Monday, 6 April 2009

Failing to capture the English

I've just finished reading Jeremy Paxman's book The English and I don't particularly like it, but it's hard to say exactly why.

I suppose part of the problem is that our Jeremy can't help going into sneer mode occasionally (anyone who has seen him on TV knows exactly what such a Jeremy sneer looks like). Take this comment about the English and food: 'For the majority of people, eating out is to consume fat-filled fast food, and to eat in, to be the victim of something prepackaged in industrial quantities in a factory somewhere.'

The other problem is that on practically every subject, the outcome is neither one thing nor the other. So the English are as they always were, yet they're also quite changed. They are gentle, kind people, who are also aggressive hooligans, and so on. As an analysis, it lacks clear outcomes.

All that said, it's an interesting and entertaining book. What's certainly true is that there is more focus now on being English. Where once the English tended to label themselves British, we are finally coming out as something individual, with a distinct identity. And that isn't a bad thing.
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