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 January 21

'Adventures in Modern Marriage', by William Nicholson - Review
What to make of this unexpectedly startling novel? Though you may be lured into a false sense of familiarity by mentions in the blurb of Trollopes J and A, and the comfortable middle-class settings (Sussex, Notting Hill), it turns out to be a diatribe...
'Age of Anger: A History of the Present', by Pankaj Mishra - Review
America's global hegemony from 1944 onwards has led to a world now riven by hatred and terror, says Jonathan SteinbergPankaj Mishra's Age of Anger wants to explain how we got to a world in 'a pervasive panic... that anything can happen anywhere to anybody...
Ancient and Modern
Given that Donald Trump is not the most popular president the USA has ever seen, even among his own party, it is salutary to be reminded what induction ceremonies can be like for those who devised imaginative routes to power.Pertinax, who started life...
'A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women', by Siri Hustvedt - Review
This past autumn has felt more uncomfortable than usual to be a woman looking at men looking at women. From Hillary Clinton's 'overheating' episode ('Does she have Parkinson's? Is she wearing a catheter?!') to Donald Trump's assessment of female limbs...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
It is hard to be shocked by anything in these tumultuous times, but I was brought up short by the 'attic' headline of Tuesday's Times, advertising the paper's T2 section: 'Up close and personal with Donald Trump -- Michael Gove' , it said, and continued,...
Cinema: Jackie
Let's be clear: Jackie is a better performance than it is a film, although I suspect the performance will carry the day, even if that performance is Acting with a capital 'A'. Was I riveted by Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy? I was. She has the look....
Criminal Stupidity
If you think Bond villains' ideas are implausibly silly, you should meet some more real-life criminalsWe all love to mock Bond villains for their hilarious ineptitude at killing the hero. The 'genius' Dr No has a tarantula placed in Bond's bed -- though...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. At a drinks party at Christie's this evening my face was splattered with flecks of spit from the guest I was talking to. I desperately wanted to wipe them off but felt that would have been impolite (and in fact I had no handkerchief anyway). What...
'Deep Blue', by Alan Judd - Review
It is a chastening thought that Boris Johnson's responsibilities now include MI6. Alan Judd's latest novel is particularly interesting about the relationship between our intelligence services on the one hand and our politicians (and their special advisers)...
Diary
Donald Trump was gushing about one European leader in his Times interview this week. But it was the wrong one. The President-elect told me that he was delighted that he'd been congratulated on his election by the 'very fine gentleman' who was the 'head...
Exhibitions: Sandra Blow - 11 Works
In the 1940s Lucian Freud took another young painter, Sandra Blow, up to the top of a bombed church in Soho. There were just two prongs of masonry left and Lucian promptly launched himself through space from one to the other. 'You can't possibly expect...
Food: Tanya Gold
Trump Tower sits between Gucci and Tiffany on Fifth Avenue in New York City. It looks like infant Lego, the Duplo brand, but black -- porn Duplo, then. It is militarised; by the door are the fattest police officers I have ever seen. They look like they...
From Utopia to Milton Keynes
We may snigger at Milton Keynes but let's not forget its utopian spirit, says Stephen BayleyArtists, poets and philosophers have not paid much attention to Milton Keynes ...although comedians have. This urban experiment has been mocked by lazy satirists...
High Life: Taki
AthensI can only ask sardonically: was it worth it? Executed after unspeakable torture without giving anything away -- and for what? Fat, avaricious and very rich Davos Man? Or those ignorant, self-indulgent, cowardly little twerps who demand 'safe spaces...
How Did You Kill That Hat?
The cant around 'ethical fur'The well-dressed lady turned the fur collar over in her hands and fixed me with a withering stare. 'Is this real fur?' I was helping out in my friend's clothes shop, a fashionable haunt in a chichi area of south-west London....
'How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed Aids', by David France - Review
This month, 30 years ago, I wrote a draft of what was to become soon afterwards the first comprehensive human rights charter for people with HIV. It was born out of an urgency to stop the global drift by governments to panic and repression. In March...
