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. 277, No. 8778, 1996

Ancient & Modern
IN an interview in The Spectator, Shimon Peres, the deposed Israeli prime minister, was asked whether he had appreciated the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He replied, `Better than I expected. When enemies meet, we are shocked to learn that our enemy...
A Style for Every Story
ike those dust-jackets which boast that this or that author has been 'nominated' for the Booker Prize, the dust-jacket of this novel boasts that its author, the Czech writer Josef Skvorecky, was a 1982 Nobel Prize nominee. Many are nominated but few...
A Wealth of Material
So much could be said about this magnificent, tiresome, candid, absurd and terribly moving book. Within a chronological structure clearly set out by the editors, its narrative is built up from linked extracts - some a few sentences, others a page or...
Booker Bungles
Since its creation in 1969, the Booker Prize has always been controversial, never more so than in recent times. Lovers of literature, book critics (not always the same thing) and in fact almost any serious reader tend to be a hugely opinionated and impassioned...
Complex Decisions
ith the publication of Richard Rogers's latest masterplan for the South Bank complex, the size of the task facing those responsible for the regeneration of those halls is becoming ever clearer. To put it another way, the degree to which `one of Britain's...
Dear Mary
Q. Can you help me? My friend always comes up to see me even if I tell her to go away. When she is in my house she never plays with me or listens to me. She stays in the kitchen and eats. How can I stop her without her thinking I am horrible? Violet...
Diary
Bournemouth Conferences are fought on the beaches of the English seaside. I was about 16 when I attended one for the first time. I can't remember much about it, except that I couldn't really afford to go. But I did, and I became even more hooked on politics....
Drumming Christian Principles into Imps of Satan-Or Angels
The beatification last Sunday of Edmund Rice, founder of the Irish teaching order, the Christian Brothers, is a welcome event. First, the Pope, who is very keen on saints, is right to go on making them. Sanctification, in which the Pope and the collective...
Every Pinter Tells a Story
Lindsight is seductive. Like the last light of the evening, it can make any mess look composed, necessary. Michael Billington has written an `authorised biographical study' of Harold Pinter which is entirely a work of hindsight. It began, Billington...
Favourite Fillers
At home we get 46 channels on cable television, with others on the way. Many of them transmit around the clock. It's not surprising that more and more stuff has to be fed into the hopper to keep the mills grinding. Modern television is the equivalent...
Gaffes Galore
The late Jack de Manio made something of a name for himself when, settling in front of the radio microphone to announce the title of a programme to mark the independence of Nigeria, he intoned, `We now present Land of the Nigger...' He should have said,...
Good Intentions
It's not very cool to be one of those country women who sit on charity committees, but my reluctance to become a living cliche was outweighed by the knowledge that, if I didn't sign myself up as a fundraiser for someone, I would end up doing nothing...
Grow Up, Robin
sack is one of that select group of films so ghastly they're mesmerising. It's directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who once would have known better; it stars Robin Williams, who never has. Ever since Mork and Mindy 20 years ago, Williams has been a novelty...
Human Nobility
It has been a week of and about highmindedness in opera, leaving the continuing Ring cycle on one side. English National Opera has revived its 1994 production of Massenet's Don Quixote, with Richard Van Allen quite touching, as he is bound to be looking...
I Could Scream
was with a tremendous effort of will that I managed to control my thirst last weekend and so did not have to be taken utterly breathless by ambulance to the hospital for emergency dialysis. Vera helped me with that problem. Although she is still laid...
Ignore the Media: Dole Won
BY ANY fair standard, Republican presidential challenger Bob Dole won that televised debate against President Bill Clinton. This leaves Dole's campaign still showing faint signs of life. Still, Dole's skilled performance was not expected by the media...
Innocent, but Still a Traitor?
WHO IS next for an official commemoration in France? As they congratulate themselves that the 1,500th anniversary of Clovis's baptism went off well, the people who run France must be puzzling over the next occasion when history can be called to their...
I Was Wearing a Designer Suit, So of Course They Thought I Was New Labour
Once the Tories were the Landed Party, then the Stupid Party. Last week Conservative Central Office unveiled the name on which it will be going to the country: the Ordinary Party. It would be hard to deny that there was something chilling about Labour's...
Last Chance for Victory
OCCASIONALLY you meet impressive, strong-minded characters, the sort of people who can watch Play Misty for Me all the way through. Others of the more usual sort, myself amongst them, are overcome by an irresistible urge to switch the movie off and walk...
Laughter in the Same Room
Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford were superlatively skilled novelists, but what they both possessed to a very high degree was an altogether rarer quality. They had an extraordinary gift for intimacy. To anyone who knew them this might seem a surprising...
Letters
Fair and accurate Sir: I see from your columns that a recent book by Mr George Urban criticises the accuracy of the summary of the Chequers seminar on Germany drafted by Sir Charles Powell (Books, 28 September). I received the note at the time and found...
Lust for Fame
Picture this: I am sitting on the floor in an almost totally unfurnished room in the Chelsea Hotel in New York, some time in the late autumn of 1970. Wilting flowers lie scattered on the white linoleum and Andy Warhol helium pillows float lazily towards...
Major V. the Bolsho-Tories
Bournemouth THERE are occasional moments of comic relief at a Conservative Party conference. On Tuesday morning, Leon Brittan graced the platform with his presence. The organisers obviously felt that it was safe for him to do so. Europe did not figure...
Mind Your Language
WHEN my husband makes a medical mistake, you find the result in the cemetery; when I make a grammatical mistake, the consequence is in the post. A fortnight ago I wrote that something sounded like it was in The Archers. Kind readers have pointed out...
