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. 293, No. 9142, 2003

A House of Air
A talent for the unexpected A HOUSE OF AIR by Penelope Fitzgerald Flamingo, L20, pp. 552, ISBN 0007136420Penelope Fitzgerald excelled in the art of summary. As a novelist, she had the unfailing knack of implying whole lives, emotional states, social...
Ancient & Modern
Mr Blair has promised to 'listen to the people'. Would a Roman-style tribunus plebis, 'tribune of the plebs', help him to do so? The early years of the Roman republic (traditional foundation date 509 BC) were characterised by stormy relationships between...
Bacchus: A Biography
Tidings of comfort and joy BACCHUS: A BIOGRAPHY by Andrew Dalby The British Museum Press, L14.99, pp. 166, ISBN 0774722424He was born to a virgin honoured with the attentions of the most high god. He assumed human form and gathered disciples around him...
Beaton in the Sixties: The Cecil Beaton Diaries as They Were Written
A picture of Dorian Gray BEATON IN THE SIXTIES: THE CECIL BEATON DIARIES AS THEY WERE WRITTEN introduced by Hugo Vickers Weidenfeld, L25, pp. 434, ISBN 0297645560A good diarist must have a retentive memory, a keen eye for detail, descriptive powers,...
Birthday Tribute
After nearly a week I'm beginning to understand the lay-out of this mega-maniac hotel, a redbrick and terracotta masterpiece by Alfred Waterhouse built originally as head offices for Refuge Assurance, now converted with uneasy opulence as a refuge for...
Dancing to Monteverdi
Dancing to Monteverdi Stephen Pettitt wonders whether we are becoming incapable of listening to music without visual helpLet me take you hack three years. At the English National Opera press conference for the season of 2000/01, it was announced hat...
Diary
An evening of virulent anti-American propaganda at Covent Garden, or rather a terrific Madame Butterfly, brilliantly lit as well as sung. The evening was marred only by the distraction of a madwoman waving her arms at the edge of the stage. This was...
Drive on! A Social History of the Motor Car/The Motoring Age: The Automobile and Britain 1896-1939
Musts for the glove compartment DRIVE ON! A SOCIAL HISTORY OF THE MOTOR CAR by L. J. K. Setright Granta, L25, pp. 400, ISBN 1862076286THE MOTORING AGE: THE AUTOMOBILE AND BRITAIN 1896-1939 by Peter Thorold Profile, L20, pp. 294, ISBN 1861973780I once...
Empire State
Several degrees of bluff EMPIRE STATE by Henry Porter Orion, L12.99, pp. 416, ISBN 0752856839Henry Porter's new book, Empire State, is well up to the high standard of his first two. He is strong on plotting, dialogue, violence, explosions, and - in this...
England's Thousand Best Houses
The stateliest and the starriest ENGLAND'S THOUSAND BEST HOUSES by Simon Jenikins Allen Lane, L30, pp, 950, ISBN 073995963This elegant synthesis (you can tell immediately that Simon Jenkins is an Oxford man and not a product of the other place) is intended...
'Everyone' Says That IDS Is Doomed, Which Is a Good Reason to Suspect That He Is Not
Thank you, Charles, for putting me through such hell. . . . ' Thus Diana, Princess of Wales, in the newly revealed letter to her butler, Paul Burrell, not long before her death.Ours is an imitative age. Epistolary revenge - the letter only to be made...
Flesh in the Age of Reason
When death lost some of its sting FLESH IN THE AGE OF REASON by Roy Porter Allen Lane, L25, pp. 574, ISBN 0713991496Roy Porter, who died in March 2002, was a great and prolific historian. By the age of 55, when he fell dead from his bicycle as he pedalled...
How to Save the Tory Party
New HampshireReaders may recall that, back in the glory days of New Labour, I wrote a piece for The Spectator on how the Blair project seemed to boil down to the Canadianisation of Britain -i.e., the replacement of the hereditary House of Lords (which...
Ideal Incarnation
Opera Ideal incarnation Madama Butterfly; Cecilia Bartoli Royal Opera HouseWhen the Royal Opera's new production of Madama Butterfly opened in March, I was moved by the powerful performance of Cristina Gallardo-Domas in the title role, but not by a great...
It Is No Longer Possible to Scoff at the Idea That Diana Was Murdered
If the Daily Mirror reported the Second Coming, would anyone believe it? Probably not. There is a general view in polite society that the newspaper and its editor, Piers Morgan, are not entirely to be trusted. This may be an opinion based on prejudice,...
Letters
They do listenFrom William LittleSir: Opinionated pieces like Melanie Phillips's ('Why do politicians lie? Because they have to', 18 October) play a large part in the creation of cynicism and apathy in the voting public. Politicians and civil servants...
