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 14

A Priest at the Door
Death, grief and love in a strange cityIt was October 2010 the night the priest came to our door. The knock startled Tim's dullard beagle into a howl just as Tim's mother was serving up dinner. She and her husband had flown in from New York a few weeks...
Barometer
Black backgroundA Morris dancing troupe with blacked-up faces had to abandon its performance in a Birmingham shopping centre after being heckled and accused of racism.-- There are several explanations for the tradition of Border Morris groups blackening...
'Black and British: A Forgotten History', by David Olusoga - Review
I have been researching and writing about black British history for over 30 years but never before have I been fortunate enough to review a 600-page book on the subject, published to accompany a recent major BBC documentary. The book and the four-part...
'Born to Run', by Bruce Springsteen - Review
'John, we need your autobiography.' 'I thought I'd express my life experience in song.' 'That'll be fine.' This would be an odd agreement, and one the world would (rightly) be less than thankful for. But though not everyone plays music, we all have a...
Can Laughter Save the Dismal Science?
It helps to find the comedy in economicsSomething I have long noticed is how, the moment they leave office, many politicians suddenly undergo a strange transformation where, overnight, they become much funnier, more likeable and intelligent. Two years...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
At the Golden Globes ceremony, Meryl Streep attacked Donald Trump because he 'imitated a disabled reporter'. 'When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose,' she added. It has not been explained over here that hers is a disputed version...
Cinema: La la Land
You will have registered the buzz surrounding La La Land and clocked its seven Golden Globe wins and 11 Bafta nominations. However, I know you won't believe it's wonderful unless you hear it directly from me, so here you are: it's wonderful. Mostly....
'Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey', by Nicola Tallis - Review
It is easy to see why the bare century of the Tudor dynasty's rule has drawn so much attention from contemporary women historians. Without breaking sweat, I can think of at least ten -- four of whom garland this book with advance praise -- who have written...
Dance: The Red Shoes; Sleeping Beauty
From a film about ballet to a ballet about film. In reworking the 1948 Powell and Pressburger classic The Red Shoes for his latest show, Matthew Bourne pays homage to far more than the unforgettable story of a budding ballerina and the bloody toll of...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. My son decided to go straight into work and has got a job. The problem is that it is in central London and none of his friends are available to share accommodation since they are all either on gap years or, if in London, in university halls. He's...
Diary
In December I was in a group of writers on a British Council visit to Moscow, where the UK was the guest nation at the Moscow Book Fair. This entailed going to art galleries, restaurants and to the Bolshoi as well as giving various talks. The hunger...
Drink: Bruce Anderson
Someone came up with a century-old quotation plangent with irony and sadness: 'The year 1916 was cursed: 1917 will surely be better.' That was Tsar Nicholas II. Poor fellow: tragedy for him and his family, tragedy down the decades for tens of millions...
Exhibitions: Victor Pasmore - towards a New Reality
Victor Pasmore once told me how he greeted Pablo Picasso at Victoria station. The great man had come to Britain in 1950 to attend a communist-sponsored peace congress in Sheffield. In person Pasmore found him surprisingly different from the solemn art-historical...
Has the Pope Gone Crazy?
Questions are increasingly being asked about the Pope's judgment and state of mind On 2 January, the Vatican published a letter from Pope Francis to the world's bishops in which he reminded them that they must show 'zero tolerance' towards...
High Life: Taki
There are Dames and there are dames. Dame Vivien, an old friend, became one for her philanthropy. Dame Edna, the creation of yet another friend, was given a damehood for her middle-class morality and upper-class pretensions. And now we have Dame Anna...
'Innocents and Others', by Dana Spiotta - Review
Others goes straight to the head. Things start like this: with an article on a website called 'Women and Film', by someone called Meadow Mori. Meadow reveals that when she was fresh from her LA high school, she had an affair with a mountain-sized filmmaker,...
