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. 282, No. 8897, 1999

A Bit Scary for Grown-Up
THE PRINCESS BRIDE: A HOT FAIRY TALE by William Goldman Bloomsbury, 14.99, pp. 399 William Goldman is a prolific writer, a real pro, whose most notable successes are the screen plays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President's Men,...
A Choice of Recent Thrillers
Assassins crop up in a significant proportion of crime novels, sometimes attached to a country's intelligence services, sometimes hired by crime syndicates. Usually they are fit, macho men who know a lot about guns and hand-to-hand combat. Lawrence Block's...
A Crucial Choice of Wives
BATTLE ROYAL: EDWARD VIII AND GEORGE VI, BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER by Kirsty McLeod Constable, 25 pp. 260 That great historian Cecil WoodhamSmith said that there were certain subjects of such gold they could withstand any number of books written about...
A Host of Pleasures
Dosso Dossi, Court Painter in Renaissance Ferrara (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, till 28 March) Most of you have never heard of the Renaissance painter called Dosso Dossi (real name: Giovanni Francesco). I never had, either. Dosso (the nickname...
A Lesson from the Throne
Monarchs do not die ordinary deaths. Even in these modern days, kings are still hedged about by such divinity that the world pauses when they pass on. The funeral this week of King Hussein of Jordan showed a world still in thrall to a primitive form...
A Much Maligned Beast
THE ENGLISH PIG by Robert Malcolmson and Stephanos Mastoris Hambledon Press, 14.95, pp.160 I have a beautiful neighbour who, on her return from a trade fair or similar fashion event, races out in her gumboots to say hello to the pigs. They grunt hello...
Ancient & Modern
PEOPLE cannot get enough of the ancient philosophers. After the best-selling Sophie's World, Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full picks up on the Stoic philosopher Epictetus (c. AD 5s135). Born a slave in Phrygia (central Turkey), Epictetus came to Rome, was freed...
A Place to Muse
A few weeks ago I flew to Berlin to join some 2,000 others from all over the world in celebrations marking the completion of Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum. Waiting to cross the Lindenstrasse to the museum, a Japanese visitor crenellated with cameras...
A Sense of the Absurd
Patrick Caulfield (Hayward Gallery, till 11 April) 'Painting was always dead,' Willem de Kooning once remarked, `but I never let it bother me.' The English painter Patrick Caulfield might well say the same. So, too, might young painters today; so might...
Cheap Sensationalism
One of the joys of interviewing applicants tor the undergraduate courses offered by the dance department I work for is to listen to their often revealing answers. Recently, a lad, who had been asked to name a ballet he had seen and to comment on it,...
Coming out of Hiding
SINGLE AND SINGLE by John le Carre Hodder, 16.99, pp. 336 A simple title, a novel which is anything but simple. Single and Single is a curious crossbreed of a book: expose of amoral world of international finance, oedipal study of betrayal, unoedipal...
Confusion of Loyalties
I had intended writing about several Radio Four programmes this week, a very strong and beautifully argued The Moral Maze last Wednesday about the absurdity of the Glen Hoddle affair and the witch hunt following his muddled remarks about reincarnation...
Dear Mary
Q. My parents, both very active septuagenarians to whom I am devoted, live very near our holiday house in east Suffolk. They are helpful and kind in attending to daily matters for us, such as turning on the boiler, dealing with the window cleaner, letting...
Diary
Of all Alan Clark's attractive prejudices, the one I share most strongly is his antipathy to lunching. But a dislike of this ritual, like another of Mr Clark's prejudices, admiration of Peter Mandelson, is a handicap for any political journalist. The...
Disturbing Innovation
lt is rather impertinent of Michael Tanner to say, in his piece about surtitles (Arts, 30 January) that `one has to more or less construct the opponents' case' when he was in receipt of a letter from me about surtitles two weeks previously, chunks of...
Dressing Up
The boys wanted to go to a Chinese restaurant on Saturday and so we went. It wasn't easy. We usually go to a place in a local village, but this Saturday it was closed. Even the lights in the fish-tank were switched off. If we weren't to starve, we had...
Elizabeth Has It
Despite the best efforts of Petronella Wyatt, Shakespeare in Love has swept the Oscar nominations, which doesn't mean much except that the Academy's staying true to its principles of peddling explosions, space monsters and ejaculation jokes 11 months...
