Jenny McCartney

Jenny McCartney

Journalist, reviewer, author of the children's book The Stone Bird.

Joni Mitchell, in her own words

There’s always been something at once girlish and steely about Joni Mitchell, the stellar Canadian whom Rolling Stone called ‘one of the greatest songwriters ever’. As Radio 4’s Verbatim programme in honour of her 80th birthday reminds us, a stubborn hopefulness has carried her through turbulent times. Perhaps growing up in Saskatchewan, where winter temperatures

What happened to the supermodels of the 1990s?

‘What advice would you give to your younger self?’ has become a popular question in interviews in recent years. It’s meant to generate something profound but, musing privately, I always find it a puzzler. Sometimes I think that maybe I shouldn’t have wasted so much of my twenties talking nonsense in pubs, but on the

An ode to the BlackBerry

The demise of tech plays out first as disorientation, then entertainment. We’ve reached the latter stage with the BlackBerry, the now-defunct Canadian harbinger of global smartphone addiction. A new film out this month charts its spectacular rise and fall: young folk, look up from your iPhones, and learn how in its Noughties heyday, the BlackBerry

The power and the glory that was Belfast

What should we make of present-day Belfast and its compelling, fractious backstory? English visitors have long found the city invigorating, confusing or exasperating – often all three – but undeniably characterful. Philip Larkin, who lived there for five years in the 1950s, noted its ‘draughty streets, end-on to hills, the faint/Archaic smell of dockland’ and

The stuff of nightmares: Retrievals podcast reviewed

It is the stuff of nightmares, or a queasily dystopian film plot. A woman is undergoing a surgical procedure in a top-rated US clinic. The aim is ‘egg retrieval’, a process which collects eggs from the ovaries for use in IVF. It involves nerves and hope, long needles and pain – except the patient has

How productive is it to listen to productivity gurus?

I was making my way slowly through one of my dismally prosaic little to-do lists – ‘pay the water bill’ ‘wash hair’, etc. – when the voice of the journalist Helen Lewis came on Radio 4 talking about productivity. It’s the Holy Grail of modern life, apparently, and we are now constantly looking for ‘charismatic

In praise of From Our Own Correspondent 

Most of us are familiar with the notion of writer’s block, that paralysis of invention induced by the appalling sight of a blank page. Composer’s block is less widely discussed, although musicians seem equally afflicted by creative drought. Perhaps the best known case is that of the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov, the subject of Radio

The war over the womb 

The womb, that secretive house of early life, is coming under the spotlight. For a long time it was scarcely mentioned in public at all, save in obstetrics, gynaecology, DH Lawrence novels and the Bible. In recent years, however, the uterus has attracted the dubious attentions of the ‘wellness’ industry: Gwyneth Paltrow even recommended ‘cleansing’

Listen to the world’s first radio play

Radio works its strongest magic, I always think, when you listen to it in the dark. The most reliable example is the Shipping Forecast, that bracing incantation of place names and gale warnings, which – with the lights out – can transform even the most inland bedroom into a wind-battered coastal cottage. But darkness can

Jenny McCartney, Chloë Ashby and Ysenda Maxtone Graham

18 min listen

This week: Jenny McCartney says don’t expect a united Ireland any time soon (00:57), Chloë Ashby reads her review of Con/Artist the memoir of notorious art forger Tony Tetro (07:57), and Ysenda Maxtone Graham tells us the etiquette of canapés (14:55).  Produced and presented by Oscar Edmondson. 

Don’t expect a united Ireland any time soon

A hundred years since the founding of the Irish state – on 6 December 1922 – how likely or desirable is the prospect of Irish unity? The recent electoral success of Sinn Fein suggested to many – particularly in the US – that the idea’s momentum is now unstoppable. Of course it’s being egged on

Jenny McCartney, Dan Hitchens and Gus Carter

24 min listen

This week on Spectator Out Loud, Jenny McCartney argues that tomorrow belongs to Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland. What could this mean for reunification (00:55)? Then, Dan Hitchens asks why Oxford killed a much loved catholic college (11:44) before Gus Carter reads his notes on the tabletop game Warhammer (20:12). Produced and presented by Oscar

There’s a growing sense that tomorrow belongs to Sinn Fein

Where can Ulster Unionism go now? If it were a person, it would be someone in the grip of a long depression, whose occasional bursts of anger mask the fact that they so often feel despondent and betrayed. The widespread reaction to the latest Northern Ireland census, in which Catholics narrowly outnumber Protestants for the

Richard Needham takes a businesslike attitude to the Troubles

This memoir from Sir Richard Needham, 6th Earl of Kilmorey, businessman and former Northern Ireland minister, has a frank opening: ‘I came from a family of barely solvent aristocrats, who distrusted trade and despised politics. For some inexplicable reason, however, I had always been fascinated by both.’ Although generations of Needhams before him had ‘uneventful’