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 4

A Generation of Special Snowflakes
We're training our children to be thin-skinned, censorious and belligerently entitledAnother week, another spate of barmy campus bans and 'safe space' shenanigans by a new breed of hyper-sensitive censorious youth. At Oxford University, law students...
Ancient and Modern: Aristotle vs the Civil Service
The civil service is to be allowed to find out what job applicants' 'socio-economic background' is. What abject drivel is this?Among all the different sorts of wisdom that Aristotle discussed, 'practical wisdom' was to the fore. It was for him neither...
Arts Interview: Isabelle Huppert
Isabelle Huppert does nothing by halves. And she doesn't, I think, care greatly for journalists. She expects them to ask stupid questions. Sitting before me in an airless room in the eaves of Paris's Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe, she is tiny, dressed entirely...
'Aunts Up the Cross', by Robin Dalton - Review
Here's a pair of little books -- one even littler than the other -- by Robin Dalton (née Eakin), a celebrated Australian literary agent and film producer, now aged 92, who has lived in London for the past 70 years.As she explains in a prefatory note,...
'Barkskins', by Annie Proulx - Review
You can't see the wood for the trees in Annie Proulx's epic novel of logging and deforestation in North America, saysPhilip HensherIn spurts and bursts and flashes, a sublime novelist at work reveals herself. In Annie Proulx's new novel, there are breath-taking...
Blue Plaque Blues
One of the great distinctions and pleasures of British life has been devalued by cheap imitationsBlue plaque spotting is one of the mind-broadening pleasures of British life. A walk to the dentist can be transformed into a serendipitous encounter with...
Brodie Castle
Is there a more forlornly romantic spot in Britain than the moors east of Inverness where the Jacobite dream died? There is surely no more romantic location from which to explore the area than Brodie Castle, a turreted fortress looking out towards the...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
'No one can seriously deny that European integration brought an end to Franco-German conflict and has settled the German question for good,' wrote Niall Ferguson in the latest Sunday Times . I hesitate when confronted by such an assertion by such a learned...
'Children's Fantasy Literature: An Introduction', by Michael Levy and Farah Mendlesohn - Review
Children's fantasy literature has never been just one thing. Animal fables, folk and fairy tales were not originally intended for a child audience, while the relatively recent phenomenon that is entertaining (rather than principally didactic) children's...
Cinema: The Nice Guys
Regular filmgoers must be losing count of the Rabelaisian revelries they've been invited to of late. You may recognise the type of do. The camera ushers you through a door and, wham, the music's strafing your eardrums and everyone's letting their hair...
Dance: Jane Eyre; Obsidian Tear/The Invitation
The difference between a poor ballet of the book (see the Royal Ballet's Frankenstein ) and a good one -- indeed two -- was cheeringly pointed up by Northern Ballet last week, when it unveiled an intensely imagined new Jane Eyre in Doncaster and gave...
Diary: Niall Ferguson
In 1873, when Jules Verne published hisAround the World in Eighty Days , it seemed worth betting that a circumnavigation of the globe could be achieved in less than three months. Having just completed the feat in roughly three weeks, I feel like a slowcoach....
Exhibitions: Sunken Cities at the British Museum
It was not so unusual for someone to turn into a god in Egypt. It happened to the Emperor Hadrian's lover, a beautiful young man named Antinous, who was drowned in the Nile in the autumn of 130 AD. It was also the fate of Queen Arsinoë II, who had a...
'Full Marks for Trying: An Unlikely Journey from the Raj to the Rag Trade', by Brigid Keenan - Review
Many years ago, working on a project in Tel Aviv, I had a meeting-free weekend. I know, I thought, I'll call my friend Brigid Keenan -- at that time en poste to Syria with her ambassadorial husband -- and nip up to Damascus -- so close, only that smidgen...
High Life: Taki
Write about things you really know was the advice Papa Hemingway offered wannabe writers, so here goes: the French Open is still on, Wimbledon is coming up, and I've just read a lament by some French woman about how professional tennis and big-time sports...
