to stave off the cold. Karl, the strapping ranger, had staved off the animals, but there seemed no remission from the biting air. On our way back...
A World without Trust
HAVE a look at the current ten-pound note. 'I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of ten pounds,' it says. The 'I' who is speaking appends her signature. She is someone called Merlyn Lowther. She describes herself as Chief Cashier, and she signs,...
Banned Wagon: Global
SELDOM does the European Union miss an opportunity to pursue its protectionist agenda. No sooner had the first slugs of crude oil from the sunken Estonian oil tanker, the Prestige, arrived on the Spanish coast than France, Spain, Portugal and Italy moved...
Beauty and Bloodlines
New York Suzy, the society columnist of the bygone era when gossip columnists covered real society - unlike today's lot, who publish names given to them by publicists listing who attended which store opening called it a union of beauty and bloodlines,...
"Bogus' Asylum-Seekers Are Not the Problem; It's the Millions of Geuine Refugees We Should Worry About
There has been another huge rise in the numbers of those seeking asylum in this country. That the figure for the last quarter is 20 per cent higher than for the equivalent period in the preceding year is disturbing enough. That it is 11 per cent higher...
Diary
The 13th Earl of Haddington (cr. 1619) was minded to revise his theory about crop circles to incorporate pixies, he told me the other day while we were enjoying a pre-dinner cigarette at the chimney piece of a grand dining-room in Chillingham Castle,...
Did a Conman Help the Blairs Buy Two Flats in Bristol? Yes or No?
Anyone who has ever had breakfast, lunch, dinner or any other meeting with Gordon Brown will know that he gives very little away. Some ministers are known for their bluntness and occasional indiscretions; others may sometimes drink a glass or two more...
Double-Edged Sword
As obsessive, quixotic collectors go, few could hold a candle to the late Malcolm Forbes. He amassed Imperial Faberge Easter eggs and hot-air balloons, American historical documents, motorbikes, Orientalist paintings, cowboy pictures, toy soldiers, houses,...
Food
SORRY, but I'm still obsessed with this secondary-schools business. Indeed, in my small, panic-stricken corner of Islington few talk of anything else, particularly the mothers. I ask my partner why he thinks the mothers are getting much more worked up...
Found and Lost
Jane Gardam THE GREEN LANE TO NOWHERE by Byron Rogers Aurum, L12.99, pp. 256, ISBN 1854107852 Byron Rogers for years wrote the `Viilage Voice' column in the Daily Telegraph, and this collection of articles on his life over the past 22 years in an English...
Golf War
GOLFERS have a disgusting habit, in late middle-age, of auditing their addiction to the game. I've recently picked over the cost of my own golfing life, and I reckon that, during the 50-odd years I've spent traversing the fairway from right to left and...
Greed or Naivety?
Graham Bradley's face outside Jockey Club headquarters, where he had been disqualified for eight years from stepping on to a racecourse, told it all. He is 42, but the empty, forced and frightened grin was the expression of a cheeky schoolboy who had...
How the Fo Helps Terrorists
Langkawi EARLY the other morning, a crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) broke into my hotel bedroom while I slept and stole my last four sachets of Coffee-Mate. It is a good job I didn't catch him at it; they can be vicious little bastards when...
Iconic Rebel
Exhibitions Eva Hesse (Tate Modern, till 9 March) Many consider Eva Hesse to be one of the most important sculptors of the second half of the 20th century, but on the evidence of the current Tate show - the largest ever of her work - she appears to be...
Letters
Oil and troubled waters From Mr Jolyon Mills Sir: Mark Steyn dropped the ball in his article ('Bush and the Saudi princess', 30 November). In it, he cited some of the evidence linking Saudi Arabia to terror groups, especially al-Qa'eda. He also linked...
Looking for Action
Last week Sharon's brother makes an announcement. `Sharon's down this weekend. It's her birthday,' he says grimly. On Friday night I'm in the pub early and in she walks. She's wearing a crop top with a glittery number '69' on the front. Her boyfriend...
Mugabe Takes the Cake
Harare STROLLING through Sam Levy's shopping village in Harare, you'd never believe that Zimbabwe is tottering under its worst economic crisis ever. There are couples cellphone-shopping and schoolchildren doing gymnastic displays; in the furniture shops,...
Not Rushing to Judgment
BRITAIN IN REVOLUTION, 1625-1660 by Austin Woolrych OUP, 25, pp. 814, ISBN 0198200811 It is hard to overpraise this admirable -- indeed one would have thought impossible -- account of the history of England, Scotland and Ireland from the accession of...
Playing with Henry James
FELONY by Emma Tennant Cape, 15.99, pp. 190, ISBN 0224060341 The theme of Henry James's The Aspern Papers is well known: an unscrupulous biographer seeks the unpublished papers of his subject, a long-dead poet, through the cultivation of the poet's former...
Pure and Impure Genius
ALEC GUINNESS: THE UNKNOWN by Garry O'Connor Sidgwick, L18.99, pp. 438, ISBN 0283073403 As Hamlet said, 'Look here upon this picture and on this.' Early this year Garry O'Connor produced a book about Paul Scofield. The actor's personal life being famously...
Pursuit of Love
Theatre 1 What The Night Is For (Comedy) The Lying Kind (Royal Court) Kiki and Herb (Soho) With the exception of Romeo & Juliet: The Musical, I can't think of another play this year that has been as savagely panned as What The Night Is For. `There...
Saddam Butterfly?
