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. 279, No. 8834, 1997

A Demonstration of the Truth
WHEN THE COUNTRY WENT TO TOWN by Duff Hart-Davis Excellent Press, f12, pp. 150 Before they vote on 28 November, on the second reading of Michael Foster's Bill to abolish hunting, Labour MPs should do three things. They should read the speech made in...
All Put Down in Black and White
In 1911 Sir Roger Casement was a much admired humanitarian reformer. As a consul and servant of the British Crown, he had exposed the brutal oppression of the native rubber workers in the private fief of King Leopold of the Belgians in the Congo and...
A Long Journey
Jean-Jacques Annaud's Seven Years in Tibet was not actually filmed in Tibet but, on the other hand, it does last seven years. At the end, when celebrated mountaineer Heinrich Harrer returns to Austria, the baby he's never seen is now an adolescent boy;...
Ancient & Modern
MR BERNARD Ecclestone, who makes a great deal of money out of motor-racing, has given 1 million to the Labour party. But because that 1 million seems retrospectively to be connected with the question of the highly lucrative advertising of cigarettes...
'A Senile Dementia'
IT WAS one of those terrible blows that only time can deliver. Bob Dylan, I read, plays golf. And yet the sun still rises in the east, the planets continue their journeys and the stars still shine in the heavens. We must accept this impossibility as...
Bad Taste
Some frightfully important figure from NSPCC headquarters is turning up to give a talk here later this week. Local fund-raisers talk about him in the same hushed tones that the nuns at school reserved for priests. We're very lucky to have enticed him...
Best Stick to His Egyptology
'NAPOLEON is the idol of the uneducated.' So wrote Michelet, who never hid his hostility to the Emperor. But the historian is more interesting when he is more explicit. The French Revolution was forced to defend itself against internal and external enemies....
Bringing out the Old Favourites
For Corney & Barrow's Christmas offer, which averages 6.48 the bottle on the mixed case, against 7.32 last year, I have had the bright idea of concentrating on old favourites. Wherever I go I meet people who have run out of the La Combe de Grinou(1)...
Christmas Books II: Books of the Year
John Fowles I thought one novel this year thoroughly exceptional. It will make 1997 a year to remember. This was Thomas Pynchon's Mason and Dixon (Cape, 16.99). Quite remarkably rich and allusive, I really could not fault it except perhaps in that it...
Christmas Surprise
I have loathed The Nutcracker since I was cast as a six-foot-two `male daisy' in Act II's `Waltz of the Flowers' - the costume alone was enough to put one off ballet for a lifetime. As a viewer, moreover, I have never shared the general enthusiasm for...
Dear Mary
Q. A friend of mine, a distinguished achiever in his field, recently gave a talk on art to some sixth-formers at a smart public school. I was present at the event. After his stimulating talk my friend invited questions from the audience. I had expected...
Diary
Ever since I started my Channel 4 show, I've tried to make sure the caricatures and sketches are backed up with facts. Anyone watching John Bird and John Fortune's interviews will know that they are masters of the satirical argument, and appreciate how...
Don't Worry, Al. I'm on the Case
Alan Clark is in hot water again. As an opening sentence that would have earned me a rebuke from the succession of gnarled mentors on local and provincial newspapers under whom I groaned for years from the age of 16. That's not news, they would growl....
Down on the Counter
Soup never seems to appear on my plastic tray from British Airways. I have assumed that it has been ruled out as being unstable during clear air turbulence. A new explanation now presents itself, as BA tells us that it is to set up its own cut-price...
Dreaming of Italy
Despite 300 years of Classicism between the 1530s and the 1830s, the moments in English architecture when you can get the genuine feeling of Italy are rare. The majority of English architects transcribed their sources too literally and, circumscribed...
Fashionable Flotsam
If the organisers were being cruelly honest they might have subtitled this collection '47 pictures in search of a foyer'. There are actually 48 exhibited, but more later about the solitary cuckoo in the nest. To cover an otherwise vacant expanse of polished...
Faults Found in German Machine
Berlin EAST Germans can remember the exhilarating days when they threw out Erich Honecker and his tawdry crew. Despite the palpable sense of decay about Helmut Kohl's regime, there is no sign of that fate befalling it next week. The German commentator...
Feet of Clay
To those who, with dismay, saw successive Tory scandals unfold before the last election, the sight of a Labour government squirming in the same searchlights gives nothing but pleasure. We knew it would happen; the only question was, when? Of course,...
First Smokers, Now Drinkers
New York WHEN I first moved to the West Village I noticed an unusual amount of activity in the building across the street from my apartment on Perry Street. I soon learned that it served as a meeting place for the local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous,...
Heidegger, Creative Obsession and the Salute Church in Venice
Last Friday I attended a brilliant lecture at the Royal Institute of Philosophy given by Michael Inwood of Trinity College, Oxford. Inwood is our leading authority on Hegel but more recently he has turned to the formidable and mysterious Martin Heidegger....
In a Class of Its Own
A man I know lives within walking distance of a station that connects him swiftly to his office, but he chooses to drive to a more distant station. The reason is that when he gets off the train at the end of the day, tense and tired, he gets into something...
Let's Outface the Music and Dance
THE AESTHETICS OF MUSIC by Roger Scruton Clarendon, L35, pp. 530 Leibniz, as Roger Scruton remarks, made 'a few obscure and interesting remarks' about music. One of these was to suggest that music might be 'a secret and unconscious mathematical problem...
Letters
Trial and error Sir: I hope that Mark Steyn (`The appeal Louise lost', 15 November) will accept that many of us here regarded the conduct of those occupants of a pub in Louise Woodward's home village of Elton who appeared on television as utterly deplorable....
