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 June 24

'A Book of American Martyrs', by Joyce Carol Oates - Review
Early one summer's morning in 1994, Paul Jennings Hill, a defrocked Presbyterian minister, gunned down a doctor, John Britton, as he arrived for work at an abortion clinic in Florida. Unrepentant by the time of his execution nine years later, Hill (who...
After Shoah: An Interview with Claude Lanzmann
How do you follow a film like Shoah? The nine-hour Holocaust documentary, released in 1985 after 11 years of work and 350 hours of interviews -- with survivors and perpetrators, saviours and collaborators, historians and bystanders -- is considered one...
'A Heavy Reckoning: War, Medicine and Survival in Afghanistan and beyond', by Emily Mayhew - Review
Emma Williams salutes two books that examine close up the physical and psychological scars of warOne of the most pitiful sights in conflict areas is the local prosthetics store, with its rows of artificial limbs, sized from adult down to tiny child....
'Amazons: The Real Warrior Women of the Ancient World', by John Man - Review
Rumour will run wild about a society of warrior women, somehow free from the world of men. We all feel we know the Amazons, even if we struggle to connect them with the planet's largest rainforest, river and internet company. But the historical reality...
Ancient and Modern
Whether the youth vote had any serious impact on the result of the general election or not, Jeremy Corbyn knew how to exploit it in a way both Plato and Aristotle would have understood.In his Republic, Plato argued that democracy resulted in rulers behaving...
An Unholy Alliance: Israel and the Saudis
How Israel and the Saudis found themselves on the same sideIsrael's Channel 2 news station improbably made history last week by airing a brief interview with an obscure policy wonk named Abed al-Hamid Hakim. The subject was the blockade of Qatar imposed...
'Bandit: A Daughter's Memoir', by Molly Brodak - Review
Molly Brodak, a fair, young Polish-American born in Michigan, is a winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize. Iowa: that hotbed of academic creative writing! Her poems, published in A Little Middle of the Night, are intensely private, pointillist compositions...
'Blue: A Memoir Keeping the Peace and Falling to Pieces', by John Sutherland - Review
Described by the publisher as a 'moving and personal account of what it is to be a police officer today', John Sutherland's memoir is most to be admired for its frank depiction of mental breakdown.Sutherland has spent more than 20 years in the Met and...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
How much longer can it go on? Deaths caused by terrorism are always followed now by candlelit vigils, a minute's silence, victims' families/ government ministers/emergency services/clergy/imams all clustered together, walls of messages and flowers, flags...
Cinema: Hampstead
Oh, Hampstead, what did you do to deserve Hampstead? Bet you wish the film-makers had pressed on down Fitzjohn's Avenue and made Swiss Cottage, say. On the other hand, maybe you did have it coming, especially as I once overheard one mother say to another...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. I import a range of very high-quality food products from Europe into the UK. They are regarded as the best in the market and have a well-proven record in European stores, but the buyer at a well-known 'upmarket' supermarket is elusive. When I try...
Diary: Anthony Horowitz
Five years after I swore I'd finished with him, it's odd to be back on the road with Alex Rider. It's also quite confusing. In the 16 years it's taken me to write the books, Alex has aged just 15 months while I've experienced 9/11, the invasion of Iraq,...
Europe's Imploding Right
It's not just in Britain that conservatives are in crisisIf the British Conservative party is feeling stunned, having calamitously misread the public mood in a general election, then it is in good company. Across Europe, right-wing parties are struggling...
'Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray', by Adam Federman - Review
As a food writer Patience Gray (1917-2005) merits shelf-space with M.F.K. Fisher, Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson. Fleeing from the dreary predictability of her Home Counties upbringing, Gray became, among other things, the first women's page editor...
Food: Tanya Gold
Hip Chips is a specialist crisp restaurant in Old Compton Street, Soho; no, it is stupider than that. It is a specialist posh crisp restaurant and it is a grave disappointment to the compulsive overeater. The Bacon Nik Nak Shack would surely be a better...
Harry Potter and the Millennial Mind
How J.K. Rowling shaped a generation's politicsWhich Hogwarts house would you be in? There are four options, and everybody fits into one. The brave and chivalrous are put in Gryffindor. Patient and loyal types head to Hufflepuff. Ravenclaw is for the...
High Life: Taki
A famous epigrammatic nugget of wisdom appears in The Leopard, Lampedusa's great novel about a noble Sicilian family's fortunes: 'If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.' I thought of the novel as I was driven up to Gstaad...
