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 October 28

A Little Risk Is Good for the Young
A bit of risk is good for the youngWe all know about helicopter parents and how terrible they can be. In New York, where I live, a mother sued her child's $19,000-a-year nursery because her four-year-old was spending too much time playing with two-year-olds,...
A Model's Life Is Not an Easy One
My world is one of cramped apartments, little or no pay, and sleazy male predatorsThis season, as London fashion week was starting, Vogue posted a video following the new model of the moment Kaia Gerber (who is Cindy Crawford's daughter). It was so far...
Ancient and Modern
Students eager to pull down statues and silence debate on topics of which they disapprove -- and vice-chancellors who pusillanimously cave into them -- would do well to consider the history of such censorship. The Roman historian Cremutius Cordus was...
Arabian Nights
Islamic societies are less antithetical to gay sex than you might thinkRecall the media coverage at the height of the Jimmy Savile scandal, times it by about a thousand, and you get an idea of the hysteria currently surrounding gay men in Egypt. That's...
Architecture: The New Trads
I'm sitting across a café table from a young man with a sheaf of drawings that have an archive look to them but are in fact brand new. His Jacob Rees-Mogg attire -- well-cut chalk-stripe suit and immaculate tie -- sets him apart from the others in the...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
Theresa May's style of negotiating with the European Union is coming spookily to resemble David Cameron's. She is in the mindset where the important thing is to get a deal, rather than working out what sort of a deal is worth getting. The EU understands...
Cinema: Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami
In the first scene of this distinctly odd documentary, Grace Jones meets a group of fans, who squeal with delight at the sight of her and nearly pass out with excitement when they hear her speak. And that, I suspect, is the effect which the film confidently...
Dance: Wayne McGregor; Shobana Jeyasingh; BalletBoyz
Ballet would have been an obvious revenue stream for Sadler's Wells when it reopened back in 1998 but straight-up classics have been few and far between over the past two decades -- the Rothbart of the Royal Ballet of Flanders' Swan Lake wore a live...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. What is the etiquette of hospital visiting? A friend in his fifties is about to spend six weeks in a London hospital recovering from a heart operation. He will be in a private room. He is going to be fine but he will feel a bit fragile, so can you...
Destitute Britain
The welfare state is failingI became aware that there was real destitution in modern Britain five years ago. Destitution, as I see it, arises when a family or individual is hungry, unable to afford gas and electricity, and on the brink of homelessness....
Diary: Richard Madeley
To ITV's London headquarters at the ungodly hour of 3.30 a.m. Piers Morgan is sunning himself in Beverly Hills and I'm sitting in for him on Good Morning Britain. I've known and liked Piers for 30 years, from the days when he used to scribble for the...
Exhibitions: Tracey Emin, 'My Bed'/JMW Turner
In the 1880s the young Max Klinger made a series of etchings detailing the surreal adventures of a woman's glove picked up by a stranger at an ice rink. At a certain point the glove washes up, nightmarishly large, beside a sleeping man's bed on to which...
Food: Tanya Gold
Jean-Georges at the Connaught -- formerly the Prince of Saxe-Coburg Hotel, but it was renamed during the first world war, at about the same time the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was deprived of his British peerages, which was one of the funnier events...
Fraser Nelson: In Love with Russian Propaganda Art
Fraser Nelson on how he - and so many others - fell under the spell of Soviet propaganda postersIt's hard to admire communist art with an entirely clear conscience. The centenary of the October revolution, which falls this month, marks a national calamity...
'Gnomon', by Nick Harkaway - Review
Set partly in a future surveillance society, partly in ancient Carthage and 1970s Ethiopia, partly in contemporary Greece and London and partly in the synaptic passageways of the human brain, this huge sci-fi detective novel of ideas is so eccentric,...
'Go Back to Where You Came From: The Backlash against Immigration and the Fate of Western Democracy', by Sasha Polakaw-Suransky - Review
This book is an exercise in crying wolf that utterly fails to prove its main thesis: that Europe is abandoning its core liberal values under threat from a resurgent populist right. It is a largely fact-free polemic that passes itself off as an open-minded...
Greece Notebook
I have come to Greece in search of sanity over Brexit. Ostensibly it is a symposium to discuss relations between Britain and Greece. But it is also an excuse to step away from the minutiae of the negotiations to think about the future of Europe. It was...
