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 May 21

Ancient and Modern: How Rome Did Immigration
Last week it was suggested that the questions asked of London mayor Sadiq Khan had nothing to do with racism, but more with multiculturalism. As St Ambrose could have said, 'If you live in Rome, live in the Roman way; if elsewhere, as they do there.'Until...
A QC's Guide to Cocaine
Drug-taking is less glamorous when you know how the trade really worksAs a defence silk, I come across some surprisingly intelligent drug dealers. Many of them are highly entrepreneurial and driven, and I'm often left wondering what they might have achieved...
Arts Feature: The Best of Postmodern Architecture
Best of postmodernism: is that an oxymoron? Jonathan Meades thinks notIn any epoch most of what is built is mediocre, though we may not realise it at the time because our neophilia persuades us of merit where there is none. Equally, we may fail to distinguish...
'Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World', by Deirdre Nansen McCloskey - Review
Deirdre McCloskey has been at work for many years on a huge project: to explain why the world has become so much richer in the past two centuries, and at an accelerating rate since 1945. This is the third and final volume in the series. In it she argues...
Brazil Notebook
Another Sunday night, yet another episode of Game of Thrones drowned out by pot-banging and angry folk yelling into the night. In my quiet corner of Ipanema, a slanging match takes place as middle-class tenants of a high-rise apartment start slandering...
Cinema: Heart of a Dog
Heart of a Dog is a film by Laurie Anderson and it's a meditative, free-associating rumination on life, loss, love and dogs, with particular reference to her and her late husband's (Lou Reed, who died in 2013) beloved rat terrier, Lolabelle (who died...
Dance: Frankenstein; Rambert
If a football manager produces a string of losses, the writing is on the wall and out he goes. He's accountable -- to shareholders, to the fans. The director of the Royal Ballet is not a football manager.Nor is it easy to see to whom he would account...
'Dante: The Story of His Life', by Marco Santagata - Review
Unlike Shakespeare, who kept himself out of all his works, except the Sonnets, Dante was endlessly reworking his autobiography, even when supposedly writing on politics or arranging love poems to his dream-women. The core of this new book about him can...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. My super successful son kindly gave a birthday dinner party for me in a glamorous London club. I have never used scented candles -- I worry about the fire risk and, more recently, about the alleged particulates. No scent beats fresh air. So what should...
Diary: Joan Collins
Not only are today's young girls having to work hard on their abs, butts and glutes, now the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Kim Kardashian are instructing the poor lambs in the art of keeping their 'lady garden' in mint condition. Subject to the approval...
'Don't You Leave Me Here: My Life', by Wilko Johnson - Review
When I wrote for the NME as a schoolgirl in the 1980s, it was recognised that there were musicians who deserve derision -- those whose egos and clothes' bills dwarfed their talent -- and those who commanded respect. Wilko Johnson, one-time guitarist...
Drink: Bruce Anderson
Miracles are not ceased. A few years ago, a kindly educational therapist took pity on John Prescott and set out to devise a way to reconcile the Mouth of the Humber and his native tongue. He came up with Twitter. That explains the restriction to 140...
'East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity', by Philippe Sands - Review
Prosecution for genocide or crimes against humanity is now a given in international law. But before the Nuremberg Trials, these two groundbreaking notions didn't exist. Daniel Hahn describes their origins and inspirationOne of the things Philippe Sands...
'Eligible', by Curtis Sittenfeld - Review
Curtis Sittenfeld's novel Eligible is a page-turning romantic comedy which is very funny and entirely ridiculous: each of the short chapters is as unwholesomely addictive as a Pringle coated in crack cocaine. It's clearly influenced by writers like...
'Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years', by John Guy - Review
If you've been watching Game of Thrones recently, you'll have seen an old folkloric fantasy in which a bewitching young prophetess, a charismatic war leader, slips alone into her private chambers and removes an enchanted necklace. Beneath it, she's...
'English Voices: Lives, Landscapes, Laments 1985-2015', by Ferdinand Mount - Review
Book reviews, John Updike once wrote, 'perform a clear and desired social service: they excuse us from reading the books themselves'. It's a theory, I'm afraid, that doesn't apply to this review -- but it certainly does to this book: an impeccably wide-ranging...
Exhibitions: John Piper: The Fabric of Modernism; Counterpoint II: Modern Realism 191-1950
A story John Piper liked to tell -- and the one most told about him -- is of a morning at Windsor presenting his watercolours of the castle to King George VI and the Queen. She admired his storm-tossed battlements; the King did not. 'You seem to have...
