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 September 3

'1666: Plague, War and Hellfire', by Rebecca Rideal - Review
It was the brightest of futures; it was the End of Days. Three hundred and fifty years before Brexit, England experienced a series of epochal events which forced subjects to rethink their relationships with each other, their political leaders and their...
Arts Feature: The Joy of Medieval Manuscripts
The bad news for old rock'n'rollers is that there's not much time left to stay at Heartbreak Hotel -- these days located not at the end of Lonely Street, but on Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis. In October it will close, to be replaced by the demurely...
Cinema: Café Society
Woody Allen has made a film nearly every year in the four decades since the release of the award-winning Annie Hall . Every one is hailed as a potential return to form, and of course some definitely are. Blue Jasmine , say. Possibly Midnight in Paris...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. We have a heavenly house in Corfu where we go as often as possible. The best thing about it is the intelligent Corfiot couple who look after it for us. Everything is spotless, the cooking is perfect, and their competence make us the envy of all our...
Diary: Tom Holland
European unions come and go. Back in 1794, one of the more improbable ones was founded when Corsica joined Britain as an autonomous kingdom under the rule of George III. It didn't last long, and by 1796, after an ignominious Brexit from the island, the...
'Fen', by Daisy Johnson - Review
A short-story renaissance has been promised since 2013. That year Alice Munro won the Nobel, Lydia Davis won the Booker International, and George Saunders's bestselling collection The Tenth of December won the Folio Prize. The rise of the form was declared,...
Food: Tanya Gold
The Soho Hotel is an actors' hotel. They come for press junkets and interviews that reveal nothing because there is nothing to reveal; in fact, I have long suspected that this consuming nothingness, screamed across newsprint with all the conviction of...
From Gravesend to Utopia
Estuarial towns are an architectural utopia -- and the source of some sublimely weird sights, says Jonathan MeadesUtopia dons some unlikely guises, crops up in some odd places. On the sea wall a couple in their teens stood clutching their baby and gazing...
High Life: Taki
Just about this time of year, 42 years ago, Dunhill's of London, the famed tobacconist, had a bold idea. Its president, Richard Dunhill, flew 32 backgammon players to New York and had them board the QEII for the return trip to Southampton. The backgammon...
'Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow', by Yuval Noah Harari - Review
The idea that death may prove a mere 'technical problem' in the future just makes me want to hole up in front of Netflix and eat crisps, says Steven PooleIt may be difficult to believe when you think of Donald Trump, but the age of super-humans is almost...
Hugo Rifkind: Dear God, Am I Going to Start Liking Ed Balls?
What the hell is going on with Ed Balls? Back in the horrible doldrums of the last Labour government, he was the most reliable total bastard around. There was Gordon Brown himself, of course, throwing phones at people and using his special sinister voice...
'I'll Sell You a Dog', by Juan Pablo Villalobos, Translated by Rosalind Harvey - Review
The Mexican author Juan Pablo Villa-lobos's first short novel, Down the Rabbit Hole (Fiesta en la madriguera ), was published in English in 2011. It was narrated by the young son of a drug baron living in a luxurious, if heavily guarded palace, whose...
'I'm Not One to Gossip, But.', by John McEntee - Review
John McEntee -- 'the Chancer from Cavan', as he bills himself -- has enjoyed a long career as a gossip columnist on various national newspapers. Gossip is thirsty work, and in the anecdotes that comprise the bulk of his memoirs he is almost invariably...
James Forsyth: Theresa May's Brexit Minefield
When David Cameron resigned, the Conservative Party Board pushed back the planned date for the election of a new leader until after the G20 summit had taken place. The official reason was to give the new Prime Minister time to read into the job and save...
'Last Year in Marienbad: A Film as Art', by Edited by Christoph Grunenberg and Eva Fiuscher-Hausdorf - Review
In the beginning was Fellini's La Dolce Vita , pleached and Proustian, released in February 1960. This was followed soon after, at Cannes in May 1960, by Antonioni's L'Avventura , which invented slow cinema by taking a Hitchcock premise through a maze...
