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. 8857, 1998

A Bit of Jiggery-Popery
A woman pope? A woman pope only discovered when she gives birth in public, and, what's more, an Englishwoman? This is the astonishing claim made by the former editor of the Catholic Herald, Peter Stanford, in The She-Pope. There are several versions...
A Coming Star in the English Musical Sky
I am enjoying a learned book by Daniel Heartz of the University of California, entitled Haydn, Mozart and the Viennese School, 1740-80. It was published three years ago, but I have only just bought it. My denght has been increased by a recent visit to...
Ancient & Modern
FOR anyone who still thinks we live in a democracy, the article by our excellent associate editor Sion Simon (`The night we couldn't believe it', 2 May) should be compulsory reading. Here, plain for all to see, is laid bare the true nature of the British...
A Powerful Revenant
A powerful revenant Anita Brookner YOUR BLUE-EYED BOY by Helen Dunmore Viking, 12.99, pp. 252 Simone, aged 38, is a district judge in a small town in a marshy region of England. The region is unspecified - Essex? although the marsh plays a considerable...
Artistic Nothingness
There isn't much in the Hayward Gallery for the next few months -- mainly a lot of empty space, punctuated by a few holes. The visitor walks into the first, big long room, for example, and finds just three works in it: a rectangular blue hole in the...
A Talent to Annoy
A Surreal Life: Edward James 1907-1984 (Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, till 26 July) `Edith Sitwell didn't want to be an eccentric,' chirps the high-pitched, perfectly enunciated voice of a bearded Edward James, standing pin-striped in the Mexican...
A True Eccentric
For those of us of a certain age but not more, Tom Lehrer was a name from the recent past. His heyday didn't quite coincide with my adult life (his last record was made in 1965; his absolutely last concert appearance in 1972) but his reputation has grown...
A Wartime Hero
Penguin Books deserve congratulations for reviving Patrick Leigh Fermor's translation and introduction of George Psychoundakis's account of the German occupation of Crete during the second world war, originally published by John Murray in 1955. Between...
Beware the Sharks
By the time you read this, I shall be in South Africa doing something so truly horrible that I feel quite sick just thinking about it. Diving with Great White Sharks. Though I'll be on the inside of a cage and the sharks, with luck, will be on the outside,...
Boring for Germany
HE WHO DOES NOT HOWL WITH THE WOLF by Gottfried Wagner Sanctuary, 16.99, pp. 335 The best title for this book would have been Mein Kampf, if it hadn't already been used. Gottfried Wagner, son of Wolfgang, the present director of the Bayreuth Festival...
Dear Mary
Q. I am elderly and have recently moved into a residential home which I am finding very comfortable and satisfactory. At the same time, in view of my advancing years, I have given up driving and sold my car. I am blessed with a number of old friends...
Diary
Finis coronat opus. Twenty-five years ago, when I was making The World at War for Thames Television, I used to drive to work on the Euston Road, passing on the right, just beyond Tussaud's next to St Mary-le-Bone, the headquarters of the Ronson company....
Hamster Tales: Part Two
The tale of the disappearing hamster is becoming more bizarre by the day. Last week, Trigger, my middle son's huge, eviltempered hamster, vanished from her home in the middle of the night. Twentyfour hours later she had returned. How she escaped and...
Historians: Tell It How It Was
BRITISH historians have come a long way since Edward Gibbon put them on a par with their Continental counterparts in the second half of the 18th century. But as academic history continues to diversify, and the demand for popular history particularly...
Hitting above and below the Belt
ARTIST UNKNOWN: AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY OF THE ARTS COUNCIL by Richard Witts Little, Brown, 22.50, pp.593 iddling': that casually demotic participle sets the tone. `The Arts Council has been piddling about in the cultural life of Great Britain for half...
In Excelsis: Jaspistos
IN COMPETITION NO. 2032 you were invited to imagine the libellous poem about Winston Churchill which Lord Alfred Douglas wrote when he was already in prison for libelling him. The manuscript of the poem exists, but the copyright-owner, a Mrs Sheila Colman,...