Coriolanus is famously Shakespeare's most political play, and the hero's insensitivity to democracy needs its battle-ground - in the RSC's new staging, not Rome but the Japan of the Samurai. You would imagine there's blood enough in the play without...
Second Opinion
THERE has been a terrible outbreak of supposed helplessness lately, especially round here. The number of drug addicts appears to be increasing daily and, as everyone knows, drug addicts are helpless, though no one is quite sure whether the helplessness...
Secrets and Lies
Television Why didn't Jeffrey Archer - The Truth (BBC 1) quite work? For one thing, it was too long. The core joke, that Jeffrey is dictating his autobiography to a ghost-writer who will claim it as her own since no one would believe him, and because...
Smoothing the Rough Edges
BRIAN MOORE: A BIOGRAPHY by Patricia Craig Bloomsbury, L20, pp. 306, ISBN 0747560048 Much is made by writers these days of the need for 'getting distance', for putting frontiers, oceans, whole continents between themselves and the sources of their inspiration....
Speak for England
Dr Rowan Williams, who was this week ceremonially confirmed as Archbishop of Canterbury, becomes leader of a Church which is among the most mis-- reported institutions in Britain. To judge from the press, one would think that the Church of England is...
Spectator Mini-Bar Offer
THIS is the last offer before Christmas, and it really is rather special. Robin Yapp, the famed wine merchant of Mere, is an old friend of Spectator readers. For this minibar we have put together a very special selection of wines from the Rhone. With...
Stand and Deliver
THIS IS YOUR LIFE by John O'Farrell Doubleday, L10.99, pp. 313, ISBN 0385600984 The themes tackled by this novel, the world of comedy and the relationship between celebrity and identity, are intriguing ones. We are fascinated by great comics because...
State Control
Every century has its social reformers and there's little doubt that the greatest of the 20th century was Sir William Beveridge, whose report in 1942 laid the foundations of what we call the welfare state. He was the subject of The Archive Hour: The...
Teaching Students Not to Think
IT is the first week of the new academic year, ten minutes into my lecture on 'Erasmus and Renaissance Humanism', when I notice that the girl in the front row has a worried expression. I put on my special ingratiating junior-lecturer smile. 'Any questions?'...
The Greatest Briton
CHURCHILL: VISIONARY, STATESMAN, HISTORIAN by John Lukacs Yale, L15.95, pp. 202, ISBN 2002069147 MAN OF THE CENTURY: WINSTON CHURCHILL AND HIS LEGEND by John Ramsden HarperCollins, L25, pp. 652, ISBN 002570343 In January 1965 John Lukacs came from France...
The Hunting Bill Is Insulting and Appalling - but It Could Be Worse
Few issues have highlighted the more shameful qualities of the Blair government quite as starkly as hunting: its moral turpitude, instinctive mendacity, fundamental gutlessness, endless dithering, ugly populism and blind conformity to suburban prejudice....
The Price of Admission
MINISTRIES OF DECEPTION by Tim Slessor Aurum, L16.99, pp. 303, ISBN 1854108778 I first met Tim Slessor when we were contemporary undergraduates at Cambridge, half a century ago. Etched into my memory are Slessor's pride in and sadness about his naval...
The Return of the Has-Beens
When is someone so washed up that they actually qualify as washed up? It's hard to tell these days. Consider these recent events. * An ancient heavy-metal singer and his family are the subjects of a reality TV series in the US. Though he hasn't made...
The Rule-Book Says That Downing Street's Difficulty Is the Big Spenders' Opportunity
Before the Great Parliamentarian came to power, five years ago, there was a rule of thumb about Cabinet government. This said that the Prime Minister and Chancellor were natural allies - or rather, that everyone else round the table was the Chancellor's...
Vichy Britain
THE old East Germany had a Tory party rather like ours. Its main job was to agree with the ruling Socialist Unity party on all major issues, and, as far as anyone can tell, it did this rather well. It was rewarded with 52 guaranteed seats in the 500strong...
What Will the Oracle Answer?
PERPETUAL WAR FOR PERPETUAL PEACE by Gore Vidal Clairview, L8.99, pp. 176, ISBN 1902636384 THE WEST AND THE REST by Roger Scruton Continuum, L12.99, pp. 196, ISBN 0826464963 Two reincarnations of the Old Oligarch - alike in deploring The Way We Live...
'When Artist Were Just Tolerated'
In San Francisco in the late 1970s you could cover the entire modern art gallery scene, both commercial galleries and temporary exhibitions in museums or other public institutions, between a leisurely Saturday breakfast in Sausalito on the far side of...
Whisky and Dessert Chocolate
GOOD COMPANIONS by John Bayley Abacus, L7.99, pp. 246, ISBN 034911496X No one would want it for a constant diet, but it is more than pleasant to listen to a widely read, thoughtful man, relaxing towards the end of his career, chatting about books, remembering...
Wicked Work
Dance The Nutcracker (Sadler's Wells) Kontakthof (Barbican) Let's face it, The Nutcracker is one of the world's most popular ballets, but it is also the one with the weakest storyline, as dance-goers and critics remarked immediately after its premiere,...
Winning Warhorse
This has been a year of Toscas, but strangely - or anyway I find it strange instead of getting tired of what almost everyone, even its admirers, feel the need to patronise, I find that in some respects my admiration for it increases. Of the warhorses...
Worsted by the Best Ever
SPECTATOR SPORT Perth AS they had hoped, and as everybody else expected, Australia's cricketers walloped England in the third Test to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series and regain the Ashes, which they reclaimed in 1989 and have shown no inclination...
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