Leading Article: A Rotten Windfall
It's strange that, even now, the Brexit vote is routinely referred to as an expression of anger or frustration -- as if the most easily baffled half of the population had voted in response to forces they could not understand. In fact, the result of the...
Leading Article: A Rotten Windfall
HomeBritain rejected a call by Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president of France who hopes to return to power next year, 'for the opening of a centre in England to process asylum requests for all those who are in Calais'. More than 9,000 migrants camp...
Letter from Italy
Lido di Dante, Ravenna When the earthquake struck in the dead of night at 3.36 a.m. -- the Devil's Hour -- I was in front of my computer in what used to be the cow shed. This is the only time of day when my six boisterous children and their high-voltage...
Letters
Against BorisSir: In discussing my attitude to Boris ('The Boris-bashers should be ashamed', 27 August), Mary Wakefield is too kind -- to Boris. She claims that I am agin him because he has no plan and no philosophy. Not so: my criticisms are nearer...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
Americans want a president with the steadiest possible finger on the nuclear button, which is why they worry about the state of health of their presidential candidates, and why nowadays candidates often try to quash doubts about their health by releasing...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
A new footpath from the village down to the beach opened earlier this year to a great fanfare. It was cut through virgin woodland using JCBs and furnished with stout wooden National Trust gates, fences and handrails. At one point the path is lined with...
Martin Vander Weyer: Stalled EU-US Talks Offer a Reality Check for Our Own Post-Brexit Trade Hopes
Should we care two hoots whether negotiation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, pronounced 'Tee-tip' by cognoscenti) has 'de facto failed'? That's what German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel said this weekend, pointing out that...
Matthew Parris: My Fascist Moment on the Ship of Failures
There are no roads from the Peruvian river port of Iquitos, but the rich take aeroplanes. Those who cannot pay to fly may pay the premium for the 40ft motorised express canoes that take only a day to roar to and from the upriver port of Yurimaguas with...
Mind Your Language: Taxi
Old Quentin Letts was on the wireless the other day asking 'What's the point of the London black cab?' Between much shouting from my husband (a sign he is paying attention) I heard an old cabby explain that the word taxi came from its German inventor,...
Notes On. Yorkshire's Ruined Abbeys
We're so used to looking at the abbeys smashed up by Henry VIII -- particularly Rievaulx and Byland, in north Yorkshire -- that we forget quite how odd they are.It's not just that they've been preserved as ruins for 500 years, although that's odd enough...
'Nutshell', by Ian McEwan - Review
Ian McEwan's novels are drawn to enclosed spaces. There is the squash court upon which the surgeon plays a meticulously described game in Saturday , and the honeymoon suite in a little seaside hotel for the awkward newlyweds in On Chesil Beach . In Atonement...
Operetta: Croquefer/The Isle of Tulipatan
We don't really do operetta in Britain these days -- and at this stage in the game, I don't really need to tell you why, do I? We're simply too philistine in these benighted islands, goes the argument; too coarse, too provincial, too clodhoppingly Anglo-Saxon...
'Orwell's Nose: A Pathological Biography', by John Sutherland - Review
The Orwellian past is a foreign country; smells are different there. Pipe smoke and carbolic, side notes of horse dung and camphor -- and that most inescapable odour, the 'melancholy smell of boiled cabbage and dishwater' seeping under a parishioner's...
'Playing FTSE', by Penelope Jacobs - Review
This exhilaratingly lowbrow first novel concentrates on money and lust or, to put it more bluntly, sex and the City. Its young heroine or chief victim -- or is she actually the villain? -- has already joined an investment bank and had her first one-night...