From the Archives: Bus Battles
From 'The softening of street manners', The Spectator, 20 May 1916: Generally the public opinion of the 'bus entirely upholds the conductor. The influence of the tyrant is too strong to allow of protest, but now and then cases of rebellion occur, and...
High Life: Taki
New YorkI have never seen anything like it. If Adolf Hitler were running for president, he would match Donald Trump's negative coverage. If Benito were in the race, his notices would be far more favourable. When The Donald emerged as the last man standing,...
Interview: Georg Baselitz
'In many ways,' Georg Baselitz muses, 'I behaved against the grain of the times I grew up in.' The era was 1960s Germany; in that context, Baselitz feels he was subversively respectable. 'For example, I never took any drugs. I have been a very faithful...
James Delingpole: What's Making Remain Campaigners So Tetchy?
Like a lot of keen games-players I'm a stickler for the rules. This is not because I'm an especially honourable person; merely a recognition that without a rigorous structure and a sense of fair play, a game can be no fun and winning can afford no satisfaction.I...
James Forsyth: Don't Rule out a Second Referendum
As the Queen read out her government's agenda on Wednesday morning, David Cameron could have been forgiven for thinking about his place in history. What will he be remembered for, other than having held the office? The so-called 'life chances' strategy...
Jeeves and the Cap That Fits
A story about Bertie Wooster and a man called The Donald, with apologies to P.G. WodehouseThe Secret Service said it would investigate Donald J. Trump's longtime butler over Facebook posts laced with vulgarities and epithets calling for President Obama...
Labour's England Problem
My party needs to stop being scared of patriotismIn the window of a council house on a working-class estate in Exeter was a sticker bearing the cross of St George and a simple warning: 'If this flag offends you, why not consider moving to another country?'...
Leading Article: Lies, Damned Lies And
A Ryanair plane in a Stansted hangar was not the best backdrop for George Osborne's claim that the economic argument about the European Union is now over and that his 'consensus' has prevailed. In recent years, Ryanair has lost its status as the fastest-growing...
Letters
Republican party schismsSir: Jacob Heilbrunn astutely analyses the predicament Donald Trump creates for America's neoconservatives ('Lumped with Trump', 14 May). But the ideological schisms within the Republican party are even more profound than he indicates....
'Life in the Country House in Georgian Ireland', by Patricia McCarthy - Review
If you had the resources, Georgian Ireland must have been a very agreeable place in which to live. It was certainly more prosperous and peaceful than it would be after the 1848 famine. This idyllic world is captured in Patricia McCarthy's scholarly and...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
A fresh start in a new gym in a foreign country. The serious young gym attendant didn't speak a word of English, so we did the best we could using my limited French. He weighed me then asked me to hold a device that measured my body mass index via my...
Martin Vander Weyer: Despite Rumours to the Contrary, the High-Speed Loco Has Left the Drawing Board
There's a lot of negativity around HS2, and I sniff a Brexit connection. You might think Leave campaigners whose aim is to boost British self-belief would promote the idea that we have a talent for grands projets such as the Olympic Park and Crossrail,...
Mary Wakefield: Obama's Last Great Battle Is in the Bathroom
Who'd have thought that one of Obama's last great battles would be over toilets? Last week he issued a strict warning to schools saying that transgender pupils must be allowed to use whichever loo they choose. Girls or boys who feel they're trapped in...
'Memories from Moscow to the Black Sea', by Teffi, Translated by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Anne Marie Jackson and Irina Steinberg - Review
'Ah! Scrubbing the deck! My childhood dream! As a child I had once seen a sailor hosing the deck with a large hose while another sailor scrubbed away with a stiff, long-handled brush with bristles cut at an angle. I had thought at the time that nothing...
Mind Your Language: Exclamation Marks
'Like eating in the street,' said my husband. Astonishing! He'd said something not only coherent in itself but also connected to a remark I'd been addressing to him. I had just said that at school I had been taught that the use of the exclamation mark...
Notes On. Verdi
Verdi has a peculiar if not unique place in the pantheon of great composers. If you love classical music at all, and certainly if you love opera, then it is almost mandatory to love him. The great and good of the musical world, the kind of people who...
Opera: Pleasure; in Parenthesis
'So you're going to see the gay sex opera?' exclaimed my friend, open-mouthed. People certainly seem to have had some odd preconceptions about Mark Simpson's new chamber opera Pleasure . The distinguished critic of the Daily Telegraph let it be known...