Is Opera a Disease?
Is opera a disease? John Jolliffe EMPERORS OF SONG by Freddie Stockdale John Murray, L20, pp. 204 This excellent book covers the careers of three exceptional impresarios. Two of them, Mapleson and Oscar Hammerstein I, ended in disaster, though only after...
Its the Big Race to Run British Racing, and the Captain's under Starter's Orders
A turn-up for the book in the race for the top job in racing: Captain Threadneedle, my racing correspondent, has thrown his hat into the silver ring. When the runners come under orders next week, the Captain will be there, facing the tapes. At stake...
James the Porn
NORMALLY on a Monday morning, the car park of the Queen Mary, a notorious Los Angeles transvestite club, would not be jammed with BMWs, mini-trailers and several dangerously unroadworthy-looking VW camping vans. Unknown to the attorney's office next...
Le Style, C'set la Femme Meme
MARIGA AND HER FRIENDS by Carola Peck Hanlon Press, 20, pp. 312 In the 1960s Mariga Guinness made Leixlip Castle an unforgettable place: a solid, four-towered mediaeval castle converted in the early 18th century with huge, thick-barred windows and spacious,...
Letters
Out of Africa Sir: In his column (As I was saying, 11 April), Peregrine Worsthorne describes himself as a crusty old reactionary, yet his article reveals all the qualities of a young radical determined to rid us of the last vestige of pride in our country's...
Mary Bell's Case Proves That the Godless Still Believe in the Devil
Two Tates and a lot of tat Philip Hensher NAT TATE by William Boyd 21 Press, 9.95, pp. 67 THE TATE by Frances Spalding Tate Gallery Publications, 25, pp. 308 The art world is an odd sort of place, with its curious rituals and appeasements, its social...
Mind Your Language
`CESSPIT and Septic Tank Emptying Service' is the heading to a letter sent to the wife of a reader whom I have promised to leave anonymous. Though sent to Mrs Cesspit Owner, it begins `Dear Sir/Madam' and goes on to explain why charges for emptying a...
Moral Education
England's subsidised national theatre companies come in for a certain amount of flak for failing to provide enough support for contemporary drama. The RSC has a particularly difficult time fighting off these charges, committed as it is to a steady diet...
Off Sex-Almost
New York Sildenafil citrate is the active ingredient that was first developed as a drug to alleviate angina. By a happy coincidence, patients being treated with the drug got terrific erections. In no time the stock of Pfizer Inc., the drug developer,...
On the Road to More Strife
IT'S HOLOCAUST Day eve in Israel, and I'm driving through an Arab suburb of north Jerusalem on my way to dinner with friends. The road is its customary mayhem of Arab drivers, interspersed with the occasional Israeli, battling for supremacy, even if...
Passionate Beliefs
At an enjoyable Sunday lunch in Wiltshire a middle-aged working woman who lives in London demands to know what I am going to do about the new Radio Four schedules. 'I am never going to listen to Radio Four again!' she exclaims angrily. `I've stopped.'...
Portrait of the Week
Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, had breakfast of coffee and croissants at No. 10 Downing Street with Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel; he then had a meeting in another room with Mr Yasser Arafat, the President of the Palestinian...
Restaurant: Veeraswamy, Tamarind, and Rajdoot
VEERASWAMY is by far Britain's oldest established Indian restaurant, having first opened in its Swallow Street premises, just off Regent Street and a stone's throw from Piccadilly Circus, way back in 1926. I remember going there as a schoolboy on a treat...
Royal Patronage
For over half of this century, the royal family patronised Daimler as the provider of official cars before changing, in the early Fifties, to Rolls-Royce. Recalling what I'd read in a motoring magazine years ago, I thought I knew why; in a recent article...
Second Opinion
THE question of whether there is intelligent life in other galaxies has often been debated, but it seems to me that a more pertinent question is whether there is intelligent life on earth. I sometimes imagine a race of super-intelligent aliens landing...