Hilary Mantel Reith Lecture Exclusive: Can These Bones Live?
Treading the line between history and alternative factsBBC Radio 4 - The Reith lecturesA few years back, before I began writing novels about the Tudors, my partner and I bought a new-build house in Surrey. We bought it off-plan, and watched it grow...
'Koh-I-Noor: The History of the World's Most Famous Diamond', by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand - Review
There must be any number of self-respecting gemmologists out there on first-name terms with other diamonds, but for most of us the Koh-i-Noor is pretty well it. Most of what we think we know might be myth, guesswork or just plain wrong, and yet in spite...
'Labour and the Gulag: Russia and the Seduction of the British Left', by Giles Udy - Review
Giles Udy did not start out with the intention of writing this book. He was in Russia about 15 years ago and happened to hear about Norilsk, a remote, frozen part of Siberia where the Soviet Union had established forced labour camps. Udy managed to get...
Leading Article: Opening Gambit
The unexpected outcome of the general election has led some to hope that a weakened government will be forced to pursue a 'softer' Brexit. They are right to think that the emphasis of the negotiation will have to change, but they use the wrong adjective....
Letters
May's convictionsSir: Nick Timothy seeks sympathy by revealing that his 'loved ones' are upset by the personal attacks to which he is now subject (Diary, 17 June). They could have been spared distress if he had not invited retaliation by swearing at...
Letter to a Young Corbynista
Caring about the poor means voting for capitalismDear John,I really hope you won't be offended by this letter from your uncle. I have nothing but respect for you and I would hate to damage the friendly relationship we have had since I first met you when...
Live Music: Britten Sinfonia/City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Gerald Barry once licked Beethoven's carpet. At least, that's what he told me, and I'm as sure as any interviewer of Gerald Barry can be that he wasn't pulling my leg. While showing him round a museum, a guide pointed out said floor-covering. Whereupon...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
'Yours?' I said to the woman watching the mechanic poring over the latest-shape Renault Mégane for faults. (I was waiting to have a word with the mechanic about my Clio.) 'Yes. I don't like it,' she said. 'All my life I've driven German cars, and then...
Martin Vander Weyer: Why I'm Sad to See Barclays in the Dock - and Astonished to See John Varley There
Regular readers know I have an umbilical connection to Barclays, because my father spent his working life there, I was on the payroll myself for a decade, and I wrote a book about the bank's modern history, called Falling Eagle. So I cannot react objectively...
Matthew Parris: What Should Party Leaders Be Allowed to Believe?
'If he can't be in politics,' the Archbishop of Canterbury tweeted last week after Tim Farron resigned the leadership of his party, 'media & politicians have questions.'So prelates now think complex theological concerns can be despatched within the...
Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth
Laura Kuenssberg was right. Even my husband agreed, and he often throws soiled beermats from an unknown source (which he uses to stop his whisky glass making rings on the furniture) at her -- at least, when she is on television. She had just used the...
'Missing Fay', by Adam Thorpe - Review
Adam Thorpe's latest novel, Missing Fay, examines the lives of a disparate group of people in Lincolnshire, all touched in some way by the disappearance of the titular Fay, a sparky, gobby 14-year-old girl from a council estate. This is an England of...
Notes On. the Britten Theatre
When friends from overseas with the slightest interest in music ask for recommendations about what to see in London, I always come up trumps. Boastful but true. In fact, even friends who've lived in London all their lives are impressed when I suggest...
Opera: Tristan Und Isolde/ Pelléas et Mélisande
In an essay called 'Wagner's fluids', Susan Sontag concludes, 'The depth and grandeur of feeling of which Wagner is capable is combined in his greatest work with an extraordinary delicacy in the depiction of emotion. It is this delicacy that may finally...
'Paradise Lost: A Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald', by David S. Brown - Review
'I do not like the idea of the biographical book,' F. Scott Fitzgerald told his editor Max Perkins in 1936. Fitzgerald may not have liked it, but he certainly let himself in for it. As he wrote, with a grin, in 1937: 'Most of what has happened to me...
Portrait of the Week
HomeThe burnt-out skeleton of Grenfell Tower, the 24-storey block of 127 flats at Latimer Road, west London, became a focus of recrimination. Initially, kind-hearted community action provided food and clothing for survivors, but organisation by the authorities...
Reaching Boiling Point
The summer heat brings out the worst in everyoneBicycling up Regent Street in the intense June heat last week, I was cut up by a black cab driver. When I remonstrated with him, he leapt out of the cab and assaulted me, with a violent shove in the small...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
All had gone suspiciously quiet down our little track on the village green, and we had begun to think we were being accepted by the neighbours.We settled in. We continued to park our car in the public space outside our house, and after a week or so not...