Hugo Rifkind: Piers Morgan Is a Shameless Brown-Noser. but Maybe He's on the Right Track
A few weeks ago I was having an argument with Piers Morgan on Twitter. Oh God, is that really how I'm going to start this column? What have I become? I was, though, and it started because he was brown-nosing Donald Trump. We're talking a real nasal frottage...
'Island People: The Caribbean and the World', by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro - Review
'Short of writing a thesis in many volumes,' Patrick Leigh Fermor wrote in his preface to The Traveller's Tree, 'only a haphazard, almost a picaresque, approach can suggest the peculiar mood and tempo of the Caribbean and the turbulent past from which...
James Forsyth: May Has Taken Back Control
'No negotiation without notification' has been the EU's mantra since 24 June last year. Its leaders have been determined that there'll be no talks before Britain has formally submitted its Article 50 letter, starting the two-year countdown to this country...
Labour's Heartland Crisis
MPs in its northern heartlands fear the party's support could collapse entirelyStoke-on-Trent is an unsettled place, figuratively and literally. The ground under the city is riddled with shafts from coal and ironstone mining. Some of its most beautiful...
Leading Article: Doing Brexit Right
From the start of the European Union referendum campaign, competing visions of Brexit have been advocated. To Nigel Farage, the case for leaving the European Union was all about what we did not like (the diktats, the immigration, etc). This played into...
Letters
Particle of faithSir: Fraser Nelson draws our attention to the most worrying aspect of economists getting it wrong, which is their reluctance to recognise it ('Don't ask the experts', 14 January). Some economists, seduced by sophisticated mathematical...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
I am very bad at remembering my dreams: I would have been a poor patient for Dr Freud. But I know that as a little boy most of my dreams were rather frightening, even if I can't recall them in detail. An oft-repeated dream involved a monstrous apparition...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
Our friend Anthony was reportedly dying and a party of four drove over to the nursing home to say cheerio. The journey across deepest Provence was an hour and a half each way and we went in my old Mercedes. I fixed my attention on the badge and the twisting...
'Man of Iron: Thomas Telford and the Building of Britain', by Julian Glover - Review
During David Cameron's years as prime minister, an unobtrusive figure could be seen slipping out of the back entrance to Downing Street. At the end of each day, Julian Glover, then Cameron's chief speechwriter, made his way across St James's Park to...
Matthew Parris: What Really Drives Us in the Big Game of Life?
When were you last in a game reserve? Perhaps most Spectator readers will be familiar with the experience and if you're anything like me it's a happy one. Where would I rather be than in an open-topped Land Rover as the sun rises over the African bush,...
Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth
'Look, darling, a spelling mistake,' said my husband, looking out of the window, as he had been for minutes, like a lonely old woman.Sure enough, a van was parked in the street with a word painted on the side: Carillion. Now, an unpleasant collection...
My Flight into Israel
It's time I left London's anti-Semites behindI've always lived in London. I grew up near Baker Street and went to school in Camden. Even when I was at college in Kent, I lived in Islington and commuted. Five years ago I moved to Belsize Park and I've...
Notes On. Late-Season Skiing
There's trouble brewing in the Alps. Skiers arriving in the mountains over Christmas were greeted, not by snow-clad chalets and oodles of fresh powder, but by thin ribbons of artificial snow snaking down green mountainsides.For the fourth time in as...
Opera: Le Grand Macabre
The Barbican website warns us that Ligeti's opera Le grand macabre 'contains very strong language and adult themes'. The strong language consists of the four-letter words that are known to everyone and used by most people, and the adult themes are sex/love...
'Perfume River', by Robert Olen Butler - Review
At first glance, Robert Olen Butler's Perfume River seems like an application for a National Book Award. Its protagonist, Robert, a 70-year-old history professor, lives in comfortable ennui with his semiotician wife, Darla: tenure, sabbaticals, staring...
Portrait of the Week
HomeBritain will leave the single market on leaving the European Union, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said in a speech at Lancaster House. Britain will leave the customs union to boot, she said, and 'Brexit must mean control of the number of people...
