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. 9089, 2002

Ancient & Modern
BRITISH youth has every right to be angry about the A-level grading fiasco, but their self-pitying sobs - `What of the effect on our future careers, income, quality of life and happiness?' moans one tragic whinger - have not impressed. Is taking a year...
Ascot Angst
Going racing, you do meet them all. In front of me as we left Ascot station for the course last Saturday was a man carrying a full-size and fully inflated blow-up female. Behind me on the path was the ultimate pessimist. 'I could have a few bets,' he...
Ask a Focus Group the Wrong Question, and What You Get Is a Nice Answer
CITY AND SUB URBAN I have established a focus group in the Vatican. My sample, which extends from cardinals to altar-boys, has been asked a searching question: is the Pope a Catholic? First indications are that the answer appears to be Yes. This firm...
At Home
Dance Companhia de Danca: Deborah Colker (Barbican) White Oaks Dance Project (Sadler's Wells) First came the wall, then the Ferris wheel, and now it's time for a multi-purpose structure that, with its planes, panels, doors and windows, immediately evokes...
Baby Gloom
SOMETIMES, the bigger the lie, and the more obvious the lie, the more persistently it is believed. This paradox is nowhere more true than in the case of a truly enormous and terrible con-trick that is being pulled on the women of Britain. For this is...
Baggy Hotchpotch
Theatre 1 The Breath of Life (Theatre Royal Haymarket) A Number (Royal Court) A Streetcar Named Desire (Lyttelton) I wasn't surprised to learn that The Breath of Life has broken all records for advance ticket sales. Before it even opened, apparently,...
Belonging and Not Belonging
ON MODERN BRITISH FICTION edited by Zachary Leader OUP, L14.99, pp. 318, ISBN 0199249326 The front cover of On Modern British Fiction has a roll-call of contributors. Anyone at all interested in fiction (or indeed in what it is to be 'modern' or 'British')...
Blair Is Now Fighting the Tories on Their Own Turf. Can They Fight Back?
POLITICS The new season kicked off with an unwelcome pill for political reporters. As Parliament reassembled after its three months' recess, lobby correspondents hiked across St James's Park to the Foreign Press Association at 11 Carlton House Terrace....
Brief Encounter
Radio Odd things can happen when you enter an English country pub. There I was, having lunch in my local in the next village, the Benett Arms at Semley, when a friend arrived with a house guest from New Zealand. It turned out that he broadcast on Maori...
Climate of Terror
Denpaser SEVERAL DAYS after the bombs, the people of Bali, and tourists who have stayed on, are still in profound shock, still asking, 'Why here? Why us?' This was not an American embassy or military base, so why Bali? Yet in the twisted minds of the...
Coming from the Wars of Words
EDITOR: AN INSIDE STORY OF NEWSPAPERS by Max Hastings Pan, L20, pp. 608, ISBN 0333908376 It was 1971, at the Dudley Hotel, Hove, late at night during a Tory conference, and Sir (as he then wasn't) Max Hastings and I were discussing editorship. He was...
Diary
Sunday: Ducked morning service in favour of gardening, but made it to a special evening service to celebrate the Jubilee year and the community of our parish. In the midst of a powerful sermon on how technology has changed village life, the rector clamped...
Dump 'Em in the Ocean
Fly life Orri Vigfussion is the salmon's messiah. It he has not come to save their souls exactly, he has certainly come to try to save the species, and his arrival is not a moment too soon. Orri is, to all intents and purposes, the North Atlantic Salmon...
Fit for a King
Food for thought Madame du Barry was not as famous a maitresse en titre of Louis XV as her predecessor, Madame de Pompadour (the subject of two current exhibitions in London), but she left a greater culinary legacy. She has a recipe for woodcock named...
Great Helmsman or Mad Wrecker
INTERESTING TIMES: A TWENTIETH-CENTURY LIFE by Eric Hobsbawm Allen Lane, L20, pp. 464, ISBN 0713995815 KOBA THE DREAD: LAUGHTER AND TWENTY MILLION by Martin Amis Cape, L16.99, pp. 306, ISBN 0224063030 Eric Hobsbawm is arguably our greatest living historian...