Radio: The Matter of the North; Raising the Bar
The last thing we need right now, in these divisive times, is a series that spends all its time crowing about how special the North is, that continually insists it's the fount of English art, faith and civilisation and also the region where our notions...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
'Oh no, I can't bear it,' said the builder boyfriend when I told him I wanted to look at one more house with land.I have dragged him round too many one-bedroomed hovels with a few scrub acres out the back. We have had to be polite about too many dilapidated...
Rod Liddle: Why Don't Black Lives Matter at the Carnival?
I do not get out very much these days, but the glorious weekend weather persuaded me that I should spend a pleasant afternoon watching people stabbing each other at our annual celebration of stabbing, the Notting Hill Carnival. I go most years and enjoy...
Save the Whale-Hunt!
Toftir, Faroe IslandsAlmost twenty years ago I founded a heavy metal band called Týr. Our songs, with titles such as 'Blood of Heroes' and 'Lady of the Slain', might not appeal to all Spectator readers -- but we've released seven albums and toured several...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
Make sure you tell everybody about Zimbabwe,' said the lady at our block of flats in suburban Harare as we set off on the long journey to the Eastern Highlands and another match, this time at Mutare. We are a ramshackle and elderly cricket team, though...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
E .D. Hirsch Jr., the American educationalist and author of Cultural Literacy , has a new book out that may throw some light on why France has such a problem integrating its Muslim population. Called Why Knowledge Matters: Rescuing Our Children From...
Stop the European Arrest Warrant
If Brexit is to mean anything, we must dispense with the pernicious European Arrest WarrantA concerted effort is under way to make sure that, when it comes to the European Arrest Warrant, Brexit does not mean Brexit. The Police Federation, for example,...
Sweden's Refugee Crisis
We've taken in far too many people and we're letting them down badly - especially the childrenStockholmFor a British boy to be killed by a grenade attack anywhere is appalling, but for it to happen in a suburb of Gothenburg should shatter a few illusions...
Television: Till Death Do Us Part; Friday Night Dinner; Are You Being Served?
I think I might be turning into Alf Garnett. When I was growing up I saw him as an obnoxious, cantankerous, ranting old git that my grandparents' generation seemed to find funny but who left me cold. Now I'm beginning to identify with him as an unfairly...
Theatre: They Drink It in the Congo; Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour
In the 1980s, supermarkets stocked a fruit juice named 'Um Bongo' with the strapline 'They drink it in the Congo!'. This is the starting point for Adam Brace's examination of Britain's relationship with the Congolese (whose word 'mbongo' means money).A...
The Crusading Beauty Queen Who's Banned from China
Anastasia Lin, Miss World Canada 2015, is using her fame to highlight the troubling organ trade in ChinaWhen the model and actress Anastasia Lin was crowned Miss World Canada last year, a fairly easy and lucrative career lay in front of her: magazine...
'The Gardener and the Carpenter', by Alison Gopnik - Review
In the American way, the child psychologist Alison Gopnik's new book has an attractive sound-bitey title dragging a flat-footed subtitle in its wake: 'What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us about the Relationship Between Parents and Children'....
The Power of Hilary Hate
Never underestimate Hillary's ability to make people hate her'Love Trumps Hate' has become one of Hillary Clinton's official campaign slogans. It's a clunky pun but you get the point. Hillary stands for love -- i.e progressive global values, equality,...
'The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914', by Richard J. Evans - Review
The Penguin History of Europe reaches its seventh volume (out of nine) with Richard J. Evans's thorough and wide-ranging work on the 99 years from 1815 to 1914. It comes between two formidable books by formidable scholars: his fellow Cambridge historian...
The Turf: Old-Fashioned Values
Bookmaking's image has changed. Alongside the arrival of the betting exchanges, the evolution of the big names like Hills, Coral, Betfred and Ladbrokes into gaming operators rather than old-style bookmakers has seen the decline of the family firms where...
Title
Memoirs of old men, baldly, tend to be tricky. Sir Peter Wright, one of the founding pillars of the British ballet establishment, is now 90, and a charmingly chatty man; but I've personally never found him reluctant to get to the point when asked. As...
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