The Current Issue

December 2020, Issue 492 H Kumarasingham on British slavery * Karina Urbach on Nazis & nobles * William Boyd on meeting Billy Wilder * Elizabeth Lowry on Vivien Eliot * Lawrence Freedman on Barack Obama * Joanna Kavenna on writers & the weather * Henry Gee on fungi * Andrew Adonis on merit * David Anderson on GCHQ * Richard Vinen on wine in Algeria * David Wheatley on John Berryman's letters * Tom Stern on the Vienna Circle * Susan Owens on Ruskin's art * Salley Vickers on midlife * Andrew Hussey on Jacques Derrida * Anthony Cummins on Richard Owain Roberts * Patricia T O'Conner on Angela Thirkell * James Purdon on Don DeLillo *  and much, much more…

Tim Stanley

Too Nice to Be President?

This is the definitive Jimmy Carter anecdote. Once, when he was president, a bemused journalist asked if it was true that the leader of the free world was in charge of the schedule for the White House tennis court. Of course not, said Carter; don’t be silly. What he had done was tell staff they must speak to his secretary if they wanted to book a tennis session. That way, he elaborated, people cannot use the court simultaneously ‘unless they [are] either on opposite sides of the net or engaged in a doubles contest’. Honest, wonky and utterly without humour, Carter was probably one of the smartest American presidents and, consequently, one of the worst. Two new accounts of his time in office bring clarity and depth to the record, albeit with varying degrees of sympathy. As Jonathan Alter argues... read more

More Articles from this Issue

H Kumarasingham

The Interest: How the British Establishment Resisted the Abolition of Slavery

By Michael Taylor

Do you think a human life is worth £5,800? That was the upper end of the value placed on an individual African’s life (in today’s money) when compensation for slave ‘property’ was being negotiated in 1833. When emancipation came the year after in the British West Indies, it did not mean freedom. Instead, existing slaves became ‘apprentices’ and in many cases... read more

William Boyd

My Evening with Marilyn

Reading Jonathan Coe’s fascinating new novel, Mr Wilder and Me, I was reminded of my one and only meeting with Billy Wilder. It was in London in 1993, at the house of a friend. Wilder and his wife, Audrey, were among the guests at the small dinner party. Wilder was eighty-six by then and was on genial good form. We were encouraged to get him to anecdotalise about his years in Hollywood. Thus prompted, I asked him a no doubt familiar question: what was Marilyn Monroe... read more

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