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. 280, No. 8854, 1998

A Mere Peep through the Curtain
THE CROWN JEWELS: THE BRITISH SECRETS AT THE HEART OF THE KGB FILES by Nigel West and Oleg Tsarev HarperCollins, 19.99, pp. 366 With at least 15 books to his name Nigel West is without doubt the most productive author of works on the history of espionage....
An Almighty Spin
TRAYS of Belgian chocolates on doilies appeared at the last big Church of England press conference. The religious affairs correspondents, accustomed to dry biscuits, were clearly being sweetened up before writing stories on the new Bishop of Liverpool,...
An Armchair Critic
ENCHANTED EVENINGS: THE BROADWAY MUSICAL FROM SHOW BOAT TO SONDHEIM by Geoffrey Block OUP, 25, pp. 410 With Show Boat, the Broadway musical which launched the genre in 1927, about to sail back into the West End for the first time in 20 years and the...
Ancient & Modern
THE outcome of the Stormont `peace process' over the relationship between the rest of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic appears to be successful. But a peace process implies (one supposes) a war process, and Greeks would have...
Armiable Ramble
Maybe it's time Clint Eastwood did a musical. As it is, the album of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is so much better than the film. Millions of people have bought the book by John Berendt, ostensibly an account of a murder trial in Savannah,...
Artistic Chameleon
Exhibitions 1 Picasso (Palazzo Grassi, Venice, till 28 June) For me, this exhibition came as a profound relief. I have had the gravest doubts about Picasso since the truly dreadful exhibition Late Picasso at the Tate in 1988. It appeared to reveal him...
A Slippery but Electric Eel
LAWRENCE DURRELL by Ian MacNiven Faber, 25, pp. 801 A lunch with Lawrence Durrell used to last seven hours and seven bottles. We then had an aperitif and started dinner. The first time he was deep in the Alexandria Quartet. I could hardly believe he...
A True Gentleman
Timing, and tying yourself to the right event at the right time, is the secret both in advertising and political campaigning. I forget which advertising genius it was who was entrusted many years ago with publicising the Horse of the Year Show, an event...
Blunkett Past and Present
WHAT would David Blunkett's image be, if it were not for the howling hecklers of the National Union of Teachers? Three years ago they wiped out his old reputation as a steel-hard commissar in a few minutes of farce, by locking him in a cupboard while...
Celebrating Ten Years of a Medical Breakthrough
Is it possible that, today, a Jewish mother's proudest reference would not be to `my son, the doctor', but `my son, the spin doctor'? Seldom can a new branch of medicine have achieved fame and reward so quickly. I think I am alone in noticing that the...
China Syndrome
To see the art of the East, at the moment it is a good idea to fly west. At the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, there is, until 3 June, China: 5,000 Years, in all probability the most encyclopaedic array of the visual arts of the Middle Kingdom...
Dear Mary
Q. Having invited two old friends to lunch, I was irritated to see them bearing little packages of food, claiming that they were both suffering from `food intolerances' and so had brought some provisions along as they would almost certainly be unable...
Diagnosing Our Endemic Disease
WHY WARS HAPPEN by Jeremy Black Reaktion Books, 19.99, pp. 272 WAR AND THE WORLD: MILITARY POWER AND THE FATE OF CONTINENTS, 1450-2000 by Jeremy Black Yale, 25, pp. 334 People can be divided into two classes: those who ask, as does Professor Black in...
Diary
New York New York has become such a byword for law and order under the `tough love' of Mayor Giuliani that even the trees are feeling safer. One young man was fined $1,000 for chaining his bicycle to the tree outside his deli every day, thereby injuring...
Don't Forget the Humanities
Isabel Carlisle on the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts The National Lottery Bill goes into standing committee in the House of Commons next week. It puts before Parliament Labour's proposals to increase the scope of the Lottery...
Food: Imperative Cooking: Useless Potatoes and Tomatoes
BEFORE Easter England was full of Egyptians. They are cheerful enough, I suppose, and pleasant enough to look at with their light brown, earthy skins, but they are of no use to anyone. Who invites them all I can't say. They are good for nothing. And...
Getting Back to Non-Basics
CHRISTIAN DIOR: THE MAN WHO MADE THE WORLD LOOK NEW by Marie-France Pochna Aurum, L18.95, pp. 314 Somebody had to make the world look new. For seven years, the women who kept the home fires burning had put all foolish thought of fashion aside: there...
Give Tusa the Job
I am a very great actor,' says the distinguished thespian Sir Giles Hampton when he bumps into young William Brown. `So am I,' says William in Richmal Crompton's story The Great Actor, one of four read by Martin Jarvis this week on Radio Four's William...
Going for a Song
LONDON'S opera buffs used to consider themselves reasonably fortunate. London had two serious opera companies. The Royal Opera House Covent Garden (opened 1858) was 'international' and charged high prices. English National Opera at the London Coliseum...
I1 Faut Cultiver
When a person is tired of Chelsea, they are tired of life; for there is in Chelsea all that gardening can afford. Quite so, but there are people who love Chelsea Flower Show dearly and have been loyal over many years, who yet view the prospect each May...