Rod Liddle: If You're Not Tired of London, You're Tired of Life
London, city of the damned. City of incendiary tower blocks, jihadi mentals trying to slit your throat, yokels from Somerset up for the day to enjoy a spot of ramming Muslims in a white van. City of Thornberry, Abbott and Corbyn. City of Boris. City...
Sculpture: Brancusi in Romania
'Everything is slow in Romania,' said our driver Pavel resignedly, and, as it turned out, he was not exaggerating. He was taking us on a trip of about 150 miles, from Sibiu to Targu Jiu, to see the sculptures of Constantin Brancusi. Taking the faster...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
The Pakistan supporter was festooned in cream and green, and carried a chalkboard round his neck with the legend: 'My wives think I'm at the mosque.' By the end of the day he was a very happy man, along with millions of others both here and on the subcontinent....
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
Earlier this week the Guardian launched 'Brexit Shorts', a series of monologues written by Britain's 'leading playwrights' about the aftermath of the EU referendum. Now I know what you're thinking: 'What fresh hell is this?' But bear with me. Watching...
'That's the Way It Crumbles: The American Conquest of the English Language', by Matthew Engel - Review
'There is room for a very interesting work,' Gibbon observed in a footnote, 'which should lay open the connection between the languages and manners of nations.' The manners of the peoples of the United Kingdom and of the United States are very different,...
Theatre: Anatomy of a Suicide/ Tristan and Yseult
Anatomy of a Suicide looks at three generations of women in various phases of mental collapse. They line up on a stage that resembles a grey dungeon while sad events unfold around them. The first woman gets pregnant. The second takes heroin. The third...
The Bigger, Better Society
It's the middle classes, not government, who'll bring about real change after GrenfellThe last housing scandal in Notting Hill brought down a Conservative government and transformed the social policy of Britain. Peter Rachman was a slum landlord with...
The Listener: Peter Perrett: How the West Was Won
Much though I loved it at the time, not a great deal of lasting worth came out of that fervid punk upheaval between 1976 and 1978. In terms of bands you would voluntarily listen to again, there was just The Clash and The Only Ones, in my book. The latter...
The Next Few Years Will Be Critical for the Tories
With the hard left closer to power, the next few years will be criticalThe Tory party is having the wrong conversation. Whenever two or three Conservative MPs are gathered together, they discuss who should succeed Theresa May. They lament that the front-runners...
'The Other Exile: The Remarkable Story of Fernão Lopes, the Island of St Helena and a Paradise Lost', by A.R. Azzam - Review
This is the story of a 16th-century Portuguese knight and mariner who survived alone on a lump of volcanic rock in the South Atlantic for 26 years. The island was St Helena, and Fernão Lopes is the 'other exile' of the book's title, in contrast to Napoleon,...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
Back on the political beat with CNN for the general election, I was reminded how politics is now dominated by personality, or the lack of it. Led by the media, we want our politicians to be authoritative enough to dominate an EU summit yet 'normal' enough...
'Torpor', by Chris Kraus - Review
In many ways this is a very old-fashioned novel. Jerome is 53, and a lacklustre professor at Columbia; his wife, Sylvie, 35, is a former topless dancer and aspiring film-maker. Sylvie has a dog but wants a baby. Together they will cross the former Soviet...
TV: Riviera/Wife Swap -- Brexit Special
'Riviera is the new Night Manager,' I read somewhere. No, it's not. Riviera (Sky Atlantic, Thursday) is the new Eldorado -- except, unlike the doomed early 1990s soap opera in which Tony Holland attempted to recreate the success of EastEnders on the...
What Are the Tories For?
It's time for the Conservatives to rediscover conservatismShould it be Boris? He was twice elected mayor of a Labour city and if the Tory mission is to stop Jeremy Corybn, surely you need someone charismatic to see off a populist. Then again, David Davis...
Whatever Happened to Children's Radio?
This week's column is dedicated to my mother who loved her radio and encouraged us to be listeners. Without her, I would not be qualified to do this. My earliest memories are of sitting under the table while my mother sewed and the theme tune of Listen...
Why I've Given Up on the Devil's Brew
I've finally quit the devil's brewI gave up coffee a couple of weeks ago. I won't pretend it was easy. The physical withdrawal began with a blinding headache accompanied by creeping nausea. My limbs turned rubbery, and I was reminded of when Winston...
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