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. 288, No. 9055, 2002

Acerbic Vision
Radio The melancholic wit and sharply observed prejudices of Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin enlivened the Afternoon Play spot on Radio Four last week in Dear Philip, Dear Kingsley (Monday). When their letters were published posthumously last year, one...
Ancient & Modern
THE two main political parties have announced that they are jointly going to attack cynicism. So that's the end of Prime Minister's Question Time, then. More urgent, however, is the cynicism of the electorate. Or is it merely idealism? The inventor of...
An Old Bohemian, Amoral and Fiercely Moralising
THE CHAMELEON POET: A LIFE OF GEORGE BARKER by Robert Fraser Cape, L25, pp. 573, ISBN0224062425 Who reads, or remembers, George Barker today? Even I was surprised to find that we had four of his books on our shelves. I must have bought them back in the...
Approaches and Escapes
FLIGHTS OF LOVE by Bernhard Schlink, translated by John D. Woods Weidenfeld, L12.99, pp. 308, ISBN 0297829033 There can be few readers who have not heard of The Reader. It was a huge critical success and bestseller in Germany and around the world, and...
Atomic Britain
LATE summer found me on the pretty new pier at Southwold in Suffolk, gazing south at a dome that marks a great British technical success. It caps Sizewell B, the UK's biggest and most successful nuclear power station. The pier, a gentle mockery of beloved...
Auntie Drops Her Knickers
FLICK through last week's Radio Times and you will find that one channel was showing some pretty remarkable programmes. If you had tuned in last Wednesday, you could have seen Porn Star, described as 'A visit to the set of an adult film shoot at a house...
Banned Wagon
GORDON BROWN has made much of his targeted tax cuts. There has been rather less trumpeting of a disturbing new trend: targeted taxes, whereby small groups of society are singled out to pay ruinous levies in order to keep down taxes for the majority....
Diary
With every year that passes, the Oscars are taken more and more seriously and given more and more coverage by the media. Not very long ago it was still possible to read a satirical sketch of the Hollywood awards ceremony or an investigative report about...
Down with Oncle Sam!
Paris THE high priests of French anti-Americanism are back. Anyone doubting this should take a look at Jean-Pierre Chevenement's recent scores in polls for the 21 April presidential election. M. Chevenement is a leftwing nationalist who believes that...
Falling out of Love with Music
SELECTED LETTERS OF WILLIAM WALTON edited by Malcolm Hayes Faber, L30, pp. 526, ISBN 0571201059 WILLIAM WALTON: THE ROMANTIC LONER by Humphrey Burton and Maureen Murray OUP, L25, pp. 182, ISBN 0198162359 What kind of composer would William Walton have...
Gems of Compression
The first number in Hugo Wolf's Italian Songbook, praising little things - the costly pearl, the wholesome olive, the fragrant rose - sweetly converts `small is beautiful' from a pious platitude to a tender truth. It opens a collection of 46 such gems...
Handful of Fun
Opera Six-Pack (Bridewell Theat Tete a Tete is a small company, founded in 1997, for bringing `uplifting, surprising, daring and intimate opera productions of the highest quality to the widest possible audiences', according to the programme book of its...
How Does Labour Survive Sleaze? with a Little Help from Its Media Friends
Acording to a YouGov poll in the Sunday Times, New Labour is now regarded as being sleazier than the Tories. Yet an ICM poll in the Guardian suggests that Labour's share of the vote has risen two points in the last month. How do we reconcile these findings?...
Identity Crisis
I WAS strolling along the prom at Scarborough minding my own business. The sun was hot, the ice-cream was cold and, apart from my usual troubles and problems (or troublems, as a friend calls them), I hadn't a care in the world. Or so I thought. For as...
It Was the Biggest Wedding Buy-Up since John Go the Exclusive Rights to the Marriage at Cana
At the time of writing, OK magazine's relevant issue is not yet in the shops. Exclusive rights to the photographs of the ceremony and reception marking Miss Joan Collins's fifth wedding so far were bought, for an appropriately fabulous sum, by that paper...
Language Problems
Theatre Mother Clapp's Molly House (Aldwych) Now that I've been doing this job for three months I can say without hesitation what the single greatest shortcoming is of contemporary British theatre: the seats. My God they're uncomfortable! I was warned...
Last to First
SPECTATOR SPORT IT is not a time that will get many chapters in my autobiography, but I was one of the founding fathers of the Greyhound Star newspaper. During this brief period - the organ went on to great things once I had left - I was ravished by...
Letters
Christians v. Jews From Mr Piers Paul Read Sir: As a lifelong Christian, I was interested to read Melanie Phillips's account of `replacement theology' (`Christians who hate the Jews', 16 February): I have never come across the term before. Certainly,...
Losing the Thread of Life
THE FORGETTING: UNDERSTANDING ALZHEIMER'S by David Shenk HarperCollins, L15.99, pp. 290, ISBN 0002571749 Dean Swift, the master of despair, pretty certainly had Alzheimer's disease at the end, when he became incontinent, forgot his friends and frightened...
Memo to Blair: Sack Prescott, Sack Byers, Sack Irvine - and Move Jack Straw
POLITICS There was an intermission at Westminster last week. MPs went back to their constituencies, or off skiing. Life returned to normal after three weeks of frenzied handto-hand fighting over Enron, the Sidex steel plant in Romania, and Miss Jo Moore,...