Radio: Sports Commentary; Private Passions; Songs of Good and Evil
The purest form of radio is probably sports commentating, creating pictures in the mind purely through language so that by some magic the listener believes that they were there, too, when Geoff Hurst scored that final goal, Shergar ran out the field...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
If the buyer asks me any more questions I am going to pull out. I have to put my foot down somewhere or this is going to drag on indefinitely.I went under offer some months ago now and it was thought I might be in my dream cottage for Christmas. Ha!...
'Rejected Princesses: History's Boldest Heroines, Hellions and Heretics', by Jason Porath - Review
Who is the least likely candidate for an animated princess movie? That's the question former DreamWorks animator Jason Porath asked his colleagues over lunch a few years back. Over the hour they kept one-upping each other with increasingly inappropriate...
Rod Liddle: Stupidity Takes Hold of Another Students' Union
I had never heard the acronym Soas before I started work at the BBC, almost 30 years ago. But as a very young producer at the corporation I was asked to fix up a story about something appalling happening in Africa -- I can't remember exactly what. Famine...
'Ronald Knox: A Man for All Seasons', by Edited by Francesca Bugliana Knox - Review
During the second world war, while one brother was editing Punch as a national institution ('Working with him was a little like helping to edit the Journal of Hellenic Studies,' said a colleague), and another brother, given to asking questions like 'Which...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
At a wedding a few years back a very gloomy looking guest, a well-known Geordie actor as it happens, arrived at the church door. 'What's up?' asked the small boy patrolling the entrance. 'Newcastle are playing this afternoon and I can't find out what's...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
I had lunch recently with an assistant head of a leading independent school and he told me about their 'growth mindset' work. He was excited about this and he's by no means exceptional. Eton, Wellington and Stowe have all enthusiastically embraced it,...
Stupidity at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge tunnel is a ruinously expensive plan that will deprive millions of a small but important pleasureThe astonishing has happened at Stonehenge. Some prehistoric force has driven ministers to make a decision. It is to spend half a billion...
Television: Revolting
Revolting (Tuesdays) is the BBC2 comedy series that spawned the now-infamous sketch 'Real Housewives of Isis'. It has been watched on the BBC's Facebook page nearly 30 million times and rightly so because it is fearless, funny and near the knuckle.A...
'Testimony', by Robbie Robertson - Review
The recent spate of rock memoirs has proved one of the less rewarding sub-genres in the post-digital Gutenberg galaxy. Obeying few rules of a good read, they usually suggest a variant on Frank Zappa's biting assessment of rock journalists: 'People who...
Theatre: The Kite Runner; Wish List
The Kite Runner, a novel by Khaled Hosseini, has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. Now it arrives on the West End stage, a doggedly efficient piece that somehow lacks true dazzle. The narrative style involves thick wodges of plot being delivered...
'The Last Wolf', by László Krasznahorkai. Translated by George Szirtes - Review
The Hungarian novelist László Krasznahorkai has only lately become known to Anglophone audiences, through the masterly translations of George Szirtes and Ottilie Mulzet. Work written and published in the 1980s, during the corrupt and cynical last days...
The Plots against Trump
His supporters expect impeachment or even a military coupThe 'most deadly adversaries of republican government,' wrote Alexander Hamilton, arise 'chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
You had to feel for ITV's new racing team on their opening day at Cheltenham. It was cold, wet and utterly miserable but they opted not to take refuge in a warm studio but to stay close to the action under their brollies, putting a brave face on things....
'Victorians Undone: Tales of the Flesh in the Age of Decorum', by Kathryn Hughes - Review
The fetishisation of the Victorians shows no sign of abating. Over the past 16 years, since the centenary of the passing of the Victorian age, we have been treated to a never-ending stream of books about the monarch herself, the houses her subjects lived...
What Radio 3 Won't Talk About
This week the Southbank Centre began its 'Belief and Beyond Belief' festival -- a series of concerts and talks claiming to explore the influence of religious inspiration on music. Last summer, after reading its miserably right-on publicity material,...
Why Trump Could Be the Friend Britain Needs
Donald Trump has pledged to reward Britain for leaving the EU, and the signs are promisingFreddy Gray, Paul Wood and Kate Andrews discuss Trump's arrival at the White House:As president, Barack Obama was too cool for the special relationship. The romantic...
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