Lonely Confessions
Harry was eight, and he bore the mark of a victim. It wasn't that he was especially stupid or clumsy or weak; it was a perpetual feeling of shame. His walk was slow and slightly stuttering, as though he was trespassing somewhere far above his station...
Love Thy Neighbour
Even the most gregarious urbanite pauses at least occasionally to imagine a home far from other people's traffic noise, burger boxes and dogshit. When you're in a 'hell is other people' frame of mind, the nearest people can seem the biggest demons of...
Lowry, the Magician
Exhibitions Lowry, the magician L. S. Lowry Crane Kalman Gallery, 178 Brompton Road, London SW3, until 1 NovemberRight from the start, I have to say that I am strongly biased in Lowry's favour. The first major show of his work I saw, as an enthusiastic...
Mahathir Knows Best
An outburst from Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad is, like the appearance of rainclouds over Kuala Lumpur, an unpredictable but regular event. Soon the sun comes out again and life goes on as normal. The Malaysian Prime Minister has a long history of disengaging...
Marvels of Therapeutic Engineering and the Epiphany of the Giant Man
I wandered out of my dentist's, off Sloane Street, a fortnight ago, reflecting on the principles of architecture: that is, the way in which space is enclosed, and forms upheld, by human contrivance. I had walked there all the way from my house, through...
McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales
Tales of the expected MCSWEENEY'S MAMMOTH TREASURY OF THRILLING TALES edited by David Eggers and Michael Chabon Hamish Hamilton, L14.99, pp. 497, ISBN 0241142318Introducing the first true Dave Eggers' McSweeney production (and it is a production - jacket,...
Memoirs
Politically almost too correct MEMOIRS by Douglas Hurd Little, Brown, L20, pp. 534, ISBN 0366861472Douglas Hurd's political career ended only eight years ago, but it already seems to belong to another world. When he entered the House of Commons in 1974,...
Mesmerising Exoticism
Dance Mesmerising exoticism La Bayadere Royal Ballet / Royal Opera House Rosas Sadler's Wells Stephen Petronio Company Queen Elizabeth HallThere is no better way to start a new ballet season than by kicking off with a spectacular, glitzy crowd-pleaser....
Mind Your Language
I am looking forward to reading The Floating Prison, the memoirs of a French prisoner, Louis Garneray, who became an artist while captive in the hulks in Portsmouth harbour between 1806 and 1814. It is edited by the learned Richard Rose, who has just...
Mugabe Is Their Darling
In Johannesburg recently I hooked up with Mojo, an old drinking chum from Dar es Salaam, where in the 1980s I was an FT stringer covering the 'frontline states' and he was an officer in the ANC's armed wing, Mkhonto we Sizwe. These days I'm a settler...
Ottoman Umpire
The United States is suffering from a reverse Midas touch in Iraq. Just as things start to go right, fate intervenes to screw it up. So it was with Turkey's agreement in principle earlier this month to share the burden of occupation, an event billed...
Rediscovering Paestum
Rediscovering Paestum Russell Chamberlin on how the city was left to brigands and buffaloesPaestum, 40km south of Salerno in southern Italy, is something of an enigma among Italian archaeological sites. It has never been a 'lost city', as is sometimes...
Reformation: Europe's House Divided, 1490-1700
Faiths of our fathers REFORMATION: EUROPE'S HousE DIVIDED, 1490-1700 by Diarmid MacCulloch Allen Lane/Penguin, L25, pp. 831, ISBN 0713993707Diarmaid MacCulloch's enormous new history of the religious battles of 16th- and 17th-century Europe begins with...
Restaurants
My nieces - aged five and eight - came to visit last weekend and I had it all planned. On Saturday it was the art cafe, a magical place where a single side plate manages to transmute into a L487 bill, then one of those delightful indoor adventure playgrounds...
Roman Holiday
Cape TownI have Roger Whittaker's classic song 'Kenya is my country!' jingling in my head as I prepare to return to the motherland, somewhat delayed after my book tour across three continents. My final leg has been South Africa. Chaperoning me from the...
Rooting for the Boot
The Man Booker Prize came and went, as it does these days, because it has ceased to mean anything. The Turner Prize never meant anything in the first place, being a playground for pseuds and posers. It only goes to show that Charles Ives was right. 'Prizes',...
Rough Trade from the US
Almost forgotten among the hubbub over the Iraqi war is the last bout of diplomatic fisticuffs between Europe and America. On 5 March 2002, George W. Bush issued Presidential Proclamation 7529, placing tariffs of 30 per cent on imported steel in an attempt...