Morbid Fantasies
Dance La Bayadere (Royal Opera House) Giannandrea Poesio Marius Petipa's 1877 La Bayadere is to ballet what Giuseppe Verdi's 1871 Aida is to opera. The parallel is anything but casual, given their many structural and dramatic similarities. Both have...
Music's Poor Relations
Composers are badly paid. It is a fact of their lives. Even some of the more prominent names find it hard to make a decent living simply from writing hard-core concert material. A figure of 20,000 to many seems like feather-bedded luxury. Though obviously...
Possessed by Demons
Aleister Crowley was expelled from my school for crucifying his housemaster's cat on the chapel altar. That was the popular rumour, anyway, and I can understand its genesis: when your only vaguely famous old boys are C.S. Lewis and Jeremy Paxman you...
Pursuit of Excellence
In 1844 20,000 people lined the streets of Bath to watch the funeral cavalcade of William Beckford make its way to the Abbey cemetery, where the corpse of this peculiar 83-year-old man was entombed in a pink granite sarcophagus. Beckford was universally...
Railtrack of the Skies
The Spectator, 56 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LL Telephone: 020-7405 1706; Fax 020-7242 0603 There are few sights more nauseating than that of a trade union leader trying to say 'I told you so'. When the news came through that the National Air Traffic...
Scotland
Mull, a baronial castle near Stirling, an 18th-century house overlooking the Cuillins on Skye, an island stronghold in Orkney, and, most unusual of the lot, a 19th-century folly shaped like a pineapple, refurbished by the Landmark Trust. Most of these...
Second Opinion
AS IS well-known, complaints rise to meet the procedures set up to investigate them. Given this fact, it is not altogether surprising that, despite the many legitimate grounds for complaint with which the National Health Service so thoughtfully provides...
Secrecy in a Bleak Bunker
M. R. D. Foot THE SECRET STATE by Peter Hennessy Allen Lane/Penguin, 16 99, pp. 234, ISBN 0713996269 KGB LEXICON edited by Vasiliy Mitrokhin Frank Cass, 35, pp. 451, ISBN 0714652571 Peter Hennessy has written another of his riveting studies of how Whitehall...
Spectator Wine Club
AN apology. Last month's offer, from Lay and Wheeler, was so popular and so greatly oversubscribed that poor Hugo Rose had to spend ages locating fresh stocks. Some readers had to wait an annoyingly long time to get their wine. I wish I could promise...
Spiritual Yearning
A bit of you dies in winter, and you don't realise it until spring begins to stir. And as the sap begins to rise again, one's thoughts turn to love and tenderness, sweaty sex and sweet soul music. I've been overwhelmed by your top tens, of which more...
Steer Clear of Idiots
Rougemont OK, sports fans, what do General William Tecumseh Sherman and Sir Jocelyn Stevens have in common? I warn you, it's a tricky one. General Sherman was the first Union general to use total war tactics in his March to the Sea. When asked to take...
Subject to Non-Availability
THE latest issue, weighing in at one pound, was delivered through my door on Monday and had as many pages as the telephone directory for the Taunton and Bridgwater area. With a cover price (`where sold') of a hefty but notional 22 and a glossy coat,...
Talent Spotting
The turf When he first left school and joined David Nicholson's yard, the Duke's team all called Robert Thornton 'Chocolate'. The label was attached by Gordon Clarkson, now assistant trainer to Richard Phillips, because the young Thornton ate little...
The Pot and the Kettle
ISLAM'S BLACK SLAVES: A HISTORY OF AFRICA'S OTHER BLACK DIASPORA by Ronald Segal Atlantic Books, L20, pp. 241, ISBN 0374227748 Slavery, wrote the 19th-century British explorer James Richardson, was `the most gigantic system of wickedness the world ever...
The Profits of Doom
AT the Christmas cabaret in the politics department of Aarhus University in Denmark last year, the cast members joined together at the end to sing a song about one of the associate professors. `Bjorn, when will you come back?' went the refrain. `Don't...
The Rape of Europe
THERE is no such continent as Europe. It is a misconception of the pioneer Greek scientists of the 6th century BC. They supposed Europe and Asia to be sundered by a continuous chain of seas and waterways: the Aegean, Hellespont, Bosporus, Black Sea,...
Thou Shalt Not
A friend of mine was reading Anna Karenina recently and remarked that it was one of the great books on adultery as committed by a respectable female. We then began discussing other 19th-century novels with a similar theme. Madame Bovary, of course, and...
Time of Enchantment
Aelbert Cuyp at the National Gallery is the best possible antidote to the dismal halls of Warhol at Tate Modern. Both artists lived through times of unprecedented prosperity for their native lands and were themselves successful and prosperous, both were...
Tit for Tat and the Fury of a Squirrel with an Einstein Brain
Professor Pepperberg, a delightful lady from MIT, told an American conference last week that she can teach a parrot, Alex, to recognise 50 objects, to count, to think logically and to connect speech with action. She thinks that birds are as brainy as...
Where Once There Was No Time
Emma Tennant ROAD TO THE ISLES by Derek Cooper Macmillan, f16.99, pp. 247, ISBN 0333901002 On the occasion of my first - and only - visit to the Hebrides in 1963 I found many of the discomforts and amusements depicted in Derek Cooper's evocative historical...
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