In (Partial) Defence of Nazi Art
Bad men and bad politics don't necessarily equal bad art. So perhaps it's time to reassess Hitler's taste in painting, says William CookHere in Munich, in the gallery that Hitler built, this year's big hit show is a spectacular display of modern art....
In Praise of Single-Handed Backhands
The graceful one-handed backhand is vanishing from tennisThe picture had been chosen for its utterly gratuitous depiction of female beauty. It showed Justine Henin, the Belgian tennis player who won seven grand-slam singles titles between 2003 and 2007....
James Delingpole: How the Donald Will Beat the Green Blob
Just before Christmas I popped over to Washington DC to test the waters of the Trump administration. I spoke to key members of his transition teams; I hung out with thinktankers, journalists, scientists, conservative activists; I wangled an invitation...
James Forsyth: Theresa May, Left-Wing Tory
Curbs on executive pay, restrictions on foreign takeovers and workers on boards. Not Jeremy Corbyn's plan for Britain, but ideas raised by Theresa May and put forward for discussion at her cabinet committee on the economy and industrial strategy. Not...
Leading Article: No, He Didn't
The irony of Barack Obama's presidency is that while it began at a time when it seemed America's fortunes could only improve, his inauguration day turned out to be his personal high water mark.The retiring President's speech in Chicago this week contained...
Letters
Freudian slapSir: In his Notes (7 January), Charles Moore explores the uncharacteristic reaction of Matthew Parris to the referendum result. What is most puzzling about Parris and so many others like him is that their present outrage has so little in...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, likes making and keeping New Year resolutions. In recent years he has learnt Mandarin, read 25 books, run one mile every day, and created a robot-butler to organise his home. But this year his New Year resolution...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
Still depressed, or, as Matthew Arnold put it, 'the foot less prompt to meet the morning dew', I got out of bed one afternoon and exchanged the soggy Devon hills for the tower blocks of Canary Wharf. I went at the invitation of Dr Ivan Mindlin, orthopaedic...
Martin Vander Weyer: Inflation Creeps Back like the Forgotten Whiff of Cigarette Smoke
From supermarkets to superyacht builders, sales figures are remarkably buoyant: consumer debt may be rising too, but no one can say the New Year economic mood is markedly downbeat. This column feels obliged to find something on the horizon to worry about,...
Mary Wakefield: As the Cab Doors Locked, I Wanted to Get Out
I meant to get the bus, but by the time I arrived at the stop at 5 p.m. last Tuesday, I was running late. I was relieved to see a Tic Tac of orange light floating towards me through the evening. The taxi stopped, I climbed in and said: 'Just north of...
Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth
The title of America's first woman bishop was claimed in 1918 by Bishop Alma White, leader of the Pillar of Fire Church, noted for her feminism, anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism, for her alliance with the Ku Klux Klan, and for her nativism.I was puzzled...
Notes On. Not Owning a Car
On two occasions, sainted members of my family have offered me a car for nothing. Both times, I turned them down -- and not out of selflessness or for green reasons.I said no because I knew it would mean me sitting still in a metal box for hundreds more...
Portrait of the Week
HomeJeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, proposed a limit on incomes: 'I would like to see some kind of high earnings cap, quite honestly,' he said on the BBC's Today . The London Underground went on strike for a day and Southern railway workers...
Radio: One to One; on Kosovo Field; Exploring 'Life on Mars?'
All that's needed for Radio 4's One to One series (Tuesdays) to succeed is a sharp-eyed interviewer, ready with the right question at the right time, and an articulate guest, not afraid to speak freely and openly, but with integrity, all too rare these...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
A few moments after saying the communion rite, the priest looked at his congregation and uttered easily the most disturbing thing I have ever heard said in a church: 'If anyone wants a gluten-free Eucharist, please queue up on this side.'The builder...