If Only Animals Could Vote
Britain's animals would be solidly for Leave. Here's whyWe British have always had a strange relationship with animals. We spend £5 billion a year on our pets and it is often said that we love our dogs more than our children (perfectly understandable,...
James Delingpole: Learning the Secrets of Happiness from Britain's Most Foul-Mouthed Angler
To go fishing on the Itchen in mayfly season, you either have to be very, very rich or very, very lucky. That's why I'm so grateful to have a friend in Mike Daunt, arguably Britain's best-connected angler, certainly the most foul-mouthed, who invited...
James Forsyth: The Right Question at the Wrong Time
Complaining about the EU referendum campaign has become an integral part of the referendum; even Delia Smith has got in on the act. But politicians on both sides who pretend that the choice is simple, despite having agonised over it themselves for years,...
'Kicking the Bar: The Life and Legacy of Broadcaster Huw Wheldon', by Wynn Wheldon - Review
When I saw this book, a biography of Huw Wheldon, who was managing director of BBC Television between 1968 and 1975, I thought 'Aha!' Inevitably, my mind was filled with images -of Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall, of the Led Zeppelin guitar riff at the...
'Kick: The True Story of Kick Kennedy, JFK's Forgotten Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth', by Paula Byrne - Review
Kathleen Kennedy and her elder brother JFK were the grandchildren of upwardly mobile Irish Catholic immigrants. John F. Fitzgerald, 'Honey Fitz', became mayor of Boston, and Patrick J. Kennedy was a saloon-keeper and failed senatorial candidate who sent...
Leading Article: Continental Drift
It is a long time since the term 'sick man of Europe' could be applied to Britain. France is now a worthier candidate for the accolade -- it -increasingly resembles a tribute act to 1970s Britain. A package of modest labour-market reforms presented by...
Letters
Cameron's blusterSir: Peter Oborne is surely right that lying and cheating are now commonplace in the heart of government ('The new dodgy dossiers', 28 May). If David Cameron truly believed that exit from the EU would mean economic meltdown, a third...
Live Music: Radiohead
Radiohead have been at the top of the musical tree for so long now that it's easy to forget what an irreducibly strange band they are. Last Thursday, during the first of their three hugely anticipated gigs at the Roundhouse, they uncharacteristically...
Long Life: Alexander Chancellor
It was a famous American editor and columnist Michael Kinsley who once defined the political 'gaffe' as something that occurs when a politician tells the truth; and he was right, for it is usually the case that a person gets into most trouble when he...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
Hours before boarding the cross-Channel car ferry, I received a text message from the company warning of severe fuel shortages on the other side of the Channel. Nevertheless, it went on to say, for safety reasons the transporting in vehicles of fuel-filled...
Martin Vander Weyer: Hollande Equals Thatcher? Not Quite, Monsieur le President, but Keep Trying
Have you ever tried discussing the merits of gun control with a Texan, or of deregulated labour markets with a Frenchman and his Belgian cousin? The prejudices involved are much the same.Many Americans believe that guns in the home and the pick-up truck...
Mary Wakefield: Great News for Fatties: It's Really Not Your Fault
I've noticed for some time now that thin people, genuinely slim ones, have a secret loathing of fatties. Kindly though they may otherwise be, the sight of rolls and overhangs, jowls and bulges, makes them angry. One extremely thin woman I know finds...
One Night in the Backwoods
The man I met in the moose-hunters' bar, and what happened between usWhen I was 38, I let a drunk pick me up in a bar. You know, just to see if I still had it. It was raining. It was a November evening, and I was somewhere in the backwoods of the Adirondacks....
Opera: Opera North's das Rheingold and Die Walküre
When I interviewed Richard Farnes in Leeds six years ago about Opera North's project of performing the complete Ring , he struck me as the most modest conductor I had met or could imagine, with the possible exception of Reginald Goodall, who actually...
Portrait of the Week
HomeTwo British men were charged with immigration offences after the rescue by night of 18 Albanian migrants, two of them children, from an inflatable boat off Dymchurch, Kent. 'We don't want the English Channel turning into the Mediterranean with fleets...
