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. 283, No. 8940, 1999

A Bunter with a Wailing Soul
A Bunter with a wailing soul William Feaver THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE by John Richardson Cape, 20, pp. 320 'I don't know William Feaver, nor even who he is - and I am shy by nature. I don't feel we need an art writer: a conversationalist is more important.'...
A Choice of Children's Books
When I was a small child in the 1940s, I had two little books which I loved called the Please and Thank You Books. Each deals with a rude, spoilt child who demands a present from a strict but benevolent nanny. After ranting and raving in vain, the child...
A Choice of Recent Thrillers
At his best Michael Dibdin's crime novels have run the gamut of the laughaloud heartless cynicism of Dirty Tricks to the grisly humour of The Dying of the Light in which demented old people get knocked off and abused in a home while a paranoiac, half-demented...
Ancient & Modern
SO unionists, republicans and nationalists finally sit down to share power in Northern Ireland - or at least power over the arts, agriculture, education and other inconsequential portfolios, in the care of major educationists such as Martin McGuinness....
A Plague of Mouses
WHENEVER I hear Tony Blair, David Blunkett, Greg Dyke or any other similarly credulous techno-junkie burbling on about the marvellous educational powers of computing and the Internet, I feel a Goeringesque urge to reach for my Schmeiser. I happen to...
A Selection of Recent Art Books
Art books still have little to fear from computer screens, at least while the quality of reproduction they can offer is so incomparably superior. It cannot be claimed, however, that they are all as portable as the average laptop. Petrarch may have read...
A Standing Ovation for God?
A standing ovation for God? Robert Oakeshott NO FUTURE WITHOUT FORGIVENESS by Desmond Tutu Rider, Random House, L14.99, pp. 244 Towards the end of this memorable as well as potentially most consequential little book, the former Archbishop of Cape Town...
Begging to Differ
MESSAGE to party-goers: if you're expecting a beggar to break your fall as you collapse into a gutter this New Year's Eve, prepare to be disappointed. The reason is that Shelter, the homelessness charity, is launching Millennium Plus, a scheme to house...
Believe It or Not
Believe it or not Miranda France GOODBYE, BUENOS AIRES by Andrew Graham-Yooll Shoestring, L7.99, pp. 225 Latin American writers seem to prefer describing real events and people in novels, perhaps because a paucity of trustworthy documentation scares...
Blair Bottles Out
TONY BLAIR has a number of personae on the European stage. Sometimes he is the heir of Thatcher, wielding the handbag when it comes to protecting the City of London. Sometimes he is the ingratiating proEuropean, determined to end this country's nonsensical...
Bring Back the Mercenaries
Freetown IN the Sierra Leone of Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter there were steamy affairs between doomed whites in Nissen huts. Those desperate for a bit of interplay with the locals could go for some 'jig-jig' in a brothel behind the cotton...
Crime and Punishment
The story of the 16-year-old who went to the anti-capitalist demonstration in Euston to give the police flowers and was hit with a truncheon for his pains must have filled many a small boy with glee. The pre-teens would have been delighted by the suggestion...
Dating Dangerously
I can't say I'm feeling particularly cheerful at the moment. Among other things no money, no career, no life - my girlfriend's just chucked me. She said she didn't want to marry me which was a bit rich, considering I hadn't actually asked her. She was...
Dear Mary
YOUR PROBLEMS SOLVED Q. Increasingly, I find that many men of my father's generation are incapable of holding a conversation without having one hand buried in a trouser pocket, furiously rattling loose change. Although this irritating habit can occasionally...
Diary
Sullen critics have attributed the success of Sir Cliff Richard's 'The Millennium Prayer' to the abysmal taste of an unguided British public. Much more threatening has been the popular success of the new Alan Bennett play, The Lady in the Van, which...
Didn't They Do Well?
Opera Alcina (Coliseum) English National Opera's contribution this year to the season of good cheer and thoughtlessness is a new production, which shows every sign of being highly popular, of Handel's Alcina, another non-drama of unrelieved imbecility...
Discovering the Whole Thing Is a Hoax
Discovering the whole thing is a hoax Julie Burchill DIANA by Sally Bedell Smith Aurum, L16.99, pp. 368 A remarkable thing about the late Princess of Wales - peace be upon her -- is that, uniquely among icons, she appealed equally to all people, from...
Down under Is Tops All Around
WITH the year on its last knockings, it seems that we must come to terms with the fact that Australia is the greatest nation on earth. In sporting terms, there is no one else in the field. Last weekend at tennis Australia won the Davis Cup, beating France...
Excelling at Squalor
Exhibitions 1 Gilbert & George (Milton Keynes Gallery, Milton Keynes, till 6 January) Excelling at squalor Martin Gayford At the risk of seeming obsessed with the subject, I offer another thought inspired by Tracey Emin's bed. It's not that it strikes...