Here Be Dragons
TALES FROM EARTHSEA by Ursula Le Guin Orion, L10.99, pp. 311, ISBN 1842552066 THE OTHER WIND by Ursula Le Guin Orion, L10.99, pp. 246, ISBN 1842552058 In his excellent book about Tolkien, Tom Shippey makes the general claim that the most important fiction...
Here's the Dope
SINCE man has been around for between half a million and a million years (though he did not emerge from the caves until something like 6,000 years ago), 25 years of High Life must seem a mere bagatelle in the grand scheme of things. Still, the subject...
History from Below
CAPTIVES by Linda Colley Cape, L (English pound)20, pp. 438, ISBN 0224059254 Professor Linda Colley is a distinguished historian. In her Britons, published in 1992, she proved that good, imaginative professional history could attract a wide public. Captives...
How the Metre Become Master
THE MEASURE OF ALL THINGS by Ken Alder Little, Brown, L15.99, pp. 466, ISBN 0316859893 When did the French Revolution begin? Many dates are suggested, but one that seems reasonable is 8 August 1788. It was then that the King announced the summoning of...
Inspired Madness of the Artist
The average man sitting on the Tube, according to Gilbert of Gilbert & George, sees nothing but breasts. Now, that may underestimate the range of interests of the average man (though it is entirely consistent with the stratagems used by mass-circulation...
It's about Time the Conservative Party Heard about the Nasty Atrocities of Long Ago
SHARED OPINION Mrs Theresa May, the Conservative chairman who told the Tory conference that the Tories were seen at the last election as `the nasty party', probably did not know that Richmal Crompton, creator of the 'William' stories, preceded her. In...
Jack Straw's Noctural Delving
JACK STRAW looked acutely uncomfortable. He was standing in the doorway of his tall Victorian house in Islington's Battledean Road, scruffy on the outside, plush inside. He was casually dressed in sandals and cords, saying he had hoped for a quiet evening....
Justice Changing Gear to Keep Up
THE ENGLISH JUDGES by Robert Stevens Hart Publishing, L22.50, pp. 169, ISBN 1841132268 Fifty-one years ago no one would have written this book, and, if someone had, no one would have read it. The constitution was not changing; and the judges' role as...
Kennedy's Finest Hour
FORTY years ago the Americans won what I hope will be the nearest thing to nuclear war between superpowers - of which only one is left - ever fought; and the fact that they won it without firing a shot should not diminish but rather increase the extent...
Letters
Magnum Opus From Margaret Emery Sir: Like Michael McMahon (`Why I left Opus Dei', 12 October), I first came across Opus Dei as a teenager. I went to their study camps, retreats and social activities. I never came across any youth groups, but they did...
Lie, Lie and Lie Again
There has been much sniggering in the Western media over Tuesday's referendum in Iraq on re-electing Saddam Hussein, since it is obvious that the only permissible answer was Yes. But how different are referendums in the European Union? On Saturday the...
Light from Eastern Windows
THE BUDDHA AND THE SAHIBS by Charles Allen John Murray, L25, pp. 322, ISBN 071955425X If the popular idea of the men who founded the British Raj as a lot of brutish pig-stickers and greedy nabobs who despised the Indians they exploited and thought their...
Lord of Loony Laughter
TRAGICALLY I WAS AN ONLY TWIN: THE COMPLETE PETER COOK edited by William Cook Century, 17.99, pp. 429, ISBN 13579108642 Of all my heroes whom I have been fortunate enough to encounter in the flesh, none was more friendly and relaxed than Peter Cook....
Maggie? She's an Icon
CONSIDER Thatcher. The word. Its associations. Its images. A woman who no longer matters. A woman who said cruel things like there was no such thing as society; who divided Britain. A pathetic has-- been who may occasionally be seen at parties with her...
Nasty Questions That Need Asking
WHY TERRORISM WORKS by Alan M. Dershowitz Yale, L17.95, pp. 271, ISBN 0300097662 Prominent in any contemporary dictionary of received opinion should be the assumption that all terrorism has `root causes' that render violence `understandable' because...