Sensation Stalks the Stage
Examining that famous invalid, the London theatre, we are faced with ambiguous portents. On the one hand, sensation and nihilism stalk the stages. At moments recently it has seemed that the theatrical powers-that-be, following the examples of visual...
Shindler's Park
Shindler's park D. J. Taylor MANCHESTER UNITED RUINED MY LIFE by Colin Shindler Headline, 14.99, pp. 310 Colin Shindler is a celebrated smalland wide-screen operator whose writing and production credits include Lovejoy and the feature film Buster. Manchester...
Slapstick and Pathos
Slapstick and pathos Jonathan Cecil THE CHAPLIN ENCYCLOPAEDIA by Glenn Mitchell Batsford, L15.99, pp. 288 My favourite anecdote about cultural snobbishness comes from Isaiah Berlin. At dinner, sitting next to a famous art critic's wife, Berlin ventured...
Steaming Along
Show Boat (Prince Edward) A Question of Mercy (Bush) Musicals don't come a lot better than Show Boat, and indeed they wouldn't come at all had it not been for this one. Back in 1927 Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein got together to write what was effectively...
Straight Talking
As the tension built in the changingroom before the Grand National, jockeys were fussing through their pre-race rituals and ribbing each other. With the ground wet and heavy some were equipping themselves with as many as five sets of goggles to ensure...
Subtle Steps
The kind of people who make films are not, on the whole, the kind of people who are sympathetic to ballroom dancing. Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom, for example, was a lurid cartoon of its subject that depended on one joke - the tonal mismatch between...
The Cardinal Casts God's Vote
WHAT would Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese-turned-Spanish explorer, have made of it all? After all, he was the man who introduced Christianity to this tropical archipelago when he landed on the western island of Mactan in 1521. Magellan himself did...
The Crushing of Ken
KEN LIVINGSTONE will never be mayor of London. Tony Blair will not allow it. He knows that Red Ken is more of an enemy to his government than William Hague, Alan Duncan and the rest of the least convincing Camelot since the Tooting Popular Front are...
The Gaffer's Gaffe
ALEC Stewart had just been appointed captain of Surrey in place of Ian Greig. The team went to discuss the transfer of power in a pub near the Oval. Greig had, according to cricket's custom, been addressed as Captain, or Skip. 'I suppose we'll have to...
The Importance of Getting Things out of Proportion
Walking the little limestone dales of the Derbyshire Peak District on a cold, sunny, windy bank holiday, I have been pondering, rather late in my life, the power and importance of unreason. It happened on Sunday that I crossed a large field which used...
The Real Reasons Why Mr Williams Has Turned on the Lot of Them
It has been a typical week in the recent history of the Conservative party. It began with mutterings. Most Tories assume that this week's local elections will go badly. A number of Tory MPs were even prepared to tell a pollster that Mr Blair will win...
The Sexual Revolution
MAY 1968 in Paris was a lovefest, not a revolution; a sexual springtime for frustrated bourgeois youth. Earlier French upheavals were characterised by sea-green incorruptibles like Maximilien Robespierre and the bloody use of the guillotine and the bayonet....
The Very Heart of High Politics
No one seriously or frivolously interested in American history and politics should leave this book unread. It consists of a most skilfully edited selection of transcripts from tape-recordings surreptitiously made by Lyndon Johnson during his first ten...
Two Tates and a Lot of Tat
NAT TATE by William Boyd 21 Press, L9.95, pp. 67 THE TATE by Frances Spalding Tate Gallery Publications, L25, pp. 308 The art world is an odd sort of place, with its curious rituals and appeasements, its social bluffs and dangers. From time to time,...
Wallpaper Television
It is conventional to regard British television as describing a descending parabola from its brief black-and-white idyll to a transatlantic future of sitcoms, soaps and sleaze. The proliferation of channels, say the hand-wringers, will leave each commercial...
Why I Fear the Indie Will Yet Again Be Looking for a New Editor in a Year or So's Time
I hope readers will forgive me for returning to the amazing saga of the Independent. Since I wrote last week, the paper's Irish owners have appointed Simon Kelner, a chap who has spent much of his life in sports journalism, as its editor. This is the...
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