Food: Lenten Thoughts
LENT is already with us, St Valentine's Day is on Sunday rapidly followed by Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday: two days of chocolates and pancakes, then a plunge into fasting and abstinence. I wonder if they still make Plum Shuttles or Valentine Buns...
Four Couples in Search of a Plot
Gay plays in Britain have had a curious history of what could be called an open closet; long before the abolition of state censorship in the 1960s, dramas like The Green Bay Tree (1933) and in the following year Noel Coward's Design for Living had unmistakably...
Good or Bad?
Edward Heathcoat Amory Two weeks ago, I sat round an elegant dining table, drank a fine red wine from the Bekaa valley in Lebanon, and listened to a leading right-wing intellectual proclaim that morality was dead in modern Britain and that television...
He Thinks It's All Over
ALL IN THE MIND by Ludovic Kennedy Hodder, 18.99, pp. 302 Ludovic Kennedy became an atheist soon after his Confirmation at Eton, and has never looked back. Now nearly 80, in what he calls `life's departure lounge' (not transit lounge, for he doesn't...
How Our Universities Have Banned Free Speech
SOME weeks ago a bust of Arthur Koestler, author, philosopher and now revealed as a rapist, was removed from public display at Edinburgh University. 'Some female students reported feeling uneasy under his gaze,' said a spokesperson for the students'...
I Never Knew a Thing
THE LAST TREK: A NEW BEGINNING by F. W. de Klerk Macmillan, 20, pp. 400 People blame me for handing South Africa over to the blacks. To be honest, I don't regret anything I have ever done, though these last four years under Mandela have been a sad day...
It's Not Because They like Him
AT the time of writing, I do not know the verdict of the impeachment trial. But undoubtedly, by the time you read this, William Jefferson Clinton will have been convicted and removed by, oh, at least 83 out of 100 Senators. Okay, maybe not. So, instead,...
John Milton's Advice to the Tories on How to Regain Paradise
There was only one photographer at the door of the Conservative Winter Ball the other evening. No security people hovered from the Special Branch. Mr and Mrs Hague were not there to be photographed and protected, Mr Hague being away for King Hussein's...
La Famiglia: The Good Cook at the Tabernacle
MY god-daughter was christened last weekend in Chelsea. Olivia Frances Mnemba Ward-Jackson smiled beatifically when the vicar drenched her head with warm water and went to sleep while the guests ate her cake. If she is lucky she will inherit her mother's...
Letters
Standing by our man Sir: Sue Cameron says Jonathan Aitken was guilty of creative lying (`Too soft on a rich Tory, or too hard?', 30 January), and `it is that which marks him out as one of the exceptional cases that cannot be overlooked'. Since he was...
Little Fish May Be Sweeter, but Size Matters So the Big Boys Throw Them Back
Investment, question one: what is a small company? Answer: a company valued at not more than 800 million. Who says so? Schroders says so, and it invests well over 100 billion of other people's money, and is valued at 3 billion itself, which must make...
Making the Best of a Bad Job
Roberts Rhinehart, 19.95, pp. 175 According to Tomi Ungerer there are 186 ways of saying you are drunk in Alsatian and both the French and the Germans have given the people of Alsace every excuse to be blotto. Lying along the Rhine between France and...
Message from Mauritius
A MESSAGE in a bottle drifts in from Mauritius, where my man in the beach bar saw Gordon Brown take to the air: `It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superchancellor!' The Treasury has now confirmed that he flipped round the island in a helicopter and then...
Mind Your Language
VERONICA made a sort of aerosol of a mouthful of Sunny Delight, a fruity concoction she insists on drinking, though it does nothing for me. This rude display indicated laughter. She was laughing at the story of Mr David Howard, who was forced from office...
Multiple and Mysterious
SHAKESPEARE: THE INVENTION OF THE HUMAN by Harold Bloom 4th Estate, 25, pp. 745 The universe was, surely, playing some kind of inscrutable practical joke towards the end of the 16th century, in the environs of what would become Birmingham. To conjure...
Overcoming Opera's Obstacles
The great German director Peter Stein is in the country to direct Peter Grimes for Welsh National Opera, for whom he has staged Pelleas et Melisande, Falstaff and Otello, each production quite exceptional. Falstaff was perhaps somewhat less congenial...
Perfect Pitch
AFTER last week's football news and the indictment for heresy of the England football coach, Glenn Hoddle, it is time for those with an interest in religion to turn their attention to what has always been their true spiritual home. Which is, of course,...