In the Steps of the Master
I'm just back from the United States, where I watched no television except the news, which was filled with the usual starryeyed nonsense about the Northern Ireland peace agreement. Americans persist in seeing the situation there as another Lebanon or...
Letters
Myths about Kenya Sir: Rupert Wright missed an opportunity when he wrote the article about Lord Delamere (`The Kennedys of Kenya', 11 April). Readers might have been interested to known that the Masai tribe were split in two, geographically, by the purchase...
Mind Your Language
THE patronage of Mrs Malaprop, it seems, ranges far beyond the wordprocessor (or mangle) of Mr Alastair Campbell, the barely civil servant of Downing Street. The words upon which we have to keep our eyes are coruscating and excoriating. I owe the observation...
Mind Your Manners
New York As some of you may have heard, the Big Bagel is going through a period of grace. Civility is in, crass expletives, bluster and intimidation are out, out, out. Mayor Giuliani - no friend of `High life' - is taking most of the credit, a credit...
Mr Blair Was Rough on Mr Ahern (and While Unionists Were There)
Occasionally, one is glad to be wrong. In this column last week, I wrote about the imminent collapse of the Ulster peace process. It seemed then as if everything was unravelling; the gaps between the various sides had been narrowed and narrowed, but...
Musical Myth Making
Posthumous reputations are fickle things, often out of all reasonable control, yet perhaps nowhere is this more evident than with those artists who have become inordinately famous. Fame of the most adulatory kind assumes without question that everything...
No Smoking, but Do Masturbate
New Hampshire I WAS having breakfast in Fairlee, on the Vermont side of the Connecticut River, when a couple from out of state came into the diner, looked around and asked the waitress where the smoking section was. Ginger flipped her thumb in an easterly...
Old Labour Classes
For New Labour ministers, there is no higher reward than to be jeered at by angry, left-wing, public-sector union members. When Trotskyite teachers heckled David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, this week, he will have welcomed their unexpected Easter...
On, to Be in Downland Wiltshire, Now That April's There
Oh, to be in England, now that April's there!' wrote Browning. Yes, but which England? There are so many. Small though it may be, England contains scores of different regions and micro-climates, distinguished from each other by minute variations and...
Portrait of the Week
An agreement was signed on Good Friday at the multi-party talks on Northern Ireland held at Stormont under the chairmanship of Senator George Mitchell. President Clinton of the United States intervened at the last moment to allay Unionist fears that...
Puccini: Be Patient
Hopes were high for this new production of what is routinely called Puccini's neglected Trittico, the first in a London opera house for more than 30 years. Reasons offered for its neglect are usually ones that reflect on the public: our dislike of having...
Right under Their Noses
The recent reduction of Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, that `loose, baggy monster' as Henry James rightly called it, to four highly effective television episodes has underlined once more our continuing absorption with Victorian low life. Other epochs were...
The Flavour of the Year
The flavour of the year William Rees-Mogg A THREAD OF YEARS by John Lukacs Yale, 19.95, pp. 481 Occasionally one is given a book to review which one likes too well. That is always rather difficult as one tends to lose one's critical edge. For me, John...
The Macmillan Generation
A LITTLE BIT OFF THE TOP: A BIOGRAPHY OF S. S. HAMMERSLEY by Barbara Jill Poloniecka The Book Guild, L15, pp. 192 For a few months during the war, my mother took her two young sons out of doodlebug range to Sussex. There she stayed at the house of a...
The Special Charm of Failure
HOSTAGE TO FORTUNE: THE TROUBLED LIFE OF FRANCIS BACON, 1561-1626 by Lisa Jardine and Alan Stewart Gollancz, 25, pp. 637 History is kind to learned men, even if they are unsuccessful politicians. If Francis Bacon had not dabbled in scientific speculation...
The Third World in Britain
THERE could be no better training for life in the British inner city than a spell in the so-called Third World. As Africa is to North America, the inner city is to the rest of Britain. And, of course, many of the solutions proposed by middle-class bien...
Unspilled Blood
Mort,' I explained to the boys sitting in the back of the car, `is the French for death.' We were on our way to the ski resort of Courchevel and listening to a Terry Pratchett story about a boy called Mortimer - known as Mort - who becomes Death's apprentice....
Uplifting the Sole: Le Monde in Cardiff
HAVING dined in Cardiff s best restaurant, Le Monde, a dozen times since Christmas, I am probably the world's leading authority. Those unfamiliar with culinary custom and practice in the Welsh capital are already suspicious. I know, that `the best restaurant...
Vietnam's Inhumanity to Man
WE DROVE for about an hour and a half out of the straggling south-east Asian sprawl which is Saigon, and which -- since the North Vietnamese conquest of 1975 has been renamed, rather ineffectually, Ho Chi Minh City. Most Vietnamese people still call...
War or Picnic?
LAST week I was going on about chivalry. Michael Schumacher must have missed that one. Last weekend, the Formula One driver was in yet another crash. He is, of course, tremendously good at crashing; it is one of the strongest parts of his game. Short...
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