The Spectator magazine’s chatty style is surely enjoyable: its essays are still “essay” in a more or less Montaigne sense, as opposed to “essay” as understood by contemporary university careerists. That probably explains the magazine’s charm despite its consistent conservatism and occasional racism.
Common sense prevails in John Bradley’s observation of Arab Spring and human rights: the slogan chanted in Tahrir Square was ‘bread, dignity and social justice’, and the greatest of these demands was bread. But psychedelic truth matters as well: Andrew Brown reports LSD and MDMA’s coming back in medical labs when psychiatry is seeking “empathogen”. The post-scientific optimism in the immediate aftermath of WWII re-emerges.
But London’s arts scene is still (rightfully) drenched in the sentiments of WWI. Will Self’s turn-of-the-century new novel Umbrella is described as a modernist masterpiece comparable to Ulysses. BBC produces a new series based on Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End with the help of Tom Stoppard, who as a playwright unsurprisingly but erroneously thinks “it is through words we become fully human”. Glyndebourne’s #RavelDoubleBill proves otherwise: it’s through musical and visual stimulations we become human.
Grieg’s conspicuous Piano Concerto is at the same time praised and panned, as its curious performance by a certain “honky-tonk” Winfred Atwell from Trinidad, “the first black person to have a Number One hit in the UK single chart”. Taki, in enjoying Switzerland’s snow-white countryside, keeps his distance from its multicultural cities. Toby Young, meanwhile, celebrates British nationalism’s revival during the Olympics, especially when it is expressed by Mo Farah, a British subject from Somalia.