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 July 16

'A Field Guide to Reality', by Joanna Kavenna - Review
'Transparency,' remarks Eliade Jenks, narrator of Joanna Kavenna's fourth novel, A Field Guide to Reality , 'is an aspiration. But wouldn't it be strange, if you could see all things clearly?'It's an apposite question. For a novel with illumination and...
Ancient and Modern: Themistocles vs Tony Blair
Tony Blair has excused himself for the Iraq war by saying that he did what he believed was right. But no one was suggesting that he had done what he believed was wrong. The charge was a matter of integrity: that he deceived Parliament and turned a blind...
'Ancient Worlds: An Epic History of East and West', by Michael Scott - Review
Classics is a boastful subject. Even the name -- classics -- has an inner boast; as does the classics course at Oxford, Literae Humaniores ('more humane letters'), and the course's second half, Greats.Michael Scott, a classics professor at Warwick University...
Arts Feature: The Woman Who Really Made Duchamp's 'Fountain'
Who really made Marcel Duchamp's 'Fountain'? Stephen Bayley looks back at the early days of the Dada movement a century after it beganYou have to imagine the lines that follow in separate fonts to get the full sense of the nonsense in 'Karawane', one...
Barometer
Nuggets on MaySome trivia about Theresa May-- At 59, she is the oldest new prime minister since Jim Callaghan, 64, in 1976.-- She has the shortest surname of any prime minister since Andrew Bonar Law, who held the post for 211 days in 1923.-- She is...
Brazil's Olympic Shames
The Rio Games are approaching amid a hailstorm of bad newsRio de Janeiro, Brazil'Welcome to hell' was printed on a banner written in English at Rio de Janeiro's international airport recently. 'Police and firefighters don't get paid. Whoever comes to...
Charles Moore: The Spectators Notes
On Tuesday night in London, I spoke to Women2Win, a Conservative organisation dedicated to recruiting more women candidates. My title, suggested long ago, was 'The Woman Who Won'. It referred to Margaret Thatcher. The day before my speech was delivered,...
Cinema: Ghostbusters
From the moment this all-female reboot of Ghostbusters was announced, the fan-boy panic set in: where will it end? An all-female Top Gun ? Will it make me pregnant? Who are these 'women'? Where do they come from? Are they a recent thing? Do we know...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. My wife and I are enthusiastic dancers so when we heard that people we know through mutual friends were giving a party on a sprung floor at Cecil Sharp House in Regent's Park with ceilidh dancing and a caller, we were desperate to go. The trouble...
Diary: Robert Peston
I first met a boyish, sunny Tony Blair more than 20 years ago. Our encounters have always been slightly tense since I reported some clumsy remarks he made about tax when he was still an apprentice PM -- and he reacted much as Andrea Leadsom did against...
Drink: Bruce Anderson
John Stuart Mill did not describe the Conservatives as the stupid party. He merely said that although not all Tories were stupid, most stupid people voted for them (cf. Brexit). But at any level above automatic loyalty at the polling box -- not to be...
'Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited', by Philip Eade - Review
It is 50 years since the death of Evelyn Waugh. Mark Amory wonders if there is anything we don't know about himA Life Revisited , as the modest, almost nervous, title suggests, mainly concerns Evelyn Waugh's life with comments on but no analysis of...
Exhibitions: Georgia O'Keeffe
In 1927, Georgia O'Keeffe announced that she would like her next exhibition to be 'so magnificently vulgar that all the people who have liked what I have been doing would stop speaking to me'. Perhaps, then, she would approve of the massive retrospective...
'Fell', by Jenn Ashworth - Review
After a curtain-twitching cul-de-sac, a Preston shopping precinct, and the Church of the Latter-Day Saints brought to Lancashire, Jenn Ashworth ups sticks for the seaside in her fourth novel. Set in the determinedly genteel resort of Grange-over-Sands,...
High Life: Taki
The Spectator readers' party was as always a swell affair, with long-time subscribers politely mingling with ne'er-do-wells like myself, the former having cakes and drinking tea, the latter desperately raiding the sainted editor's office for Lagavulin...
How Theresa May Will Govern
Theresa May won't be exciting but she may well be radicalAs Tory MPs gathered at St Stephen's entrance in Parliament to await their new leader on Monday afternoon, a choir in Westminster Hall began to sing. The hosannas spoke to the sense of relief among...
'In the Darkroom', by Susan Faludi - Review
In 2004, after a 25-year estrangement, Susan Faludi's father reappeared in her life via email. 'I have had enough of impersonating a macho aggressive man I have never been inside,' it read, and was signed, 'Love from your parent, Stefánie.' The 77-year-old...
Leading Article: Cameron's Legacy
Midway through his final cabinet meeting, David Cameron realised -- with some horror -- that it had turned into a political wake. Theresa May had just lavished praise upon him, and his eyes had moistened. Then it was George Osborne's turn: the Chancellor...
Letters
Lurid about LeaversSir: Matthew Parris has spent much of the past few months denigrating those of us who want to leave the EU, but his latest article ('For the first time, I feel ashamed to be British', 9 July) really does go too far.It is simply untrue...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
When you are recovering from a stroke, you spend much of the time asleep. But when you are not sleeping, you are told that the most important thing you have to do is avoid stress. All doctors agree that stress is the main impediment to recovery. But...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
One moment Trev and I were grooving on the dancefloor, Trev with his head bowed, his eyes closed, and his arms extended like a glider; the next, it seemed, Trev was telling the taxi-driver to drop us off outside an 18th-century townhouse with its front...