Purge of the Posh
Should employees be judged by their parents' income?Any parents considering Dollar Academy are invited to take their car along its long driveway and park outside what looks like a palace. When I first did so with my parents, I told them that it all looked...
Radio: The Pains of Radio 4
There are few jobs more dishonest than being a radio critic in Britain. I know this because it was how I got my first break 25 years ago as a columnist. In those days you used to get sent huge yellow envelopes full of preview cassettes, whereas now it's...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
Turns out you can't eat grass. A horse does something clever to it in its mouth that humans can't. Fine, so it was an absolutely ludicrous thing to do. But I blame the ex-builder boyfriend (who is not an ex-builder, he's an ex-boyfriend, for those who...
Rod Liddle: Yay, Root out Those Jew-Haters, Jeremy!
A long and arduous flight back from the Caucasus, but worth it nonetheless for the meaningful protest we had staged in the fragrant and lovely Georgian capital, Tbilisi. They have opened a vegan restaurant there called the Café Kiwi -- an affront not...
'Second-Hand Time', by Svetlana Alexievich, Translated by Bela Shayevich - Review
'Gilded doorknobs,' spits a Party diehard as she contemplates the blessings of the Soviet Union's collapse. 'Is this freedom?' Dozens of witnesses from the 'lost generation' in Russia who had 'a communist upbringing and a capitalist life' share Elena...
'Shanghai Grand: Forbidden Love and International Intrigue on the Eve of the Second World War', by Taras Grescoe - Review
Here's the Mandarin for ooh-la-la! As Taras Grescoe, a respected Canadian writer of nonfiction, shows in this marvellous, microscopically descriptive history of what is now one of the most populous and smoggiest megalopolises on earth, Shanghai in the...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
Should we be surprised that friendship isn't always mutual? That is one of the findings of a team of researchers at Tel Aviv University who've just published a paper in an academic journal. They asked several hundred students to identify which members...
Television: A Midsummer Night's Dream; Versailles
Spoiler alerts aren't normally required for reviews of Shakespeare -- but perhaps I'd better issue one before saying that in BBC1's A Midsummer Night's Dream (Monday) Theseus dies near the end. Not only that, but Hippolyta and Titania fly off on butterfly...
Theatre: Branagh's Romeo and Juliet; A View from Islington North
Out come the stars in Kenneth Branagh's Romeo and Juliet . He musters a well-drilled, celebrity-ridden crew but they can't quite get the rocket off the launchpad. The stylish setting evokes Italy in the early 1950s. The girls wear New Look frocks and...
'The Last Royal Rebel: The Life and Death of James Duke of Monmouth', by Anna Keay - Review
In Pepys's famous words, James, Duke of Monmouth was 'the most skittish, leaping gallant that ever I saw, always in action, vaulting, or leaping or clambering'. Reading Anna Keay's biography of the adored illegitimate son of Charles II, this image of...
'The Lure of the North', by William Dawson Hooker, Emmeline Lowe and Edward Stanford Jr - Review
'The only use of a gentleman in travelling,' Emmeline Lowe wrote in 1857, 'is to take care of the luggage.' My sentiments entirely. The extract from Unprotected Females in Norway reprinted in this book recounts Lowe's travels with her mother round the...
'The Prospector', by J.M.G. le Clézio, Translated by C. Dickson - Review
It is not easy to avoid clichés when writing about J.M.G. Le Clézio. Born in Nice in 1940, the recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature is known in the Anglophone world as an ex-experimental novelist. His early work, exploring language and insanity,...
The Wiki Man: Rory Sutherland
A few years ago I was asked to speak at a conference in New York. 'Where would be the best place to stay?' I asked my assistant.'Well, you're booked into The Trump SoHo', she said, careful to pronounce the capital H.'Are you completely deranged? Do I...
Why Burn Ivory?
Burning stockpiles of ivory was meant to wipe out poaching. After nearly 30 years, is it working?To mark World Environment Day this Sunday, Angola will celebrate its zero-tolerance approach to the illegal wildlife trade -- the third biggest illegal trade...
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