Flat Out
When that electric two-miler Tingle Creek was alive and racing, the best that jockeys like Ian Watkinson and Steve Smith-Eccles could do was to aim him in the right direction and sit tight. The flamboyant jumper, who in fact never fell in his 49 races,...
Global Corruption Is Everywhere, Including Labour's Backyard
Downing Street let it be known this week that the Prime Minister has been having urgent talks with the security service over the growing menace of the Red Mafia. It is good to hear that our government has at last woken up to what is the greatest threat...
Grey Matters
For sheer high quality this year there has been little to beat The Charm of Birds, a four-part series on Radio Four from the BBC's Natural History Unit in Bristol (Fridays). It looked at the life of Sir Edward Grey, Britain's longest-serving foreign...
Grozny Humbug
It has not been a good week for the ethical foreign policy. Indeed, it has been revealed for what every sensible person always knew it was: an excuse to persecute the weak, and be craven towards the powerful. Britain is not so much the policeman of the...
Leave It to the People
In a recent Spectator article about the collection of high art, low art and ephemera assembled over more than half a century by the Pop artist Peter Blake (Arts, 9 October), I suggested that in the fullness of time this unique omnium gatherum should...
Letters
The Kosovo question From Mr John Laughland Sir: When judging between me and Noel Malcolm ('Yes, there were mass killings', 4 December) your readers should be aware that Mr Malcolm is a declared advocate for the Kosovo Liberation Army, which in May he...
Live and Let Loathe
HAS this country ever been less tolerant? I doubt it. On the one hand are those miserable wretches facing the 'zero tolerance' of New Labour: the squeegee touts, travellers, fox-hunters, beggars, vagrants, drug-takers, conservatives. When it dare not...
Loving the Dome
Just in case you didn't know this already, the Millennium Dome is going to be a huge success. This I find rather depressing, first because if I'd said as much two years ago I could have got a nice, well-paid, controversial article out of it and, second,...
Loyal Subject
New York To Princeton, where King Constantine of Greece spoke at the Woodrow Wilson School's Menaeos Society - created in honour of the first non-English speaking foreign student to attend the university more than 150 years ago - on perspectives on peace-keeping...
Margaret Thatcher Would Have Relished the Helsinki Challenge; Tony Blair Is Close to Panic
A glance at the headlines might suggest a typical British build-up to a European summit. Led by Lady Thatcher, the Eurosceptics are denouncing the government for cowardice. In response, ministers are insisting that they are prepared to use their veto....
Mind You Language
MY friend Sarah Johnson, who is married to one of Paul Johnson's egghead sons, told him something he didn't know the other day, and nor did I. There is a company, Gap, that tries to sell people clothes that look like something from an inner-city jumble...
Mr Blair's Ministry of Truth Is Keeping Tabs on the Mail and the Telegraph
Last Thursday the Guardian columnist Hugo Young inclined his noble head and poured scorn on the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. These two papers were mouthpieces of a 'destructive' nationalism. The Telegraph's opposition to the peace settlement in...
Museum Machinations
There was an unholy row last week behind the scenes at the British Museum. A conference had been called to examine an event which took place there more than 60 years ago. In 1937, Lord Duveen had tipped some museum technicians a few shillings to undertake...
New York Recovery
The fabulous invalid, as the New York theatre has always been known, is out of intensive care at last and at least staggering toward the millennium. Ticket prices may have crashed through the dreaded $100 barrier, but more theatres are open (and playing...
Non-Stop Wallpaper
I have so far managed to see only one of Andrew Graham-Dixon's programmes on Renaissance art (BBC 2, Sunday) - the most recent one, dealing with Mantua, Milan, Urbino and Ferrara. I was careful not to make the mistake of expecting a rerun of Civilisation...
Odd Birds of a Feather
Odd birds of a feather Jane Ridley THE COTTAGE BOOK: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY DIARY OF AN EDWARDIAN STATESMAN by Sir Edward and Lady Grey Gollancz, L18.99, pp. 176 This is a book that can't decide what it's about. The publishers want to market it as...
Pork Shock
IN the shop on Shamai Street where I buy my bacon, rows of ceramic pigs cavort on a shelf above the 'white meat', as pork is coyly referred to here. One pig plays a saxophone while others have sly, knowing looks on their faces as they advertise the proprietor's...
Portrait of the Week
The Northern Ireland executive sat for the first time, although its two Democratic Unionist ministers did not take their seats. Mr Peter Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Mr David Andrew, the Foreign Minister of Ireland, signed...
Present Time
If gardening had not existed, we should certainly have had to invent it. How else could we grapple with those eternal questions, like what to do with a Sunday afternoon in November or, even more important, what to choose to give our relations and friends...
Rabid Collector
Vivant Denon (Louvre, Paris, till 17 January) Imagine Alastair Campbell-Neil MaeGregor, Peter Mandelson and Chris Smith all rolled into one. Even in these days of genetic engineering and unusual Scottish sheep it is an eerie thought. Yet the curiously...