Poland's Great Divide
Poland is furiously divided - but it's not in the grip of 'hyper-nationalism'Bono has a new opponent: Liroy, a tattooed Polish rapper whose hits include 'Jak Tu Sie Nie Wkurwic' ('How can I not get pissed off?'). He was outraged when the U2 singer recently...
Portrait of the Week
HomeIn the Queen's Speech, the government made provision for bills against extremism and in favour of driverless cars, drones, commercial space travel and adoption. It proposed turning all prisons into academies or something similar and consolidating...
Radio: 'World on the Move' Day
Monday's 'World on the Move Day' on Radio 4 was a bold challenge to government policy and proof that radio is much the most flexible, the most accommodating, the most powerful medium when compared with TV. Without much ado, the day's planned schedule...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
Some people call their house Dun Roamin' to sum up their state of mind. After ten weeks ministering to my horse's tendon strain, I'm thinking of putting up a sign outside my house saying Dun Bandagin'.Wrapping Darcy's front legs painstakingly morning...
Recent Children's Books
Martin Stewart's Riverkeep (Penguin, £7.99) has a list of books and writers on the cover: Moby-Dick , The Wizard of Oz , Ursula Le Guin, Charles Dickens and, less ambitiously, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman and Skellig. And, right in the middle, Riverkeep....
'Redeeming the Kamasutra', by Wendy Doniger - Review
The rough English translation of Kamasutra is pleasure (kama ) treatise (sutra ). In the West, since it was first (rather surreptitiously) translated and published back in 1883, the book has generally been associated with a series of beautiful, ancient...
Rod Liddle: Will Labour Convict Me of Thought Crime?
I got an email this week, from a chap called Harry, which began as follows: 'I am writing to inform you that I will be carrying out the investigation on behalf of the Labour party into the circumstances that resulted in your suspension from the party.'...
Sculpture: Marisol Escobar, First Lady of Pop Art
In 1961 the Venezuelan-American sculptor Marisol Escobar made a startling appearance at the New York artists' group known as the Club that would set the tone for her unconventional career. The Club was where the alphas of contemporary American art met....
'Shooting Up: A History of Drugs in Warfare', by Lukasz Kamienski - Review
'Of all civilisation's occupational categories, that of soldier may be the most conducive to regular drug use.'The problem with this statement -- the first words of this book -- is the problem with the book as a whole: it may be correct, and there again...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
Leo, the Hungarian Vizsla my wife brought home unexpectedly last year, is approaching his first birthday and not getting any easier to manage. Caroline decided to buy him on the spur of the moment because she 'liked the way he looked', by which she means...
Television: Zoo Quest; Love, Nina
Let me start this week with an admittedly hard quiz question: in 1954, how did the sudden illness of Jack Lester, head of London Zoo's reptile house, transform British television? The answer is that his reluctant stand-in as the presenter of BBC's Zoo...
The Age of Hillary
What to expect if - when - a second Clinton finally hacks her way to the topPredicting what might happen in a Donald Trump presidency is easy. Day 1: A fabulous, really great inaugural, the best ever, with amazing entertainment by fabulous, top people....
Theatre: A Midsummer Night's Dream; after Independence
The Globe's new chatelaine, Emma Rice, has certainly shaken the old place up. It's almost unrecognisable. Huge white plastic orbs dangle overhead amid plunging green chutes like rainforest vines. The back wall is smothered in a blinding rampart of explosively...
The Great Prep School Swizz
Prep schools are a soul-sapping waste of moneyI should have known the London prep school scene was a racket from the way parents talk about it. They sound mad. 'You're too late!' I was told by one mother, when my Little Face (not his real name) was nine...
The Wiki Man: Rory Sutherland
Almost every popular commercial product owes its success to two different qualities. First, it does the job it is ostensibly designed to do pretty well. Secondly, it has some quality that you might call 'limbic appeal'. It delights or soothes our unconscious...
Wild Life: Aidan Hartley
NairobiThe gangsters hadn't heard of Brexit. 'What is this "Breaks it"?' they asked my friend hours after kidnapping him at gunpoint. At dusk my mate had been driving in Nairobi, with the Wings song 'Band on the Run' playing. He pulled over to answer...
'Zero K', by Don DeLillo - Review
Cults, the desert, natural disasters. Artists, bankers, terrorists. Cash machines, food packaging, secret installations. Mediaspeak and scientific jargon. Crowds and capital. Language and death. Just as it used to be possible to play Ballard Bingo with...
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