Julie burchill

Books of the year II: more choices of reading in 2023

Ruth Scurr In Ways of Life (Jonathan Cape, £30), Laura Freeman channels the spirit of the art critic and collector Jim Ede. She traces the origins of Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge – not a museum, nor art gallery, more a cabinet of curiosities – through Ede’s own life, his work for the Tate, the other houses and countries he lived in and the artists he cared for and wrote about. In Foreign Bodies: Pandemics, Vaccines and the Health of Nations (Simon & Schuster, £30), Simon Schama argues that ‘all history is natural history’, and introduces a rich cast of protagonists who pushed forward the frontiers of science for the good

If you really want to lose friends, start a magazine

I’m more impressed than most that The Spectator has racked up 10,000 issues, because I used to be a magazine publisher myself and I know just how hard it is. In 1991 I co-founded the Modern Review with Julie Burchill and Cosmo Landesman and appointed myself its first editor. Our motto was ‘Low culture for highbrows’ and we ran long, scholarly essays by intellectuals and academics about popular icons like Madonna. I remember one particularly good piece by David Runciman, now a politics professor at Cambridge, called ‘Wazza mazza wiz Gazza?’ about the footballer Paul Gascoigne. Among the magazine’s more dubious achievements was publishing the first ever article by Will

Don’t judge a play by its audience

There is a new book out about the sun — the bright thing in the sky, not the newspaper. It sounds very interesting. ‘Science Museum The Sun — One Thousand Years of Scientific Imagery’. You can get it from that place ‘Science Museum’, which I seemed to remember was once called the National Science Museum but which has now ridded itself of that hateful word ‘national’ as well as its unfashionable definite article. In the introduction to the book, the authors Harry Cliff and Katy Barrett write: ‘The images and texts featured here are almost always the product of collaborative work. While the name on the image is so often

Spectator Books of the Year: The myth of meritocracy

I must admit that I write a beautiful essay about my dad in My Old Man: Tales of Our Fathers (Canongate, £14.99, edited by Ted Kessler), but it would be nearly as good without me. James Bloodworth is one of the most elegant and passionate (not an easy combo) writers about politics in this country today, and in The Myth of Meritocracy (Biteback, £10) is especially eloquent on the way the diversity divas have diverted attention from the lack of opportunities for a whole swathe of underprivileged children put beyond the pale of pity by their risibly named ‘white privilege’. We Don’t Know What We’re Doing (Faber, £7.99) is the

Why would I want to lose weight? Being lazy and fat is far more fun

Let me start by putting my podgy little hand up – the one not ferreting fervently through a big box of Belgian chocs, that is. Starting out positively sylph-like, I’ve reached a size 18 at the age of 56 solely through lack of discipline and love of pleasure. I have no time for people (except those with proven medical conditions) who pretend that it is generally otherwise. Nevertheless, I’m not attached to my flab in any way but the most obvious.  I despise the Righteous Fat. (The Righteous Thin are bad enough, all that running around, sweating and smelling, and somehow believing that it means something.) Though I could afford any

Are there any Jews who still support Labour?

Many years ago, sometime in the last century (how worldly I feel writing that!) I was at the launch party for the dear dead Modern Review mark II and feeling mildly appalled by the whole flimsy thing when a young man introduced himself to me as Nick Cohen and told me he’d be writing for us. ‘O, a Cohen!’ I exclaimed happily, all innocence. ‘Just what this magazine needs – a clever Jew!’ Did I ever get a mouthful! ‘I’m not a Jew – my family rejected Judaism decades ago…never been so insulted…’ ‘But your name is the name of Moses’ brother – Aaron!’ I pointed out. ‘How can you not be a Jew?

