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. 8979, 2000

A Fine Balancing Act on the Tightrope of Fantasy
THE. POWER BOOK by Jeanette Winterson Cape, L14.99, pp. 244 The sparkling originality of Jeanette Winterson's new novel, The. Power Book, is all the more enjoyable for being, despite its extraordinary flights of fantasy and a rich mixture of literary...
A Healthy Helping
The political world doesn't see much of the chaps in white coats who do mysterious things with scalpels and tweezers or with test tubes and syringes. The nearest I can recall is that when Randolph Churchill had a benign tumour removed from his lung,...
A Labyrinth of Horror
HOUSE OF LEAVES by Mark Z. Danielewski Anchor, l13, pp. 677 Literary horror is a scorned art, a shahby genre perceived by most to be lacking in gravitas. Yet consider its resonance. No other written form has the same power to linger in the mind, to make...
A Load of Gothic Props
MARTHA PEAKS by Patrick MacGrath Viking L12.99, pp. 339 It is a black art, the writing of history, is it not? - to resurrect the dead and animate their bones, as historians do? I think historians must be melancholy creatures, rather like poets, perhaps,...
Animal Distractions
The five of us sat around a table laden with sandwiches and small, chilled cans of Coca-Cola. Some of us were wrapped up in wax jackets, the rest faced down the leaden skies in polo shirts. `It's boiling,' one of the latter declared confidently as a...
A Rather Random Romp
THE TEMPLE OF OPTIMISM by James Fleming Cape, L16.99, pp. 316 Oh mudgy me, as the father of the hero of James Fleming's first novel most certainly would have said, why do publishers make such inflated claims for their publications? Fleming's fiction,...
Banned Wagon
ENGLISH is, by general agreement, rapidly becoming the world's common language - to Britain's huge benefit. But there is one little corner of the world where, it seems, legislators are intent on eradicating the English language: west of Offa's Dyke....
Batting on a Crumbling Wicket
TAINTED BY EXPERIENCE by John Drummond Faber, L25, pp. 478 Unlike most public figures John Drummond speaks his mind. Indeed he is proud to agree with his friend David Attenborough that he has `an unlimited capacity for indignation'. This indignation...
Brighter Shades of Pale
A rather muted theme at Edinburgh this year was Wagner's influence on French opera. There were concert performances of Chausson's Le Roi Arthur and Faure's Penelope. The first, poorly attended, seems not to have made much impression, but struck me as...
Dear Mary
Q. Most of my friends have small children and, although I have none of my own, I always invite the children too when I give a lunch party (one has to, really). However, none of my friends seems to have trained their children properly and conversations...
Diary
I spent most of August in Somerset, with occasional visits to London and the better part of a week in Shropshire. I should have been thinking about the beauties of the landscape, and I did notice the ducks which came into our garden to eat the fallen...
Dream Sheen
The excellence of the Berlin Philharmonic's playing has been endlessly discussed and analysed in print; yet I was still not prepared for the almost miraculous quality of it, on display at the Proms last week. What I heard on those nights prompted many...
Flair in the Air
Richard Hillary's wartime book The Last Enemy has been described as a classic, and when I heard it on Radio Four's Book of the Week, I couldn't think why I hadn't read it. It is intensely moving and beautifully written, a much-needed reminder on the...
Foolish Laughter, the Crackling of Thorns under a Pot
It is laughing autumn in America again, as the presidential election bares the molars and forces the grins. Al Gore is painfully smiling, George Bush chortles uproariously, Dick Cheney creases his mug from ear to ear and Joe Lieberman titters. The wives...
Forward Thinking
Theatre 1 Back to Methuselah (The Other Place, Stratford) Henry V (Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford) You don't have to be Steve Jones or Richard Dawkins to know that George Bernard Shaw's biology wasn't up to much. Back to Methuselah, his `metabiological...
God Save All Fathers
FATHER AND I, A MEMOIR by Carlo Gebler Little, Brown, L16.99, pp. 405 Maybe, at an epoch some label `postChristian', which is still affected by the ideas of Freud, it is inevitable that whether our mummies and daddies loved us or did not love us would...
High English Modernist
WYNDHAM LEWIS, PAINTER AND WRITER by Paul Edwards Yale, L40, pp. 583 Wyndham Lewis is a real oddity, a novelist of the highest interest who was also an innovative and fascinatingly original painter. The only other instance of a painter/novelist of this...
Horrors of the Hamptons
Southampton, Long Island About four months ago I had the bad idea of renting a lare house in the lorified potato field that is called Southampton, and today is the first time I've been inside it. I say it was a lousy idea because Southampton sure ain't...
Letters
Tories can't buck the market From Professor Tim Congdon Sir: Andrew Gimson's 'Tories: don't be slaves to the free market' (26 August) was long on generalities and short on specifics. If the Conservatives are to return to power, they must have actual...
Mane Course
THE great blond beast strides into Wiltons, and I am overcome again by my feelings of unworthiness. You know that moment in The Lion King, when the cub Simba beholds the massive paw-print of Mufasa, and despairs that he will ever be an adequate successor?...
Mind Your Language
SOME readers took it hard when I wrote (August 12) that `Scottish, if the truth be told, is nothing more than a northern dialect of English'. We are not talking of Gaelic, a Celtic language, but of Scots, Scottish or Lallans. A thoughtful protest came...
Missions Impossible
Another week, another James Delingpole review of another programme about the second world war. And it's not as if I ever get these orders from on high saying: `All our readers are crusty old buffers so you've got to write about the sort of TV they like...
Mobility Allowance
A FEW days ago, I experienced a maternal epiphany. Softly entering my teenage son's bedroom at midday, I found him murmuring into his entangled sheets: 'Mum, mum, mum.' His voice was coaxing, then urgent. So he loves me! Then the mantra altered to 'mum-mobile,...