Moving Story
At last, something has happened for which I've been waiting for years. The Directors of the Tate and National Gallery have pooled their wisdom and come to an agreement as to when their collections, respectively, start and stop. 1900 was the unsurprising...
No End of a Lesson
ALL MUST HAVE PRIZES by Melanie Phillips Little, Brown, 17.50, pp. 288 Jast week, I asked a girl aged 15 to multiply three by nine. One could almost hear the whirrings of the Heath Robinson machinery in her mind as she pondered this immensely difficult...
No New Insight
IT USED to be a characteristic of the English that an acquittal closed a case not only for the courts but for the country. Only grave injustice to somebody else or the emergence of serious new evidence on a matter of public interest could justify attempts...
Not a Bollywood Fairy Story
Passengers at my local underground station - or 'customers' as official consumer-speak calls them - can while away the intervals between fretting at the train indicator's latest mendacious proclamations by reading the extensive text of an advertisement...
On Painting and Being Painted
On painting and being painted Francis Wyndham LUCIAN FREUD edited by Bruce Bernard and Derek Birdsall Cape, 75, pp. 360 The work of Lucian Freud, unlike Francis Bacon's, does not automatically lead commentators to vague invocation of 'universality' and...
Painter of Exaltation
There are artists who travel well -just as there are wines - and artists who don't. Giambattista Tiepolo, the giant of 18thcentury Italian painting, is a prime example of the second type. Of course, a stray painting or two in a gallery will look fine...
Peers into Tony's Senate
IN THE wake of Labour's conference, it is more urgent than ever to examine how a Labour victory at the next general election would affect the legislature, specifically its upper house. Tony Benn once called the House of Lords the Madame Tussauds of British...
Portrait of the Week
Lady Thatcher, the former Prime Minister, made a speech at the Conservative Party conference and embraced and kissed Mr John Major, the Prime Minister, on stage. On the eve of the conference, Lord McAlpine, the former party treasurer, gave his backing...
Restaurant Conference Eating
THE party conferences are more or less over, and so is the annual three-week assault on our stomachs. There are some reporters who have their meals planned weeks beforehand - the right senior politicians invited to join them at pricy or pretentious restaurants....
Second Opinion
I DON'T want to sound like a deconstructionist literary critic, but sometimes I wonder whether language isn't the means by which we all disguise our meaning from one another. I think I write with tolerable clarity, and yet I am constantly misunderstood....
Solid Space
hen Rachel Whiteread's most famous sculpture, a plaster cast of the inside of a terraced house, was still on show in London's East End, visiting it encompassed something of the fairground. Taxis were parked at the nearest curb, the park in which it was...
Something Nasty in the Basement
ownstairs at the Ambassadors, or whatever the Royal Court is now calling the theatre they have taken over for a short time while the builders take over Sloane Square, Mark Ravenhill's Shopping and Fucking is at times as sensationally shocking as the...
Spend! Spend! Spend!
Prince Charles, recalling his childhood at Windsor, remembers looking up at the pictures lining the Grand Corridor and becoming aware of how they revealed `the individual tastes and interests of successive sovereigns'. The paintings were acquired by...
State of Nothing
PAKISTAN -- Midnight's Child born on the wrong side of history's bed - has recently entered its 50th year. Typically, it marked the event with a political murder. Murtaza Bhutto was shot dead by the khaki brigade, which acted beyond the Prime Minister's...
State of Sleaze
Sleaze has always existed, at all times and in all places: from the early books of the Bible, when the 12 tribes had as yet no stone buildings but had a word for 'bribe', to Greece and Rome, the Renaissance and modern times. Until recently, British public...
The Case for Mohamed
I MUST declare an interest. I am chairman of Liberty Publishing, a company owned by Mr Mohamed Al Fayed. Stephen Glover wrote in The Spectator last week that my attachment to Mr Al Fayed grew out of my `innate feelings for the underdog'. Money may not...
The Independent's Past Isn't as Rosy as It's Painted. but Its Future Is Not All Black Either
The tenth anniversary of the Independent, which fell last Monday, has not exactly been greeted in a mood of respectful awe. Jonathan Fenby, the paper's first home editor, wrote a grumpy article in the Evening Standard complaining that the Independent...
The Life and Hard Times of a Squeeze-Box
Many of those who admired E. Annie Proulx's magnificent second novel, The Shipping News, must have rushed off to buy her first, Postcards They will have found there the same rich ingredients: Proulx's winning eye for the peculiar, her ear for the rhythms...
The Rise and Rise of the Agent
Some say Mattie Cowing's job as Frankie Dettori's agent is a bit like having a money tree in the garden which you can go out and shake every once in a while. Ten per cent of the jockey's ten per cent of the kind of prize money that Dettori wins would...
Too Many Doors and Corridors
Too many doors and corridors A. A. Gill THE BLACK BOOK by Sara Keays Doubleday, fl S.99, pp. 313 he chap in my local bookshop set out a pile of Sara Keays' first novel, The Black Book, between towers of Edna O'Brien and Beryl Bainbridge. `Bitter woman',...
What Did You Do in the Long War, Gerry?
Do not be fooled by the title. Before the Dawn is not a trashy romantic novel but the autobiography of Gerry Adams. The vulpine grin of the President of Sinn Fein stares out from the dust-jacket; the book itself is written in his usual style, folksy...
Women and Children First
I beg to differ with Stephen Glover's media column of last week where he claims the Guardian has scored `the biggest victory of any left-of-centre newspaper against a Conservative government for a long time'. Velly, velly solly, as they say in Hong Kong,...
You Have, I Have Not
Vienna ON the staircase of our apartment building I encountered a neighbour who lives on the first floor. I was on my way in from the supermarket and was carrying an enormous canvas bag full of food in one hand, trying to balance it with two boxes of...
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