Maciej Matyjas's Reviews > The English

The English by Jeremy Paxman
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Sep 13, 11

Read from May 21 to June 17, 2011


The book shines in the historical and sociological background that defines English culture, but crumbles towards the end when less dignified behaviour becomes hard to explain.

Some good insights are that an obsession with housing and property makes sense in a country with terrible weather that for a time only gave voting rights to landowners.

The idolatry of the country side harks back to an idealised past that was probably never within the reach of most people (see 'The American Dream').

This book also gave me some good cocktail party chat:

"Why do you live in England?"

a) "I admire the quiet dignity of the English people"
b) "The English are accepting of eccentrics and you know I can be a little wacky"
c) "Individuality and independence are shared values between them English and I"
d) "I like how people are so polite that they will not talk to you because they assume you do not want to talk to them"
e) All of the above

It is nice to know that the English are also somewhat confused by themselves.

The difficult and ugly face of hooliganism gets a quick mention, but then we drift into turn of the century stadium games with riotous fans and even into the origins of the game itself which seems to have something to do with fights between villages and schools. This then drifts into historical riots and how political change was mostly an excuse for a good riot.

The lager lout gets a similar treatment. His historical existence is verified but we still have no clue why a really good night out includes a fight, except that it always has.

Interestingly, London does not feature too much and that make sense. London is a slightly different beast than England and sometimes has more in common with New York and other international cities than with the shires and villages around it.

Jolly good!
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