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. 8933, 1999

A Carefully Cultivated Personality
VACLAV HAVEL: A POLITICAL TRAGEDY IN SIX ACTS by John Keane Bloomsbury, L25, pp. 532 There are few saints in politics and with the recent retirement of Nelson Mandela there is one fewer. Now, Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic, is the only...
A Classic Sporting Hotel
A LAZY CONTENTMENT: THE HISTORY OF THE CARNARVON ARMS HOTEL by Sophia and Julian Watson Lonsdale Press, 20, pp. 82 My family have lived and farmed near Dulverton since before the hotel was built, so I was brought up on many anecdotal stories about the...
A Joker and a Card
A joker and a card Allan Massie FATHER, DEAR FATHER: LIFE WITH WOODROW WYATT by Petronella Wyatt Hutchinson, L15.99, pp. 244 The News of the World billed Woodrow Wyatt as `the Voice of Reason'. `If not lunatic,' writes his loving daughter Petronella,...
A Laughing Matter
New York I write this slightly under the weather having just attended Barry Humphries's Broadway opening of Dame Edna Everage - The Royal Tour. We're at Sardi's, known as the rendezvous of shattered dreams not to mention wallets - and, just like in the...
All Passion Spent
Delighted though I was to be invited by the Governor of Catalonia to attend the recent reopening of Barcelona's Teatr Liceu, I was a little nonplussed by such a friendly gesture -- since I had been under the impression I was persona non grata. My fall...
All's Right with the World
Chaps don't make passes at girls who wear glasses, the poet once told us. But that doesn't necessarily stop the girls in glasses, as I discovered buying a drink at Kempton on Charisma Gold Cup Day. A mettlesome lady in a smart suit, hefty pearl bracelet...
Always True to You, Darlings, in My Fashion
STREETSMART by Nicholas Coleridge Orion, 16.99, pp. 416 You're not really supposed to review books by people you know in case of partiality, but Nicholas Coleridge recently told the Sunday Telegraph he knows 10,000 people, so what's the poor literary...
Ancient & Modern
FOR two years the Catholic Church in Scotland has been offering material help to pregnant girls, so that they keep rather than abort their child. Aristotle (4th century Bc) can take part of the credit or (if you prefer) the blame for this position. He...
A Powerful Queen on the Chessboard of Europe
ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE by Alison Weir Cape, L20, pp. 444 While her achievements have always been recognised, Eleanor on the whole had an unjustly bad press until Bishop Stubbs declared, a century ago, that this great lady deserves to be treated with more...
A Reasonable Sense of Doom
THE end of the world - even if it happens sooner than most of us think - is less frightening than some of the people who are waiting for it. Millennium scaremongers get scarier as the year 2000 approaches. The mass suicides get more spectacular and the...
A Wonderful Town?
Anne Chisholm THE THREE OF U.S: A NEW LIFE IN NEW YORK by Joanna Coles and Peter Godwin HarperCollins, L12.99, pp. 294 This book opens badly. Accustomed though all newspaper readers must now be to the rampant triviality and personalitymongering of many...
Behaving Badly
Opera Katya Kabanova; La Traviata (Sadler's Wells) Opera North arrived in London, for a brief season at Sadler's Wells, bringing a trio of works which, as the introduction to the programme books said, `seemed to make a fascinating combination - very...
Berlin Blooms
Berlin is in the grip of Kunstherbst or its first `art autumn', encompassing not only the contemporary fair Art Forum but also large-scale exhibitions of 20th-century German art along with dozens of smaller shows in both private galleries and public...
Dear Gordon, You've Got to Be Able to Fire Them before You Start Hiring Them
The company chairman paid Margaret Thatcher a compliment she might have done without: `Say what you like, but she's moved unemployment off the shop floor and on to the street.' I thought at the time that she planned to win the election by calling it...
Dear Mary
Q. I recently moved into a new flat to begin the university year. I discovered on arrival that one of my flatmates had opened the entire mail mountain formed while the flat had remained empty. A mere fraction of this heap was, in fact, addressed to us....
Decline and Fall
Decline and fall Norman Lamont JOHN MAJOR: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY HarperCollins, 19.99, pp. 774 I am very obviously not the right person to review John Major's autobiography. Why your editor was so keen for me to do so is something of a mystery. I am told...
Diary
I was attacked at the Labour party conference and would like to show off about it. The meeting was entitled `Delivering Multiculturalism', and the speakers were Paul Boateng, Trevor Phillips and someone I had previously not heard of called Yasmin Alibhai-Brown,...
Frustrated Masters of the Universe
STIFFED: THE BETRAYAL OF MODERN MAN by Susan Faludi Chatto, L15, pp. 662 The author of this gigantic, high-flying and rather belligerent work is one of the world's greatest experts on what, I think, are called `gender politics'. Susan Faludi's last book,...