Maxine Peake is wrong: Margaret Thatcher and Rebekah Brooks are feminist role models

Margaret Thatcher has been out of power for twenty-six years and dead for three, but in our brave new world of virtue signalling (defined in this magazine by its creator James Bartholomew as ‘the way in which many people say or write things to indicate that they are virtuous…one of the crucial aspects of virtue signalling is that it does not require actually doing anything virtuous’) she has become the El Cid of politics, strapped to her trusty steed and sent out into the fray one more time. But interestingly, her corpse is being repeatedly trotted out by her enemies, rather than by those who guard her flame – and what

There’s nothing wrong with public grieving

One of the things that repeatedly comes up with David Bowie fans talking about their hero is how much he meant to people living in small towns or suburbs. For adolescents who felt confined by stuffy suburban mores and maybe felt themselves a bit different, Bowie must have felt like a lifeline. Personally I grew up in bohemian west London and many of my parents’ friends were easily as weird as Bowie, if not quite so cool or well-dressed. I liked Bowie when I was 16 and 17, but I can see why for some people he meant a lot. Whenever a celebrity dies there follows a certain outpouring of

France: #ToutsAuBistrot!

My word, I do like the French! That’s up there with things I thought I’d never say, like ‘Just the one, please.’ But after spending three days in Paris two weeks after the Islamist massacre, I have become their biggest fan. Yes, I’m fully aware that the Parisiennes aren’t the French –— but the pedants among you will please overlook the sweeping generalisation. I thought it was important, having read that France had already lost €2 million worth of business due to a wave of cancellations, to show support. When I read that Parisiennes were trending the hashtag ‘#ToutsAuBistrot’, it was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, we arrived on the first day

If you are so rich, how come you are so left wing?

A few days ago the Telegraph revealed that the leader of Momentum was – inevitably – the privately educated son of a property tycoon, whose father had the wealth to fund a home in Primrose Hill, a wife, children, and allegedly a couple of mistresses on the side. I shared the news on social media, because I have met and disliked too many of his kind. The complaints began at once. I should not judge a man by his background. He did not choose his parents. What matters are James Schneider’s beliefs. It is where you are going which counts, not where you come from. And so on. And on. The

Mirror, mirror

Body dysmorphia, the unfortunate medical condition whereby a perfectly pleasant/slender person believes themselves to be ugly/fat, is a strange and sad thing. I’d always presumed it to be (like anorexia and bulimia) a primarily female problem, so much more importance being placed on the appearance of women than men. Respectable medical surveys indicate otherwise. Nevertheless, women tend to see themselves as less attractive than they are. A sizeable number of men, on the other hand, suffer from the opposite delusion. I call them Magic Mirror men, because they seem to possess an inner looking-glass which tells them that they are, indeed, the fairest of them all. Why else do ugly

Meet the Cry-Bully: a hideous hybrid of victim and victor

In the 1970s, there was a big difference between bullies and cry-babies. Your mum would have preferred you to hang around with the latter, but sometimes the former had a twisted charisma so strong that you found yourself joining in the taunts of ‘Onion Head! ’ at some poor unfortunate creature sporting a cranium of a somewhat allium caste. After a bit, of course, if you had anything about you, you realized what a knob you were being and went off to sample the more solitary, civilized pleasures of shoplifting and reading Oscar Wilde with the bedroom curtains closed. But you could be certain, as you festered in your pilfered

The fat debate – Julie Burchill vs Katie Hopkins

In this week’s issue, Julie Burchill explains why she is not dieting. Ever. As Kingsley Amis said, no pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home. And Burchill has seen nothing during her long, wicked, wonderful life to make her change her ways — or her weight. But what will Katie Hopkins, arch-enemy of the obese, make of this? She joins Burchill on this week’s View from 22 podcast, to discuss whether someone can ever be overweight and happy. Hopkins has campaigned vigorously against obesity — so does she think Burchill is greedy when she goes off to ‘have another cream doughnut’, as Hopkins puts it? Burchill doesn’t seem too bothered by what Hopkins thinks. She reckons

Julie Burchill

Fat chance

[audioplayer src=”http://rss.acast.com/viewfrom22/theriseofleft-wingpopulism/media.mp3″ title=”Julie Burchill and Katie Hopkins discuss whether you can be fat and happy” startat=924] Listen [/audioplayer]I’m a very off-message type of fat broad; one who gladly admits she reached the size she is now solely through lack of discipline and love of pleasure, and who rather despises people (except those with proven medical conditions) who pretend that it is generally otherwise. I’m not attached to my fat in any but the most obvious way; would I lose it if I could snap my fingers? Without doubt. Would I work at losing it? Not a chance, Vance. ‘But it’s not about vanity,’ the weight bores bleat, ‘it’s about health.’