Our Values May Be Flawed, but It Would Have Been a Mistake to Stone Edwina Currie to Death
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY It is time to talk about Edwina Currie, once again. Yes, I know, you've missed her, these last few days - but she's still out there. somewhere. She hasn't really gone away. Even as you read this she may well be hounding people in...
Outside the System
Our society is so structured nowadays that artists are expected to conform to a career trajectory which (with luck) begins with childish aptitude, extends through the degree system of art education and continues on to dealer-managed exhibitions in chic...
Palin Surprises
Michael Palin pulls the legs off puppies for fun and next to all the awards for his round-the-world TV adventures he keeps jars of boiled babies. When he dies and they start digging up the bodies from beneath his floorboards, everyone will say: `But...
Parky and the Jockstraps
THE postman brought a book last week, unsolicited but none the worse for that. Called simply Michael Parkinson on Cricket, it is just that, a book on the noblest of games by the most versatile of journalists. It comprises 52 essays on the game and the...
Postprandial Nightmare
Theatre 2 King Lear (Swan Theatre, Stratford) Although no one would pretend that youthful players could ever be a `cast of choice' for Lear, the actors of the RSC's fledgling Academy have one advantage over riper colleagues. Relatively unphased by this...
Punjabi Moon
Just below us we could hear the chowkidar tut-tut-tutting his disapproval on the ground with his stick, pacing up and down, tut, tut, tut, while we two sat together on the flat-topped roof above, our backs to the Lahore skyline. Behind us the plains...
Ridiculous Old Rascals
Olden but golden Back in the mid-Sixties, we had a cleaning lady called Mrs Parker. She must have been in her mid-sixties herself, and had spent her whole life, from the age of 13, in service. She called my mother 'mum', my father `the master' and I...
Round-the-World Spending Spree
YOU SHALL KNOW OUR VELOCITY by Dave Eggers McSweeney's Books, $22, pp. 371, ISBN 0907335555 This book, published on 20 September, has a cover price of $22. My credit card was charged $75.41 on 28 August for a copy to be sent by courier, which has still...
She Wanted to Murder Mandy
ELISABETH FURSE, who died on Monday at the age of 92, was one of the most amazing hostesses London has known. One could not say she had a 'salon', for the word carries connotations of politeness and self-- restraint which were entirely foreign to her....
Strangers to the Reader Too
IGNORANCE by Milan Kundera Faber, 16.99, pp. 195, ISBN 0571215505 It is an increasingly popular opening gambit among reviewers to ask at the outset of a review what a particular book is about, or what it is for, what purpose it serves, or what the writer's...
The Past Is Better
Jazz In The Last Empire, Gore Vidal's recent collection of essays, there's a moment when he touches on New York restaurants and in particular the long-vanished Chambord in Third Avenue. He relates the tale of an `ancient bon viveur' who, in extolling...
The Plinth Dilemma
At a theoretical level, the level of Plato and Aristotle, politics and aesthetics are linked together with ethics - and much else of course - into a consistent world view. This is all very well, but at ground level things are different. There are clashes....
The Spider Spied 'Er
FINGERSMITH by Sarah Waters Virago, L (English pound)12.99, pp. 548, ISBN 1860498825 Sarah Waters is a rarity-an up and coming writer in this age of hype who actually deserves the prizes and plaudits bestowed on her, and then some more. She is not a...
Visual Games
Exhibitions Anthony Whishaw - Maverick Images: shaped, triptychal and rectangular (Art First, till 7 November) Lying about on the surface of Anthony Whishaw's Bethnal Green studio during his open day last month were some hand-tinted etchings from 1997....
Weighed Down by Silver
Salerooms It is feast or famine in the salerooms these days. We may be well into the autumn auction season, but most days the big London rooms have the air of the banquet after the guests have left. And then, just when one despairs of seeing any works...
You Read It Here First: The Daily Mirror Will Be Sold within Six Months
MEDIA STUDIES Is the Daily Mirror for sale? It is, according to a well-placed City source. He says it is being offered around to `the buy-out boys'. My instinct is that he is right, and that Trinity Mirror wants to offload its troubled national daily,...
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