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 April 30

'A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip', by Alexander Masters - Review
Most modern biographers feed off celebrity like vampires let loose in a blood bank. That is why their books sell: they give readers the illusion of intimacy with people they will never know. Alexander Masters is different. He specialises in what one...
Ancient and Modern: Henry III vs EU Law
It is no surprise that the laws imposed on the UK by a European parliament in Brussels should so infuriate the 'Leave' campaign. England has form here going back 750 years.Roman law has been one of the wonders of the world since its codification in the...
Arts Essay: The Holocaust on Screen
Amid the abundant cinema of Nazi atrocity, Son of Saul is exemplary.Ian Thomson explains whyIn July 1986, nine months before he died, I met the Italian author and Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi at his home in Turin. He was in shirtsleeves for the interview...
'Breakdown: The Crisis of Shell Shock on the Somme, 1916', by Taylor Downing - Review
In the final months of 1914, medical officers on the Western Front began seeing a new kind of casualty. Soldiers who had no physical injury were displaying a wide range of alarming symptoms. Some appeared to be completely dazed or were shaking uncontrollably,...
Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes
'England in effect is insular, she is maritime, she is linked through her interactions, her markets and her supply lines to the most diverse and often the most distant countries; she pursues essentially industrial and commercial activities, and only...
Cinema: Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War is the 897th instalment -- or something like it -- in the Marvel comic franchise. This time round, the superheroes take sides, with the marketing asking if you're #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan but not if you're #TeamNeither, as...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. How does one go about getting invited to a wedding? Two friends of mine from university, who I have not managed to stay in touch with since we left three years ago, are getting married this summer, and I would very much like to go to their wedding...
Diary: Michael Dobbs
I'm a lucky man. My novel House of Cards transformed my life, yet I wrote it almost by accident nearly 30 years ago. It wasn't intended to be anything other than a hobby but thanks to the limitless skills of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, backed by...
Exhibitions: Fox Talbot; Dutch Flowers; Sicily: Culture and Conquest
William Henry Fox Talbot had many accomplishments. He was Liberal MP for Chippenham; at Cambridge he won a prize for translating a passage from Macbeth into Greek verse. Over the years he published numerous articles in scholarly journals on subjects...
Food: Tanya Gold
Batman owned the Criterion in The Dark Knight , but could he do anything about British Telecom? Savini at Criterion, an Italian restaurant, waited four months for an internet connection and telephone line as they prepared to launch this year; when it...
High Life: Taki
I read this in an American newspaper (it was written by a woman who used to edit my copy for a New York glossy, but I will withhold her name to save her embarrassment and social atrophy): 'He's hosted Kim Kardashian and Kanye West for Thanksgiving, regularly...
How the Right Went Wrong
Conservatism is having a nervous breakdownListenIs Boris Johnson turning into the thinking man's Donald Trump? Just like the Donald, he's got funny hair, charisma, and an appetite for women. He may not be as rich as Trump -- although we were all impressed...
'How to Read Water: Clues, Signs and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea', by Tristan Gooley - Review
Water accounts for 70 per cent of your planet, and 60 per cent of your body. Yet when do you ever stop to consider it? The quirks and habits and secrets of good old H2O were crying out to have a book written about them. That said, it had to be written...
'In Gratitude', by Jenny Diski - Review
The 'journey' -- at least the one played out in public -- begins with an announcement that you are incurable. Patient waiting follows, described in monthly essays written for a respected publication. Jenny Diski (non-small cell adenocarcinoma, London...
James Forsyth: Elections? What Elections?
ListenBritain goes to the polls next week. Yet this has barely registered on the media radar. These aren't the forgotten elections; they are the ones nobody's bloody heard of. This is surprising, because they have real political significance. North of...
Leading Article: Fear and Loathing
Strange as it may seem, there are still people around David Cameron who regard the Scottish referendum campaign as a great success. Yes, they say, the nationalists didn't like the original 'Project Fear' -- the attempt to frighten Scotland into voting...