What happened to Julie Burchill on silent retreat

When I told my friends that I was planning to attend a silent retreat, they all laughed. It’s true that I am something of a convivialist; my idea of heaven is a big table in a warm restaurant, the table shimmering with the laughter of friends and the glugging of wine, and me picking up the bill. On the other hand, I was a solitary only child and I look back on those days with great fondness. Before the long stagger up the primrose path of pleasure started, the only companion I needed was a book; I well remember my mother crying because I preferred to sit in my room

The rise of ‘living apart together’ – and why I’ve stopped doing it

I’ve never lived with a man I didn’t marry: Tweedledee, 1979–1984, and Tweedledum, 1984–1995. (The names have been changed to irritate the pair of them.) So when I left my second union and moved to Brighton to chase the man who is now my third (and hopefully final) husband, I was keen to establish and keep separate households. I was quite pleased to find that not only was I having a blast seeing Daniel while maintaining a maverick social life (he didn’t want to be in a swimming pool full of drunken, shrieking girls’n’gays any more than I wanted to be in a room full of game-playing, beer-drinking men) but

Letters: The silencing of Meirion Thomas; finding the Cross of St George in Tuscany; and healthy scepticism about NHS privatisation

This turbulent surgeon Sir: I have taken Meirion Thomas to task before in your letters pages, saying that since one third of NHS professional staff are immigrants, it would seem churlish to deny health visitors access to the very doctors we have poached from them. Meirion Thomas is not a whistle-blower (‘Bitter medicine’, 3 January) — he has not told us anything that our own prejudices haven’t already informed us of. And quite rightly he is being encouraged by his colleagues to zip it. Is there any business, let alone political party, that would tolerate such pointless, if not divisive, mudslinging from within? Dr Tom Roberts Derby Medical cover-ups Sir: Freddy

Spectator books of the year: Julie Burchill on Julie Burchill

I couldn’t work out whether Caitlin Moran’s How to Build a Girl (Ebury, £14.99) was aimed at mature adolescents or immature adults, but I loved it anyway — even before I came across the very pleasing mention of myself in Chapter 20, and the even better one in Chapter 24. Tamar Cohen’s The Broken (Doubleday, £6.99) was that miracle — a novel about the disintegration of a middle-class marriage which didn’t make me sneer once, thanks to the cliché-free freshness of the writing. But my favourite book of the year has to be Unchosen: Memoirs of a Philo-Semite (Unbound, £14.99) by Julie Burchill: a wonderfully cool-headed and unbiased writer I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot

Women on Facebook are too bitchy even for me

In the heyday of the Hollywood studio system, Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM (‘More stars than there are in the heavens’) was rumoured to have had a very strange chart on his wall. This graph, allegedly, kept a record of the menstrual cycles of the studio’s leading ladies: Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Grace Kelly and the rest. By consulting it, directors and cameramen knew when their precious cargo might be feeling a mite tearful and would ruin her make-up if spoken to sharply, or when her skin might not be in the best condition for a big close-up. Some mornings when I come back from my husband’s place, sit

Podcast: Britain’s jihad, the Pope vs the Vatican, and the existence of ‘The One’

[audioplayer src=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/spectator/TheViewFrom22_21_August_2014_v4.mp3″ title=”Britain’s jihad, the Pope vs the Vatican, and the existence of ‘The One'” fullwidth=”yes”] The View from 22 podcast [/audioplayer]The murder of James Foley by an Isis fighter ‘with a London accent’ has been treated with understandable revulsion. But we shouldn’t be surprised, says Douglas Murray in his cover piece this week. On this week’s podcast, he outlines how Britain came to be the West’s leading producer of ‘foreign fighters’. Shiraz Maher, one of Britain’s leading authorities on radicalisation, joins him, and explains why the British jihadis are regarded as some of the most vicious and extreme fighters. Just what is really going on in Pope Francis’s pontificate?