Portrait of the Week
The Bank of England cut half a percentage point from interest rates, bringing them down to 5.5 per cent ano making mortgages cheaper than at any time since 1965. A foreign affairs select committee criticised the Foreign Secretary and civil servants for...
Restoration Period
Hereford is the dullest of mediaeval English cathedrals. Long neglected and then badly treated by Wyatt `the Destroyer' after a west tower collapsed in the 18th century, it lacks an ancient west front and, despite the interest of the surviving architecture,...
Robust Decadence
Der Rosenkavalier (Scottish Opera, Glasgow) Scottish Opera's new production of Der Rosenkavalier is an almost unqualified success, whatever one may think of the work itself. Cast from strength, even down to the smallest roles, conducted with precision...
Second Opinion
I USED to wonder how such large-scale bestiality as that which occurred under the Nazis was possible, but now that I am acquainted a little better with mankind, the wonder is that it does not happen more often. The fact is that man is a wolf to man;...
Sticking Together
New York One of the most disgusting men I've ever had the bad luck to see and hear on television is Alan Dershowitz, a loudmouthed lawyer who appears nightly on television defending the First Groper. The awfulness of his physical appearance aside, Dershowitz's...
Telling a Writer 'Get on Yer Bike' Is Giving Him Good Advice
Reading Vidia Naipaul's moving new essay on how he became a writer, I was struck by the role dislocation plays in creativity. If Naipaul and his equally talented brother had remained in the traditional Indian society of their forebears, it is unlikely...
The Big Skid
Last month I mentioned having skidded - rather gracefully, as it turned out. Apart from wondering why I couldn't have skud when I scad, I took this as a sign that I was right to have booked one of Paul Ripley's Driving Activity Days, which includes an...
The Grisly Contents of Pandora's Box
L!VE TV by Chris Horrie and Adam Nathan Simon & Schuster, L16.99, pp. 515 Years ago in the Commons there was an MP who was so dreary that we called him the most boring man in the world. Then we realised that being the most boring man in the world...
The Kurds Denied Their Way
KURDISTAN by Jonathan C. Randal Bloomsbury, 25, pp. 374 Speaking in their own tongue, their message pressed home with bullet and blade, about 25 million voices assert the existence of Kurdistan. But there is no room for Kurdistan on the map. Despite...
The Life of Reilly
IRON MAZE by Gordon Brook-Shepherd Macmillan, 20, pp. 402 Among books on secret services, this is a real eye-opener. It explains, from authentic original sources, both Russian and British, the hitherto wholly unknown story of how the Bolshevik regime...
The Torture and Censorship about Which Our Press (and the BBC) Is Mostly Silent
Zimbabwe has enjoyed a relatively free press since independence in 1980, as I remarked in a column I wrote in December 1996. Although state-controlled titles are dominant, there are several independent newspapers that have been remarkably outspoken in...
Thoroughtly Spooked Out
FOLLOWING the imbroglio last week at the MI6 out-station in Prague, I have come into possession of a recent and highly confidential exchange of correspondence which I am able to publish exclusively in The Spectator. F.F. From: John 'Tango' Trubshaw,...
Under a Shadow
There was a special quality to the cheers when Dean Gallagher rode Teaatral into the Sandown winner's enclosure after winning the valuable Tote Hurdle last Saturday. The racing world was enfolding one of its own to its collective bosom and showing, once...
When King Hussein Had a Talk with Queen Victoria
King Hussein's run of good luck began before he had ascended his throne. When his grandfather Abdullah I was assassinated, the young Hussein only escaped because a medal which he was wearing deflected a bullet. King Abdullah and his grandson had travelled...
Whistle Down the Treasury
THE SPECTRE of a Whitehall whistleblower is haunting Chancellor Gordon Brown. It is rare indeed for top civil servants to grass on their ministers and they do so only in extremis. Yet there are signs that Treasury mandarins are ready to unleash their...
Why Japan Turned South
SAVING Private Ryan may or may not be the most convincing depiction of battle ever made by the film industry. But it certainly indicates a general emphasis at present on the war in western Europe, unjustified by contemporary events further east, in the...
Your Country Needs You
It really is too embarrassing. The way in which we have to creep around and darkly loiter. The way in which we can only talk in whispers in case someone shares in our shame. A few days ago a television producer begged me to `come out' on a documentary....
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