Letter from the Cotton Belt
Clarksdale, Mississippi, where Highway 61 crosses 49 and Robert Johnson met the Devil, who taught him the secret of the blues. Out of the blues came Elvis, rock and roll, most of today's popular music. My wife Linda was born here when Clarksdale was...
Letters
Green reasons to stay inSir: As Conservatives we are clear that the European Union has been central to improving the quality of the UK's environment. European policy is not always perfect, but on environmental issues it has allowed us to move forward...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
I drank Bombay gin and Fever-Tree tonic on the half-empty easyJet flight to Gatwick. I was even offered ice cubes. I was dressed like a peon, so as soon as I arrived in London I went into the nearest Gap superstore and bought jeans, a shirt and a jumper...
Martin Vander Weyer: The Death of Investment Banking Will Lead to the Rebirth of Something Better
Oh woe. Investment bank profits are evaporating after a disastrous contraction of trading revenues reflecting zero-to-negative interest rates, weak commodity prices and worries about China and other emerging markets. Not to mention the stagnant eurozone,...
Matthew Parris: Brexit Tories Are Feeling Disrespected. How Awful
There are moments when one wonders whether one is seeing and hearing the same things as others. For me such a moment occurred a fortnight ago when reading The Spectator 's weekly column by our political editor, James Forsyth. James is exceptionally well...
Mind Your Language: Queue
The language that President Barack Obama used was evidence of skulduggery, Nigel Farage declared. 'The UK is gonna be in the back of the queue' if it leaves the European Union, Mr Obama said, standing next to David Cameron in front of a gilt and stencilled...
Notes On. Indoor Gardening
A year or so ago, I inherited a cardboard box filled with plants. It was an offshoot from an enormous collection that belonged to a young botanist from Stockwell. He was about to be turfed out of the derelict building he lived in and hundreds of plants...
Opera: Jenufa
Janacek's Jenufa , his first great opera, had a one-night stand at the Royal Festival Hall last Monday, courtesy of the wonderful Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jiri Belohlavek, the Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno, a large body that had all...
Pop: Prince
I saw Prince play once. I was bored rigid but couldn't mention this to the girls I'd gone with: as far as they were concerned, watching the purple sex dwarf (he was 5ft 2in) masturbating with and fellating his guitar and generally getting off on his...
Portrait of the Week
HomeJunior doctors went on strike for two days, refusing to provide even emergency treatment. The 96 Liverpool fans who died in the Hillsborough football stadium disaster in 1989 were unlawfully killed, an inquest jury found. Philip Hammond, the Foreign...
Prince and Me
The untold storyThis is only interesting, well a bit interesting, because the poor man died last Thursday and for a few short days almost anything with the word Prince in it stands a chance of getting some traction. So forgive me if this feels a bit...
Radio: All Mouth and Trousers; the Death of Shakespeare
'Comedy is like music,' said Edwin Apps, one of the characters in Wednesday afternoon's Radio 4 play, All Mouth and Trousers (directed by David Blount). 'The words are the notes and they have to be in exactly the right place. And every line has to pull...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
The gloves are off in my battle with the two brothers who live in the flat upstairs. They have just socked me a brutal left hook. And so no more am I going to be the neurotic, menopausal fruitcake downstairs. From now on I am going to unleash my difficult...
Rod Liddle: The Politically Correct Way to Do Racism
Exactly a year ago this week I was at a dinner party when a famous opinion pollster leaned over to me and said: 'You know, the best thing about this election is that within two years Chuka Umunna will be the leader of the Labour party and Sajid Javid...
Spectator Sport: Roger Alton
It's always good to see a great con trick in action. Take Boris Johnson: not really the lovable quick-witted scamp with a good line in Latin gags and a few problems in the trouser department, but a ruthless opportunist with a dreadful attitude to women...