Happiness Is
People keep asking me about my pain. A very nice woman from the Observer, Nicci Gerrard, came to interview me about a book I have written, Father, Dear Father, which is a comic memoir of my childhood. (Out now, published by Hutchinson, in case you hadn't...
Headlines and Deadlines
SECRETS OF THE PRESS edited by Stephen Glover Allen Lane, Penguin, 20, pp. 317 Who buys books on journalism? Journalists? I doubt it. The reverse, in fact they sell their review copies. Stephen Glover, the editor of this symposium, believes that because...
How Psychoanalysis Will Solve the Mystery of the Missing Tories
Last week's flight of Mr Michael Heseltine and Mr Kenneth Clarke to a platform presided over by Mr Tony Blair was, of course, the most notorious since that of Burgess and Maclean or, indeed, of Rudolf Hess. What are the known facts about Mr Clarke and...
Inside Job
THE most gut-wrenching moments can be announced by an impersonal note. Thirty years ago a college porter left a message for me in my rooms at Cambridge. `Please ring home at once,' it read. That was the first intimation I had of the death of my mother....
I Say, Old Boy, Can I Have Your Vote?
THE Third Way bypass is about to destroy another slice of the constitutional green belt. The House of Lords, long protected from reform by its status as a site of special scientific interest, is bracing itself for the imminent arrival of the Blairite...
It's Me or Jeffrey, Folks
THERE has been a lot of gnashing of teeth since the Labour party NEC decided last week to select our candidate for mayor on the basis of an electoral college. I'm not surprised. The very people who are supporting this u-turn are the same `modernisers'...
It's Up to Them
It is possible to will oneself into extinction. Haitians cursed by a dark voodoo spell will work themselves into such a frenzy that they themselves ensure their own death. Parliament has not had a spell cast upon it, nor has it stirred itself into a...
King of the Swingers
Cinema Tarzan (U, selected cinemas) Simply Irresistible (12, selected cinemas) King of the swingers Mark Steyn Most of us assumed Tarzan had been buried with Johnny Weissmuller a couple of years back, when the impeccably shaven-- chested, incorrigibly...
Letters
An Austrian Thatcher From Professor Reginald von Zugbach Sir: Nigel Jones's assessment of Austria's Herr Haider (`Austria's new H****r!', 16 October) is utterly wrong. Haider is anything but a fascist. He and his party stand for fascism's very opposite....
Mercedes Manners
With what do we associate Mercedes? Reluctantly putting aside the Count of Monte Cristo's concubine, we tend to think of German engineering excellence, status, comfort, luxury, power, performance, that elegant star on the bonnet, those wonderful Nazi...
Mind Your Language
A nice-sounding Italian called Dr Augusto Odello, of Turin, writes to make an `attentive and long thoughtout reply', he says, to my remarks on his short pamphlet Trentatre vs Ninety-Nine (Spectator, 22 May). Both words are used in identical medical circumstances,...
Mind Your Language
The history of the English language is a vast subject not easily explored on radio and television, but Melvyn Bragg is making a good job of it in the first two of his six-- part series on Radio Four, The Routes of English, which began last Friday. A...
Not One but Many Men
GARRICK by Ian McIntyre Penguin, 25, pp. 678 He left his home in Lichfield to study law at Lincoln's Inn and gave it up, became a wine merchant and gave it up; he only wanted to act. `As I shall make very near 300 per annum by It & as it is really...
Open Season for Sniping
Autumn, in the English literary calendar, is the season of atonement. Put away all those Keatsian fantasies about mists and mellow fruitfulness, and think instead along the lines of those `Days of Public Humiliation and Intercession' enjoined upon the...
Poor Cows
You can't counsel cows. They have to work their way through their feelings -- and that's what SO-odd cows are doing right now in a field near Lutterworth. Not so long ago they were fat, happy beasts, ready for market. But then a walker left the gate...
Portrait of the Week
The widow of PC Keith Blakelock said she was considering a civil action against Winston Silcott, who, having been cleared by the Court of Appeal of the murder of the policeman during the Broadwater Farm riots in London in 1985, has now been paid 50,000...
Prince Ever So Charming
Jonathan Cecil IVOR NOVELLO by Paul Webb Stage Directions, L10, pp. 157 Towards the end of his lively study of the light composer and matinee idol Ivor Novello, Paul Webb all but apologises for using the word 'niceness': once in connection with one of...
Rise and Fall of a Wheeler-Dealer
This is not a biography in the conventional sense; but that is suitable because its subject was not a conventional man. It reads like the transcript of a television documentary, a series of interviews chronologically arranged, each chapter prefaced with...
Saving the Sum of Things for Pay
IMPERIAL WARRIORS: BRITAIN AND THE GURKHAS by Tony Gould Granta, 20, pp. 480 In 1951 an acerbic former literary editor of The Spectator was commissioned by Life Magazine to spend several weeks with a unit of the British army engaged in operations against...