Rod Liddle: The Lies We Tell Ourselves about the NHS
The language of the left is a truly transformative grammar, so I suppose Noam Chomsky would heartily approve. There are words which, when uttered by a leftie, lose all sense of themselves -- such as 'diverse' and 'vibrant' and 'racist'. It is not simply...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
In 1961, shortly after getting a job as a lecturer at Cambridge, my father had an idea. The faculty buildings, he discovered, were largely unused for six months of the year. The colleges, too, were empty. Why not create two Cambridges, one for term time...
'Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life', by Samantha Ellis - Review
Fans of the novels and poems written by the sibling inhabitants of Haworth Parsonage always have a Top Brontë. Fame-seeking Charlotte and mysteriously reclusive Emily usually grab the limelight. My father reread Emily's only novel every five years, annotating...
Television: Our Dancing Town; Tina and Bobby
'Blimey! How on earth did they think of that?' is unlikely to be anyone's response to Our Dancing Town (BBC2, Tuesday). A few years ago, The Great British Bake Off was adapted into The Great British Sewing Bee by the simple process of fitting another...
Theatre: Maria Stuart; Art
God, what a dusty old chatterbox Schiller is. Like Bernard Shaw, he can't put a character on stage without churning out endless screeds of cerebral rhetoric. But unlike Shaw, he has no sense of humour, nor any instinct for the quirks and grace notes...
'The Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard', by Ivan Chistyakov. Translated by Arch Tait - Review
Spare a thought for the poor Gulag guard: the rifleman standing in the freezing wind on the outside of the wire, almost as much a captive of the Stalinist prison machine as the inmates he's guarding. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Evgeniya Ginzburg and Varlaam...
'The Glass Universe: The Hidden History of the Women Who Took the Measure of the Stars', by Dava Sobel - Review
Marek Kukula tells how, in the late 19th century, Harvard Observatory began to rely on a number of women - ranging from graduates to housemaids - to analyse an explosion of scientific dataThink of a computer and your mind might conjure the brushed steel...
The Hack of the Century
A hundred years ago, the Zimmermann Telegram brought America into the first world war. This is the story of how it was crackedTo all those computer hackers exulting in pizza-encrusted bedrooms across central Europe -- the US presidential election was...
'The Horseman', by Tim Pears - Review
Set in rural England in 1911, Tim Pears's latest novel tells of a friendship between 12-year-old Leo, a precocious carter, and Lottie, the daughter of the master of the farm on which he and his father work. The Horseman is the first instalment of what...
'The Man with the Poison Gun: A Cold War Spy Story', by Serhii Plokhy - Review
As I read the last chapter of this book, news broke that the Russian ambassador to Ankara, Andrey Karlov, had been shot multiple times at close range by an off-duty Turkish police officer. Despite shocking live footage of the incident, it was unclear...
'The Nine Lives of John Ogilby: Britain's Master Mapmaker and His Secrets', by Alan Ereira - Review
Given that he wrote and published some of the most stunningly handsome books of the 17th century, John Ogilby has not been served well by literary history. The Fables of Aesop (1651), the first complete English translation of Virgil (1654), a two-volume...
The Trouble with Experts
They're often wrong but they seldom admit it Michael Gove never intended to make his most famous remark. In an interview during the EU referen-dum campaign, the then justice secretary was told that the leaders of the IFS, CBI, NHS and TUC all...
The Wiki Man: Rory Sutherland
In 1929 John Maynard Keynes predicted that by 2029 people in the developed nations could enjoy a perfectly civilised standard of living while working for 16 hours a week. His hope was for our precious hours of extra leisure to be devoted to such edifying...
Trump's Family Favourites
At the court of King Donald, Ivanka and Jared will be the couple to watch Donald Trump will not find satisfaction as the 45th President of the United States of America. He really wants to be king. Just look at the gilded-bling madness of his...
Wild Life: Aidan Hartley
We had my parents-in-law Gerry and Jean to stay with us on the farm over Christmas and being in a remote place in Africa, things often go wrong. A few days into the festivities the solar-powered electricity broke down and so did the solar water-heater....
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