Lindsay House and Chinon
HAVING dealt last week with one of the current grand battalions of London restaurants - the Conran empire - it is refreshing to turn to two highly individual chefs, each doing his own thing in different parts of town. Perhaps it is not entirely surprising...
Master of Light
Georges de La Tour (1593-1652) worked all his life in Lorraine, north-eastern France. It's possible that he travelled to Italy or into the Netherlands, given the nature of his art and influences, but there is no documentary proof of this. He was very...
Mind Your Language
'ONE of the most agreeable things about our Cathedral library', writes the learned Dr P.R. Newman from York Minister, `is that it has never been subjected to periodic clear-outs of "out-of-date books". It is therefore full of curiosities.' I agree that...
Not So Holy City
AS JEWS and Muslims begin to square off in serious fashion on the issue of Jerusalem, one statement increasingly heard is that `the city is holy to both Jews and Arabs'. Judaism and Islam, this adage implies, have similar religious and historical claims...
One for the Road
LAST Sunday morning I did as I always do. I drove to one of my favourite local pubs stuck out miles from any village or town, chatted to an assortment of other drinkers who had also driven there, drank two pints of medium-strength bitter beer and then...
Oxford Polymath
There was a scene in the latest Inspector Morse, Death Is Now My Neighbour (ITV), in which Morse and Lewis are having a drink. The detective sergeant says something a bit gormless, and Morse replies, almost under his breath, `Oh, Lewis...' It was a self-referential...
Playful Images
Artistic reputations don't just rise, or fall, for good and all. Over the years, they soar and flop like a graph of the DowJones index. Almost none - except the high ratings of Michelangelo and Apelles - seems fixed in perpetuity. The assessment of the...
Portrait of the Week
The British government expressed its support for American action against Iraq, the first nation to do so among its allies in the last war against Iraq; British aircraft and a carrier were moved to the Mediterranean. Mr Tony Blair apologised on television,...
Raging into Old Age
ENO's new production of Falstaff is a collaboration with Opera North, so I must have seen it before, though much of it struck me as different, but that may be a failure of memory. The snowstorm raging outside the Garter Inn remains, but when I saw it...
Rediscovering and Old Pair of Genes
IT IS a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of someone with whom to cohabit. But why on earth does William Hague insist on marrying Ffion Jenkins next month? Surely his friends must have told...
Remembering Jimmy
A funny thing happened on my way to St John's for Sir James Goldsmith's memorial service. Going up the steps I ran into a sweet young thing. Jimmy was never big on solemnity, so I decided to tease her. `Did you know that Aspers will recite the names...
Saddam Hussain, Europhile
The fog of war may obscure the battlefield, but not the alliances that lie behind it. A whiff of cordite shows a nation who its real friends and enemies are. In this Gulf crisis, the United States could hardly have expected whole-hearted support from...
Seaside Shenanigans
With pub theatres across London under economic threat as never before, even under the last administration, we can at least celebrate the 25th birthday of the Bush which has done some handsome rebuilding even if you do still require an Everest diploma...
Silent Voices of Dissent
Actors are not naturally people who believe in hiding their light under a bushel. And television advertising executives have a reputation for being brash and abrasive rather than discreet. Yet the two groups are involved in a highly damaging and costly...
Smiler with a Knife
YOUNGER BROTHER, YOUNGER SON by Colin Clark HarperCollins, 19.99, pp. 236 This is an extraordinary book, `My name is Colin,' I blurted out. `Colin Clark.' It sounded so banal. How I wished I was called the Marquis of Huntingdon. It did not help that...
Some People Are about to Fear Mr Al Fayed No Longer
About a year ago I had the idea of writing a book about Mohamed Al Fayed. After the deaths of his son, Dodi, and Diana, Princess of Wales this notion hardened into something like resolve. My agent, Gillon Aitken, and I toured several leading publishers,...
Stand by for Take-Off and Fasten Your Seat Belts-Here's How to Land in the Soup
Soup never seems to appear on my plastic tray from British Airways. I have assumed that it has been ruled out as being unstable during clear air turbulence. A new explanation now presents itself, as BA tells us that it is to set up its own cut-price...
That Side of Paradise
THE SPICE ISLANDS VOYAGE by Tim Severin Little, Brown, 20, pp. 267 Judging bv the titles of some of his earlier works, none of which I have read, Tim Severin seems to have made a career out of following in the tracks of great explorers of the past. Marco...
The Decline of Decadence
WHEN Wilfred Owen stopped off in London in 1916 (an event to be relived later this month with the release of the film adaptation of Pat Barker's Regeneration), he took tea at the Shamrock Rooms off Piccadilly, `perhaps the most eminently respectable...
Ups and Downs of a Freelance
Racing has not always been kind to Brendan Powell. At Aintree in 1990 he ruptured his stomach and suffered massive internal bleeding. In 1991 he broke his left leg in a fall at Doncaster. He battled back six months later only to break the same leg again...
When Plan B Hit the Tories
FOR Labour readers, The British General Election of 1997 by David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh will be a joy on every page. Labour supporters will find a detailed chronicle of `the most innovative contest since 1959'. The authors trace in all its glory...
Why That Interview with Mr Humphrys Will Be Seen to Have Done the Trick
The extremist wing of the Blairite praetorian guard is saying that the Formula One fiasco is a blessing in disguise. And what a disguise; the Minister without Portfolio may have called it a bushfire, but it has certainly managed to present itself as...
Working and Partly Living
Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife was always a sturdy drawing-room comedy, and revived with Ingrid Bergman in the lead it ran at the Albery theatre for eight months. It made Bergman a very rich woman - by Hollywood standards she was only moderately...
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