Natural Selection
LET'S start with what I call the hypocrisy riddle. Tony approves of it in private, takes advantage of it himself, but doesn't have the courage to offer others the same opportunities. Harriet has the same problem. Baroness Jay can't quite remember whether...
Non in Arcadia Ego
Theatre 2 Arcadia (Chichester Festival Theatre) Eating Raoul (Bridewell Theatre, London EC4) Why, having nothing much else against Tom Stoppard, have I always so deeply hated his Arcadia? First, perhaps, because it really is too clever by about half...
Paean to the Plum
We are having a wonderful crop of plums this year - some 20lb of fruit picked already from our one tree, and quite a lot more that has had to be abandoned to the predations of wasps. The only pity is that I don't know what variety they are. They are...
Pints, Points: What's the Difference? Ask the Today Programme
For weeks, millions of us have not much known what was going on back home. Those Britons who were wandering around France in mid-August were dependent on, say, Le depeche du Midi, or Le Centre. It was from such newspapers that I gained the impression...
Pole Position
When I was growing up, my father used to take us for drives in the country. Once in a while he would point at a large house and roar, `Who built that?' The answer was invariably a Wyatt. But which Wyatt? There was a whole dynasty of Wyatt architects...
Portrait of the Week
The Conservative party published a `premanifesto' called Believing in Britain, which among its 100 proposals promised changes to domestic law to prevent in some way European Union law from overriding the will of Parliament in areas where it did not voluntarily...
Restaurants
SO to France for our holidays. Oh, the French and their food! The bread! The cheese! The wine! The boulangeries and poissonneries and charcuteries and patisseries and those divine chocolatieres, with their windows full of dainty caramels and truffles...
Rises, Declines and Falls
EMPIRE: THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE AND ITS RIVALS by Dominic Lieven John Murray, L27.50, pp. 486 I cannot remember which statesman it was who said that for the Russians the only safe frontier is one with Russian soldiers on both sides of it, but there is something...
Season of Fruitfulness
Autumn. Excellent. Loads of new albums, one or two of which might even be worth listening to. Unfortunately I am on a poor run of CD purchases at the moment. There are times when your megastore instincts could not be more finely tuned. Even your most...
Secret Weapon of Empire
THE GREAT ARC: THE DRAMATIC TALE OF HOW INDIA WAS MAPPED AND EVEREST WAS NAMED by John Keay HarperCollins, L14.99, pp. 182 The earliest newspaper headline I can remember reading was two words long `Everest Conquered' - and it appeared above a photograph...
Shock Revelation! the Tories' Dramatic New Attitude towards the Public Services
The Tories' preliminary manifesto is unlikely to be the first phase in the astonfishing recovery which will lead to the party's shock victory in 2001. So it will suffer the fate of almost all such texts: relegation to the footnotes of political history....
Swagger Culture
Cinema Snatch (18, selected cinemas) Is Guy Ritchie merely John Lloyd to Madonna's Chris Evert? Or in this AngloAmerican special relationship is the anglo half keeping its end up? Snatch is Ritchie's second feature but, like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking...
Terrible Greatness
WE love to sentimentalise our monsters. In their pomp, they inspire fear and loathing; once they show signs of fragility, we take them to our bosom. Call it Mr Rochester syndrome: Jane Eyre could not marry this strutting, menacing sex god until he was...
The Big Lie
VEJLE is a pretty town, lying at the end of a ford on the fertile plains of east Jutland. On the night I arrived, a festival was taking place. Bands were playing and the shops were open late. Couples strolled hand-inhand through the pedestrianised streets,...
The Englishman Who Cloaked Himself in a Celtic Mist
PATRICK O'BRIAN by Dean King Hodder, 18.99, pp. 428 Those who suffer the tardiness of fame and fortune may take comfort from the story of Patrick O'Brian, unless they have something to hide. Until his early fifties he was a successful writer only in...
The Silk of Human Kindness
ON George Carman's retirement from court work, the newspapers have given chapter and verse on his great skills as advocate, cross-examiner and wit, but they did not pick up on how nice he is. I happened to come across this quality only briefly - over...
The Sin of Omagh
In 1972, British troops opened fire on demonstrators in Londonderry, killing 13. It was a shocking and disgraceful episode, for which the British government obviously bore responsibility in the ultimate sense, even if it had not ordered or wanted the...
Too Busy to Have Babies
ALTHOUGH it is not the done thing to mention it, there is a secret subject bubbling beneath the surface this week: the spectre of the majority of Britons being non-white by 2100 (the majority of Londoners will be non-white by 2010). Personally, I think...
Vistas of the Imagination
Euan Uglow is dead. It has to be said that a light in English painting has gone out. Not everyone, thank God, liked his painting - that would probably indicate ineptitude or worse - but there are few who didn't admire his rigour and dedication. Let alone...
What's in a Name?
Ive got a problem with my cleaner. It's not that she isn't any good. In fact, she's the best cleaner I've ever had: reliable, hard-working and thorough. Nor has she stolen anything from me. In the three months she's been coming, not even a pair of socks...
When Democracy Betrayed Itself
THE CRUCIBLE IN HISTORY by Arthur Miller Methuen, 10, pp. 74 Unlike many major dramatists Arthur Miller has seldom been experimental. He wrote initially for the traditional, commercial Broadway theatre of his youth and early middle-age. In two of the...
Why Mr Fayed, King of the Conspiracy Theorists, Must Be Stopped from Buying the Express Titles
It the end of last week I was told a good story. According to an excellent source, United News and Media was soliciting bids for the Express titles. At last they were in play. Two offers were being entertained, each in the region of L250 million. One...
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