Martin Vander Weyer: The New PM Is Right to Want Boardroom Reform, but How Can She Make It Happen?
I spent Sunday at the Sage Gateshead watching an epic performance of Götterdämmerung (I declare an interest, as a trustee of Opera North), so my head was full of it as I braced for more political backstabbing and immolation on Monday. That was very...
Mary Wakefield: What's to Blame for a Generation's Desperation?
Youth is wasted on the young, for the most part, and thank God for that. There's nothing grislier than a teenage girl aware of her hypnotic effect on men, or a youngster who begins his important thoughts: 'As a young person, I...' These days, though,...
Mind Your Language: Gig Economy
In the same song where the brilliant lyricist Ian Dury gave the world the couplet, 'I could be a writer with a growing reputation/ I could be the ticket-man at Fulham Broadway station', his narrator speaks of 'first-night nerves every one-night stand'....
Music: Shakespeare and Opera
This must rank as the most heartbreaking example of premature chicken-counting in musical history. 'Gotter has made a marvellous free adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest ,' wrote poet Gottfried Bürger to the translator A.W. Schlegel on 31 October...
Notes On. Holiday Reading
Holidays are a welcome chance to lose ourselves between the covers of a book, especially for those of us who struggle to find time to read amid the assorted tyrannies of daily life. So the book that ends up in your suitcase had better be a worthy companion.The...
Opera: Leonore; I Capuleti E I Montecchi; Tamerlano
Leonore is the first version of Beethoven's Fidelio , and Stephen Medcalf thinks it's better. 'What Leonore gives us is more discursive but more dramatic,' he declares in the programme of this Buxton Festival production. Well he would, wouldn't he?...
Pilgrimage's Progress
One of Britain's oldest Christian traditions is reviving in a strange new formIf Christian Britain is fading away, what will survive of it? One answer seems to be pilgrimage. In the past decade, 30 pilgrimage routes have been created or rediscovered;...
Portrait of the Week
HomeTheresa May became Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party when Andrea Leadsom withdrew her candidacy for election by party members. This came after a front-page report by the Times based on an interview with Mrs Leadsom in which she...
Race and Rage in America
A summer of anti-police rage could swing the presidency for Donald TrumpWashington, DCConsidering how heavily its citizens are armed with pistols, hunting rifles, shotguns, military semi-automatics, crossbows and nunchucks, considering how ethnically...
Radio: After the Vote; the Untold
In After the Vote , her talk for this week's special edition of A Point of View (Radio 4) on the subject of Brexit, the philosopher (and former Reith lecturer) Onora O'Neill suggested that the media have played a large part in creating our current crisis....
Real Life: Melissa Kite
Bonjour mes amis ! Cydney spaniel ici, en France ! Well, the Eurotunnel was very nice, although the dog departure lounge could have been grassier. I'm not a fan of AstroTurf. Doesn't hold a scent very well. No one checked my passport either. Mummy passed...
Rod Liddle: At Least Corbyn Knows What He Stands For
My favourite comment about Angela Eagle came from some unnamed spiteful Corbynista MP who, with reference to her twin sister Maria, a former cabinet minister, observed that Angela was 'the lesser of two Eagles' and 'not even the best politician in her...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
The departure of Andrea Leadsom from the Conservative leadership race was a blow to pundits who claim we're living in an age of 'post-truth politics'. According to Michael Deacon, the Telegraph 's political sketchwriter, she was an ideal candidate because...
Television: Child Genius; the Investigator
On Tuesday night on Channel 4, a stern male figure peered over his glasses (as equipped with one of those cords favoured by themiddle-aged specs-wearer) and offered us his robust views on how government benefits encourage laziness. Which might not sound...
Theatre: Unreachable; Fury
Anthony Neilson is an Arts Council favourite known for trivial but impenetrable plays with off-putting names like The Wonderful World of Dissocia . His latest effort has another hazard-warning instead of a title. Unreachable starts with an actress auditioning...
'The Day before Happiness', by Erri De Luca, Translated by Jill Foulston - Review
Naples, ragamuffin capital of the Italian south, is reckoned to be a hive of pickpocketing and black-market manoeuvrings. (A Neapolitan gambling manual advises: 'Rule Number 1 -- always try to see your opponent's cards.') Crime is not the whole picture,...
The Heckler: A Note on the Type
Back in 1997 the New Yorker published a piece lampooning the proliferation of 'Notes on the Type' -- those oleaginous mini-essays informing us that 'this book was set in Backslap Grotesque Italic Semi-Detached, a variant of Bangalore Torpedo Moribund...
The Wiki Man: Rory Sutherland
Don't know if you've noticed, but middle-class rules now require that every dinner party cheeseboard must contain at least two cheeses which aren't very nice. Typically one will be a veiny French cheese which is not as good as Stilton; another may be...
'Tide: The Science and Lore of the Greatest Force on Earth', by Hugh Aldersey-Williams - Review
The tour guides of Ephesus, in Turkey, have a nice party trick to wake up their dozing coach passengers. As the coach drives along, they say, 'This is the ancient port of Ephesus', and the passengers look, as I did, at fields and trees and nothing else....
Wild Life: Aidan Hartley
Gilgil, KenyaAt our Gilgil hut in the Rift Valley I've had a new flower garden planted to welcome my wife Claire home from England. Here at 7,000 feet in Africa, temperate and tropical species grow together: roses and aloes, pears and bananas. In midwinter,...
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