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. 8995, 2000

Accuracy Problem
The Real Alan Clark (Channel 4) began with the sonorous words, `In his celebrated diaries, Tory politician Alan Clark portrayed himself as an engagingly flawed and swashbuckling hero, who made his way through the corridors of power with an air of reckless...
A Game of Chinese Chequers
A GREAT WALL: SIX PRESIDENTS AND CHINA, AN INVESTIGATIVE HISTORY by Patrick Tyler Public Affairs, New York, $16, pp. 512 In this astonishing - and dismaying survey of America's China policy down to the micro-level, the most lowering scene takes place...
Ancient & Modern
A BLIND clergyman has opened a restaurant in Zurich, staffed by the blind and operating in total darkness, to help the sighted realise what it is like to be blind. The Roman emperor Domitian (AD 51-96) would have applauded the concept, though his aim...
An Odd Year Ahead
ODD-numbered years have an odd feel to them in sport. That is because each evennumbered year has a colossal, daunting and unmissable centrepiece: the Olympic Games or the World Cup finals. Such is the gourmandising relationship between media and sport...
Ask the Right Questions
In the closing weeks of the year I have been struck more than usual by the irritating sloppiness of so many radio presenters and interviewers. On subjects such as the US presidential election, the Nice summit, unproven global warming, William Hague's...
Banned Wagon
A weekly survey of the things our rulers want to prohibit FEARS have been expressed that farmers will be forbidden to drive their tractors for more than two hours a day under health-and-safety legislation aimed at cutting their exposure to vibrations....
Beefing Up the Bible
Both these two novelists, who normally write about contemporary life, have here chosen characters from the Bible. Fredriksson, author of the popular novel Hanna's Daughters, is Swedish. In her introduction she writes that she was intrigued when she discovered...
Caveat Emptor
This is a story about a man who went to buy a car. He wanted a small, economical hatchback about three years old, and he walked into a local dealership which represents a very well-known multinational car company. He found what he wanted at what seemed...
Dear Mary
Q. Please suggest a solution to a dilemma which must afflict many of your readers with friends in Norfolk. As Norfolk-visitors will be aware, there are a limited number of 'people' living in that county, all of them starved of social stimuli, all with...
Defying the Gods
Rougemont When on a dark and stormy night on the banks of Lake Geneva the great 18-- year-old Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, she was 182 years ahead of Yvette Cooper, New Labour's mini health minister: This is not surprising....
Diary
I have got a computer! After all those years swearing that I wouldn't, too. I've written ten books over the past 20 years bloody brilliant ones, if I do say so myself - on a succession of, basically, toy wordprocessors, and have always laughed off the...
Don't Worry about the Plot, Just Listen to the Music
My New Year's resolution came to me just before Christmas as I watched the English National Opera's production of Verdi's Nabucco. Nabucco is a work which for years I have wanted to see. The hit tunes and choruses are familiar enough, but the opera from...
Genius of Schubert
Earlier this year one of the most important and handsome undertakings in the century-old history of recorded music reached its not-overly-trumpeted completion. But I'll abandon circumspection and say outright that the Hyperion edition of Schubert's complete...
Hong Kong Thrills
Kind friends might call it a robe, a kimono or a sort of Eastern dressing-gown. But the garment a team filming a BBC holiday programme in Hong Kong had me wearing for a fashion shoot at the elegantly trendy Shanghai Tang just before Christmas felt distinctly...
How Long Will Lucky Jim Get Away with It Down in Darkest Somerset?
Biographies of real animals are rare. You can write a novel, like Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, or a fictional documentary, like Henry Williamson's Tarka the Otter, but finding out enough about an animal to fill a volume of actual events is almost impossible....
Irresistible Force
It still isn't uncommon to hear Verdi's Requiem being disapproved of for being too dramatic, or theatrical, the distinction between the two not being drawn as sharply as it should be by those making the criticism. Michelangelo's great painting in the...
It's Sick
Naturally, as it is the Christmas period, I have been ill. I am ill every Christmas. Last year I won a respite and was allowed to catch a cold. But the year before that was par for the course. I stayed with Olga Polizzi and William Shawcross at the Tresanton...
Letters
Lunchtime Oborne From Mr Jeff Randall Sir: I was amused to read Peter Oborne's report (`Table manners', 16/23 December) on poor manners among Britain's wining-- and-dining classes. Quite rightly, he is disturbed by the growing number of professional...