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
WHEN Restaurant Gordon Ramsay Ramsay opened a year ago, I gave it an unreservedly rave review in my Daily Express restaurant column. Immoderate praise is not my natural metier, but dinner on Day 19 was exceptional. The furore surrounding the opening...
Roads Leading from Rome
THE TIME BEFORE YOU DIE by Lucy Beckett Ignatius, 412 99, pp. 331 Available from Words Inc, 01243 517 3648 Peter Vansittart The Tudor state was harsh, sometimes ferocious, often from premises ostensibly religious, particularly in the bewildering confusions...
Salute to the Sixties
Cinema The Limey (18, selected cinemas) Salute to the Sixties Mark Steyn Terence Stamp is The Limey; Peter Fonda is, well, the slimey - a scaly music biz exec Stamp flies to California to do battle with. It's a kind of Mod vs Rocker Seniors' Tour - or,...
Sensibility and No Nonsense
Sensibility and no nonsense William Scammell SEVERAL STRANGERS: WRITIN, FROM THREE DECADES by Claire Tomalin Viking, V & 99, pp. 248 'What is it the best writers do? They infuse the world with their energy, making it more real, more immediate, more...
Speaking Out
I had to make a speech the other day at an Oldie magazine lunch. I forbore to wonder aloud how many of them would see in the millennium. I still can't quite get into the habit of insulting an audience although everyone assures me they like it. I suppose...
The Charm of the Fleeting
The charm of the fleeting Emma Tennant ANNUALS AND BIENNIALS by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix Macmillan, L19.99, pp. 288 This book is billed as 'the first major illustrated work on annuals for over 150 years'. For once the publisher's hype is true, and...
The Driving Force
Brussels 'AND now, if there are no more questions on hormones in beef,' said Signor Prodi's spokesman after he had delivered the day's quota of euronews to us at dictation speed, 'there will be a technical briefing from the cabinet of Neil Kinnock, Commission...
The Flaky Candidate
THE first John McCain campaign stop I attended was at Lebanon airport in New Hampshire a few months back. It was a breakfast meeting, so Senator McCain, a short, stiff man with white hair, made a brief speech and then took questions. 'Why's he doing...
The Greatest Story Ever Told
The greatest Story ever told Sarah Anderson THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: A.D. 2,000 YEARS OF CHRISTIANITY edited by Christopher Howse SPCK, L20, pp. 192 I was puzzled by this book from the moment I started reading it as I had a problem working out who exactly...
The Master of the Indirect
HENRY JAMES: COLLECTED STORIES, VOLUMES I and II with introductions by John Bayley Everyman, L12 50 each, pp. 1237 and pp. 1089 Anita Brookner Henry James, the stately outsider, wrote stories all his life, though not in the sense of 'short stories':...
The Necessity of a Sense of the Numinous
AFTER PROGRESS: FINDING THE OLD WAY FORWARD by Anthony O'Hear Bloomsbury, L14.99, pp. 270 duke of Cambridge from the last century once blustered that he was on principle opposed to change, even change for the better. His piece of self-consciously reactionary...
The NHS Makes Me Wonder Whether I'll Ever Be a Proper Tory
Why don't you go private?' My seeretary had a point. She and I had found two plastic chairs together in the rather shabby Accident & Emergency waiting-room at St Thomas's hospital in London. I had just been told that the wait would be three or four...
The Outrageous Elitism to Which Mr and Mrs Blair Have Been Subjected
Many would have been shocked that Mrs Cherie Blair - who the previous Sunday had been present at Sir Elton John's less offensive concert in aid of an organisation for homosexuals at which male dancers began a divertissement dressed as Cub Scouts and...
Three Cheers for Two Jags
LOUDER even than the traffic on Whitehall is the screech of vultures circling over Westminster. The roads lobby has smelled a wounded animal in John Prescott and surveys his ample carrion with delight. Oh, how they must be enjoying themselves in the...
To the Right, to the Left and in Front
To the right, to the left and in front Ian Ousby CRIMEA: THE GREAT CRIMEAN WAR, 1854-56 by Trevor Royle Little, Brown, 22.50, pp. 564 In our current preoccupation with the world wars of this century we should probably spare more time for the forgotten...
Where Fools Rush In
Where fools rush in Robert Stewart THE BALKANS, 1804-1999 by Misha Glenny Granta, L25, pp. 726 Da television discussion of the recent troubles in Yugoslavia a senior politician remarked that two world wars in this century had started in the Balkans....
Who Needs Enemies?
STEPHEN SPENDER by David Leeming Duckworth, $20, pp. 288 P. J. Kavanagh Because Spender wanted his biography, should there be one, written by an Englishman, he gave the American academic Leeming, 'somewhat reluctantly, written permission' to write a...
You Wouldn't New Year's Eve It
BACK when the Artist Formerly Known As Prince, or Prince as he was then known, first posited the idea that one might Party Like It's 1999, we all thought we knew what he was talking about: Dionysian excess with a throbbing disco beat, a preSecond Coming...
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