Rumpole to the Rescue
Horace Rumpole must be one of the most glorious fictional comic characters of our time. He was played beautifully by the late Leo McKern on television but now Timothy West has donned his wig, so to speak, to perfection on radio. In many ways John Mortimer's...
Second Opinion
Who says that honour is no more? The recent killing of several young Asian women, because they would not do as their male relatives wanted, proves it. The young women brought dishonour on their families by refusing to marry the men of their families'...
Sexual Perks
Theatre Sexual perks Betrayal Duchess The Deep Blue Sea Theatre Royal, Brighton Tales from the Vienna Woods OlivierIs Peter Hall in cahoots with Joan Bakewell? Hall has brought his revival of Betrayal up from Bath just in time to coincide with the publication...
Tale of Two Cultures
New YorkThirty years ago this week, on 17 October 1973 to be exact, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries raised the price of oil to $5 from $3 a barrel, then to $11.65, eventually up to $30, if memory serves. As a shipowner and industrialist,...
Tea with Mr Rochester
A group of noble dames TEA WITH MR ROCHESTER by Frances Towers Persephone, L70, pp. 192, ISBN 1903155347'Lucy could have wished that Florence were not quite so ingenuous. One should not seize on a delicate implication and put a pin through it,' writes...
The Bounty
The sea monster that never was THE BOUNTY by Caroline Alexander HarperCollins, L20, pp. 491, ISBN 0002572214It is never easy to tell a story that everyone knows and still harder to tell one that everybody thinks he knows. For more than 200 years the...
The Heath Revisited
The heath revisitedI could never 'get' Eliot's The Four Quartets. The work seemed to be neither poetry nor philosophy; it was rather stranded uncomfortably between the two, for it had none of poetry's rich emotional language nor philosophy's systematic...
The Journals: Volume I
From chrysalis to butterfly THE JOURNALS: VOLUME I by John Fowles Cape, L30, pp. 668, ISBN 022406911XJohn Fowles's diaries - or 'disjoints', as he calls them - are evidence of his own theory that while some writers have a genius for a specific genre,...
The Mystery of the Missing Links
A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend, a man who has more postgraduate degrees than I have GCSEs. The subject of Darwinism came up. 'Actually,' he said, raising his eyebrows, 'I don't believe in evolution.'I reacted with incredulity: 'Don't be so...
The Pitfalls of the Foreign Property Bandwagon
Are you suffering from villaenvy? Do you have the uncomfortable feeling that you belong to the bourgeoisie's very own underclass? You mean, you don't actually have a home abroad? As more and more Brits stampede into the market for apartments in Spain,...
The Point of Departure
Not a party to deception THE POINT OF DEPARTURE by Robin Cook Simon & Schuster, L20, pp. 368, ISBN 0743252551The first thing that strikes one when reading Robin Cook's revelations is that his diary was not written for posterity. It is designed for...
The Pythons' Autobiography
A clump of plinths THE PYTHONS' AUTOBIOGRAPHY by the Pythons Orion, L30, pp. 360, ISBN 0752852930The joke surely with Monty Python is that these trainee doctors, accountants, solicitors and bank managers, who met at college when they were reading law...
The Spoils of Waugh
Those of us who have been cashing in on the centenary of Evelyn Waugh's birth, which falls on 28 October, have had a good year. Stephen Fry has won acclaim for his direction of the film based on Waugh's Vile Bodies, renamed - on orders from the marketing...
Thick Accents
Whenever, as happens with a frequency that makes me suspect the mechanical accuracy of my telephone, I dial a number that docs not exist, a woman tells me that the number I have dialled has not been recognised.Now in the old days - that is to say, up...
Trust Me
I'VE often read about bonding weekends where, as part of a trust-building exercise, you have to let yourself fall backwards into the arms of a colleague. Those who want a less physically challenging test should try playing high-stake bridge. In certain...
What a Let-Down
Almost every time I've met an American in this country since the start of Bush's 'war on terror' they have begun by apologising for being American. And, in that instant, my respect for them has plummeted. First, it means that they very probably belong...
What's Good for GM Is Good for the World
After years of trampling crops, the anti-GM food lobby believes that it has finally drawn sap. Its bete noire, Monsanto, the world's biggest producer of GM crops, is withdrawing from the UK cereals business. No wonder, say the lobbyists, when only 8...
Will It All Be over for Iain Duncan Smith by Christmas?
It has been a week of stagnation and drift in Westminster. MPs have almost nothing to do in the Commons. On Monday night party managers put Conservative MPs on a one-line whip; in other words told them that they might as well go home, a decision that...
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