Mind Your Language
YES, thank you, I had a very pleasant Christmas. Veronica was staying with a family in France and my husband spent a lot of time restoring an antique case of surgical instruments, as if he were preparing to re-enact Holy Innocents Day. I meanwhile repaired...
Mr Blair Could Have His Own Problems with the Liberal Elite
It was a cynical attempt to manipulate the most backward elements of public opinion. But with an election coming up, this is a politician who will try any stunt to distract attention from his party's failures in vital policy areas. A lot of high-minded...
No Trouble
'Dick?' I said to the sister on duty, `Dick Brooking?' She looked doubtful. `Little chap,' I said. `Tiny.' Dick's mother died giving birth to him in a south Devon workhouse in 1921. Undernourished in childhood, he had attained manhood in miniature. `You...
Portrait of the Year
JANUARY. The Queen and the Prime Minister held hands in the Millennium Dome to welcome the New Year. Mr George Harrison was stabbed by a madman. Mr Vladimir Putin, the new President of Russia, continued war against Chechnya. Zeljko Raznatovic, known...
Priest: Vote Tory People: Hallelujah
I HAD planned to slip in quietly at the back as you can in an Anglican church, with no other acknowledgement than a grunt from the lady in a furry hat in the next pew. But things don't work like that at the Peniel Pentecostal Church. As I joined the...
Recent Publications from France
It would seem that non-fiction - or life is taking over from fiction in France this year. The outstanding book, which held its own against more recent publications, was Emmanuel Carrere's L'Adversaire, about a spectacular series of murders which took...
Rent a Movie
We've come to that time of year when we critics advise you to skip New Year's Eve and rent a movie instead. Better yet, rent a New Year movie, for it's a curious fact that almost any film about 31 December somehow takes on the same depressing, desperate...
Stormy Weather
There can seldom if ever have been such a spectacular start to The Tempest: as the storm breaks, a seaman high on a mast is deluged with several hundred gallons of water which then turns the stage of the Almeida into a lake. The theatre itself is now...
Sunrise and Sunset on the Boulevard
VANITY FAIR'S HOLLYWOOD edited by Graydon Carter and David Friend, with text by Christopher Hitchens Thames & Hudson, L40, pp. 318 The American magazine Vanity Fair has covered, with gaps, a good number of the last century's vanities. Founded in...
Thank God That's Over
New Hampshire THE transition is now well under way. That's to say, the US media have almost completed their smooth switch from stories about the Republicans stealing the election to stories about the Bush administration in crisis: His agenda's dead in...
The BBC's Treatment of the Tories Is Not Only Wrong. It Is Cowardly
All decent people should support the BBC. That includes Tories, if they can still be counted as decent. However dumbed down it may have become - a process that has accelerated on BBC1 since Greg Dyke, the new director-general, took up the reins - the...
The First Place to Look
THE NEW GROVE (2nd EDITION) edited by Stanley Sadie Macmillan, 29 volumes, L2,950, on-line subscription service: www.grovemusic.com The huge encyclopedias which describe all the manifestation of a single cultural fact were a 19th-century phenomenon,...
The Forgotten Patriot
ON a bright, cold day last month, I went to Watford to lay an armful of lilies on the anonymous grave of a nearly forgotten figure. Having lived here for 13 years - born in North Carolina but married to an Englishman - it had taken me this long to pay...
The Minority It's OK to Hate
A FEW days ago I was standing with another man outside a school in a rundown part of London as the children streamed out at the end of the day. Two mothers came up to us and asked if we were parents. We said we were not, but were waiting to meet a friend...
The Rail Truth
The public has shown remarkable forbearance this Christmas. At the very moment when public transport is essential, the rail network has gone into self-induced spasm. Families are driven on to the roads, while the bureaucrats from Railtrack continue their...
When Order Is Undone
These three plays are the least known and indeed often dismissed parts of Shakespeare's series of eight histories running from Richard II through to Richard III. In his magisterial survey, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (1999), Harold Bloom...
Your Children Are Rap Victims
`QUICK, quick, the "Stan" video's on,' says my stepson, the Rat. So I hurry downstairs because this is an important part of my research. I'm trying to discover why middle-class teenagers are so heavily into rap music, especially the video's author, Eminem,...
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