Status Anxiety: Toby Young
A new book published today by the Institute of Economic Affairs called In Focus: The Case for Privatising the BBC includes a chapter by the economist Ryan Bourne on the BBC's left-of-centre bias. As you'd expect, Bourne's contribution includes plenty...
Television: Game of Thrones
So: Game of Thrones . Finally -- season six -- the TV series has overtaken the books on which it is based and the big worry for all us fans is: will it live up to the warped, convoluted, sinister genius of George R.R. Martin's original material?As regulars...
Theatre: Down and out in Paris and London; My Mother Said I Never Should
Down and Out in Paris and London is a brilliant specimen from a disreputable branch of writing: the chav safari, the underclass minibreak, the sojourn on the scrapheap that inspires a literary monument. Orwell's first book was turned down by Faber boss...
'The Cultural Revolution: A People's History, 1962-1976', by Frank Dikötter - Review
Frank Dikötter, professor of humanities at the University of Hong Kong and winner of the Samuel Johnson prize in 2011, is the author of many studies on China, most notably two on Mao's dark rule. This new book completes the trilogy. The first volume,...
The Heckler: BBC Proms
BBC Proms 2016 is about as exciting as my sock drawer. But it's unclear who exactly is to blame. The new head David Pickard claims only half the stalest socks are his -- the rest inherited.The festival enjoys an incredibly privileged position. Some might...
'The Making of Friedrich Nietzsche: The Quest for Identity, 1844-1869', by Daniel Blue - Review
Had you been down at Naumburg barracks early in March 1867, you might have seen a figure take a running jump at a horse and thud down front first on the pommel with a yelp. This was Friedrich Nietzsche, midway through his 22nd year and, thanks to a sickly...
'The Sport of Kings', by C.E. Morgan - Review
There were moments while reading this sprawling, ambitious novel when I thought I was reading a masterpiece. But at other times, it felt as if the author was convinced that she was writing one.The Sport of Kings is the story of the Forge family of Kentucky....
The Truth about Ocean Acidification
Another pillar of climate alarmism is looking distinctly wobblyThere was a breathtakingly beautiful BBC series on the Great Barrier Reef recently which my son pronounced himself almost too depressed to watch. 'What's the point?' said Boy. 'By the time...
The Turf: Robin Oakley
The difference between praying in church and praying at the racecourse, a gnarled old punter once said, is that at the track you really mean it. At Sandown last Saturday, the last day of the jumping season, all our prayers were answered: you simply could...
The Unlikely Oilman
Former Spectator owner Algy Cluff on Margaret Thatcher, Robert Mugabe and BrexitAlgy Cluff is the longest-serving oilman in the North Sea. He was one of the first to drill for oil there, in 1972, and at the last government handout of drilling licences,...
'The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer', by Kate Summerscale - Review
During the heatwave in the summer of 1895, the Gentlemen v. Players match at Lords Cricket Ground on 8 July attracted more than 12,000 spectators. Among the crowd that sunny day were two little boys from the East End of London, brothers Robert and Nattie...
'Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible', by Kelly Baum, Andrea Bayer, Sheena Wagstaff and Others - Review
An unfinished painting can provide a startling glimpse of the artist at work. But the common tendency to prefer it to a finished work is being taken to extremes, says Philip HensherThe unfinished is, of course, something which tells us about the history...
'What Is a Dog?', by Raymond Coppinger and Lorna Coppinger - Review
Before I read this book, I thought I knew what a dog was. It barks, it wags its tail, it fetches sticks, it craps on the carpet. However, now that I've finished this learned tome, I realise there's a bit more to it than I thought. As well as the domestic...
When Novels Kill
If we claim books can heal, we must accept they can also harmListenWho can forget the terrible climax of Howards End , when Leonard Bast is killed by a deluge of books? Death by books holds a horrible irony for poor Bast, as he had thought they were...
Who Needs Governments?
The Spanish seem to be doing better without oneOn 26 October last year, the Spanish government shut up shop in preparation for a general election. This duly took place in December but then a strange thing happened: after all the build-up, the arguments,...
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