Schnecke
CONTEMPLATING my plate of sauerkraut, and a beer served by a pigtailed waitress with a picture of a guard dog on her lapel, I found myself humming the tune to `Springtime for Hitler'. It comes from the Mel Brooks film, The Producers, in which two con...
Sculpting in Light
Exhibitions 1 Lucio Fontana (Hayward Gallery, till 9 January) Sculpting in light Martin Gayford In 1937 Lucio Fontana, an expatriate Argentine artist of Italian extraction, met Constantin Brancusi, greatest of modern sculptors. We do not know exactly...
Second Opinion
ON the whole, I am not impressed by the power of compensation to compensate. Even where deserved in the strictly legal sense, it is either insufficient or totally irrelevant because the loss suffered was often not a financial one in the first place....
Some First Novels
THE REQUIEM SHARK by Nicholas Griffin Little, Brown, L16.99, pp. 384 THE HARVEST by Christopher Hart Faber, L9.99, pp. 232 GEOGRAPHIES OF HOME by Loida Maritza Perez Viking L9.99, pp. 336 The Requiem Shark is a gory and glorious tale of piracy set on...
Sussex Surprise
Exhibitions 2 Rodin (Lewes Town Hall, till 30 October) The late Sir Trenchard Cox once said, in his inimitable, high-pitched voice: `The older I get, the more I like small exhibitions.' He had retired as director of the Victoria and Albert Museum and...
Tales of Derring-Do
These tapes are an extraordinary series, all chosen by Sue Rodwell, who deserves a medal. It is extremely hard to describe their contents and the naming of each tape is arguable: except for `The Navy', one can see that different titles might have been...
The Cannibal of the High Seas
William Keen THE CUSTOM OF THE SEA by Neil Hanson Doubleday, 14.99, pp. 331 Picture this. You're on your way to Australia to deliver a yacht. A violent storm sinks her, and you're left, with your crew of three, in a leaky dinghy, thousands of miles from...
The Fascinating Affinities between William Hague and the Editor of the Sun
Last week something happened which has caused Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's press secretary, to pull out his hair. The Sun, which from before the last election has broadly supported New Labour, started rooting for William Hague, a man whom...
The Mother of All Battles
IT took time for us to learn it, but dinner-- party conversation was not so very hard. The fatal thing was to start off with the question, 'And what does your husband do?' Soon, even the slowest-witted man had mastered an approach which recognised that...
The New Imperialists
WITH perfect symmetry, the Nobel Peace Prize ends the century as it began it, by honouring an international medical organisation. In 1901, the winner was Henri Dunant, founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross. This year it is the turn...
The Temptations of Paul
IF you happen to be a racehorse, you train for about an hour and a half every day. The rest of the time you hang about in your box, dozing, eating, being groomed. Every now and then you go to the races. It works because the racehorse finds contentment...
This Blessed Plot, This Realm, This Nation of Extremists, This England
It is a tactic of the Labour government, and of the Vichy wing of the Tory party, to call those who oppose the headlong rush into the European superstate 'extremists'. Personally, I have no objection to being called an extremist. Indeed, I am never happier...
To Do Our Country Loss
C. J. Tyerman TRIAL BY FIRE: THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR, VOLUME II by Jonathan Sumption Faber, 30, pp. 704 The Hundred Years war provides some of the most memorable and familiar scenes from English history, or used to. Traditional national history was illumined...
Was There Anybody There?
DUTCH: A MEMOIR OF RONALD REAGAN by Edmund Morris HarperCollins, L24.99, pp. 874 If young men no longer grow up wondering if they will die in uniform, the credit belongs to President Reagan as much as to anyone. He established American supremacy, won...
We Few, We Happy Few
We were having a tough time of it at the Oxford Union the other night. The place was stifling, jammed with well over 1,000 students - some said 1,400 - flouting the fire regulations and goggling from the gallery: freshers intoxicated by their first debate...
We're Right to Test the Nukes
New Hampshire A FRIEND in Washington called. 'Isn't it terrible about CTBT?' he said. 'CTBT?' I echoed, hurriedly flipping through my mental Rolodex and trying to remember whether CTBT was that country-and-western station in Swift Current, Saskatchewan,...
What a Mishmash
Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure (BBC 1) is an extraordinary mishmash. We began with Palin on a Suffolk beach, illustrating the kind of dreary holiday which drove him to read Hemingway in the first place. Actually I've always found Papa much duller...
What Pakistan Needs Now Is a Franco or a Pinochet
Pakistan's history is a depressing spectacle. Much more homogenous than India, it should therefore be easier to govern, yet it has made almost no political progress since independence. Every day, India seems to provide renewed evidence for Adam Smith's...
Winning Strategy
Theatre Comic Potential (Lyric) Remember This Lyttelton, National Theatre) The idiocies of television may be a soft target for a playwright like Alan Ayckbourn, but the result is as crisp and invigorating as anything he's done. Comic Potential, the new...
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