High Life: Taki
I hate to say this, but the quality of life in the Bagel has crashed in a Harvey Weinstein-like way. The city has always had a sort of rollercoaster feel, its ups and downs driven by Wall Street and budget cuts, but its present state is the worst I've...
Impressionism: Exile in London
Madame Monet was bored. Wouldn't you have been? Exiled to London in the bad, cold winter of 1870-71. In rented rooms above Shaftesbury Avenue, with a three-year-old son in tow, a husband who couldn't speak English, and no money coming in. Every day roast...
James Forsyth: Hammond Can Build His Way out of Trouble
Sometimes in life the biggest risk you can take is to play it safe. This is the predicament of Philip Hammond as he approaches the Budget next month. If he adopts a safety-first approach, it will almost certainly go wrong and he'll be forced into a credibility-draining...
'Jihadi Culture: The Art and Social Practices of Militant Islamists', by Ed. Thomas Hegghammer - Review
Jihadi Culture might sound like a joke title for a book, like 'Great Belgians' or 'Canadian excitements'. But in this well-edited and serious volume Thomas Hegghammer -- one of the world's foremost experts on jihadism -- has put together a collection...
'Joan: The Remarkable Life of Joan Leigh Fermor', by Simon Fenwick - Review
Joan Leigh Fermor died in 2003, aged 91, after falling in her bathroom in the house on a rocky headland of the Peloponnese which she had financed by selling her jewellery. Afterwards, whenever Joan's husband and companion of nearly six decades reclined...
Leading Article: Identity Issues
It was always going to be difficult for Theresa May's government to secure a legacy beyond Brexit. With the negotiations running into difficulty, it becomes all the harder. Ministers must avoid, however, resorting to well-meant gestures which open the...
Letters
Meeting halfwaySir: If our Brexit negotiator David Davis has not read Robert Tombs's wonderful article 'Lost in translation' (21 October) on how different the French and the British can be when it comes to the negotiating table, he really should, as...
'Letters to the Lady Upstairs', by Marcel Proust, Translated by Lydia Davis - Review
Why would a writer like Marcel Proust, who quivered and wheezed at the slightest sensation, decide to live surrounded by neighbours in one of the busiest parts of Paris? In 1906, at the age of 35, shortly after the death of his mother, he moved to a...
Look Who's Back! It's Lady Muck
And these days she's most likely to be a RemainerMy sainted mum was of untarnished working-class blood -- she worked, variously, as a cleaner, factory hand and shop assistant -- and like most women of her kind who grew up before the 1960s, she never...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
Last May we had dinner with a comic who reads a lot and his wife. At one point, he told Catriona that he had just finished a novel that he had enjoyed more than anything he had read for a very long time and he would like to lend it to her. He disappeared...
Martin Vander Weyer: Up the Zambezi: Why Rio Tinto's Colossal Coal Cock-Up Is Going to Court
Another week, another blue-chip in the dock. The US Securities and Exchange Commission has brought fraud charges against London-based mining giant Rio Tinto and two former executives in relation to an ill-starred coal venture in Mozambique. Whatever...
'Midlife: A Philosophical Guide', by Kieran Setiya - Review
Losing our way in life's trackless forest, whither should we turn for solace and advice? Wisdom used to be the special province of our elders, though for no better reason than that old people were less common than they are now. Aristotle had their measure:...
Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth
Veronica, who looks at Twitter, told me of an exchange she thought would interest me, about the use of the. She was right. The is one of my favourite words.The exchange concerned Sam Leith's splendid new book, Write to the Point: How to be Clear, Correct...
Notes On: Lewes Bonfire Night
Autumn is upon us, and the streets are full of families in fancy dress. People of all ages are dressing up, everything from smugglers to suffragettes. In Lewes it can only mean one thing -- it's bonfire time again.Elsewhere in Britain, Bonfire Night...
Opera: Wexford Festival Opera
Luigi Cherubini is the pantomime villain of French romantic music. As head of the Paris Conservatoire in the 1820s he was the embodiment of obsolescence: Berlioz's Memoirs recount an occasion when some state functionary told the ageing master that he...
'Origin', by Dan Brown - Review
Being reflexively snotty about Dan Brown's writing is like slagging off Donald Trump's spelling: it just entrenches everyone's position. In a world where a quarter of people read literally no books in any given year, can we give each other a break on...
'Outsiders: Five Women Writers Who Changed the World', by Lyndall Gordon - Review
The women writers Lyndall Gordon presents as brave 'outsiders' had easy lives compared with many other struggling authors one can name, says Philip Hensher'Outsider' ought to be an important word. To attach it to someone, particularly a writer, is to...
Portrait of the Week
HomeOf perhaps 400 Britons returned from the former territory of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, those who 'do not justify prosecution' should be reintegrated, Max Hill, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, told the BBC. Rory Stewart...
Radio: Neil MacGregor
Only Neil MacGregor could do it -- take us in a single thread from a blackened copper coin, about the size of a 10p piece, dating from Rome in about 200 AD, to a packed music hall in London during the first world war. In his new 30-part series for Radio...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
The Albanian builders have started a turf war in my kitchen. The hostilities broke out suddenly. One minute the builders were building and the plumber was plumbing and the next minute the builders were shouting at the plumber and the plumber was looking...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
Rugby's autumn internationals are almost upon us and dark thoughts hover over lovers of the sport. One day soon a professional rugby player will die playing the game. The players are fitter, bigger, stronger, faster and too powerful and it is no longer...
Spectator Wine: Jonathan Ray
Six wines from the finest Grands Crus Classés Bordeaux estatesEsme Johnstone, of FromVineyardsDirect.com, has done it again. He's managed to snaffle some cracking 'defrocked' clarets (and one Sauternes) from some of Bordeaux's finest estates and is offering...
Sportswear: The Art of the Football Shirt
The early 1970s was football's brute era of Passchendaele pitches and Stalingrad tactics. The gnarled ruffians of Leeds United -- wee hatchet man Billy Bremner, the graceful assassin Johnny Giles, Norman 'Bites Yer Legs' Hunter -- embodied the age. Not...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
All surveys carried out by retail businesses with a view to generating press coverage should be treated with extreme caution, but I cannot resist writing about one that has just been published by Furniture123.co.uk. The press release is headed 'The...
Television: Gunpowder
The opening of Gunpowder (BBC1, Saturdays) was just about the most knuckle-gnawingly tense ten minutes I've ever seen on TV.It's 1603 and James I is on the throne. At the Warwickshire great house of Baddesley Clinton, a group of aristocratic Catholics,...
Theatre: Beginning; Albion
Beginning starts at the end. A Crouch End party has just finished and the sitting room is a waste tip of punctured beer cans, tortured napkins and crushed nibbles. Wine bottles lie scattered across the carpet like fallen ninepins. Hostess Laura invites...
The Idiot Box: TV's Brain Drain
So many bright minds are wasted in the vacuous world of TVHow to sum up David Frost? The lazy writer's friend, aka Wikipedia, calls him 'an English journalist, comedian, writer, media personality and television host'. To which I would add only: 'Britain's...
'The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief and Compassion -- Surprising Observations of a Hidden World', by Peter Wohlleben - Review
There was a time when biologists so scorned the attribution of human qualities to other animals that anthropomorphism was seen as the ultimate scientific sin and suitable only for children's stories. Not anymore. Today the inner lives of other creatures...
'The Ninth Hour', by Alice McDermott - Review
Suffering, wrote Auden, takes place 'while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along'. His poem 'Musée des Beaux Arts' emphasises the mundanity of pain ('even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course/ Anyhow in a corner,...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
Racing's finances depend on as many people as possible betting, so it seemed a touch ironic that Responsible Gambling Awareness Week coincided with Ascot's glorious British Champions Day, a day that showcased almost everything good the sport has to offer.The...
The Universal Credit Crunch
How welfare reform is pushing the poorest into crippling debtIt only dawned on me in late summer just how terrible our new benefits system, universal credit, might be both for the poor souls who depend on it and for the bedraggled Conservative party.An...
'Wonder beyond Belief: On Christianity', by Navid Kermani Translated by Tony Crawford - Review
I'm not a critic, I'm an enthusiast. And when you are an enthusiast you need to try your best to keep it in check when writing reviews, just in case your prodigious levels of excitement and, well, enthusiasm, threaten to overwhelm readers and only succeed...
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