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The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the…

The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British (2008)

by Sarah Lyall

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4522723,073 (3.35)43

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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
I was ready to like this book more than I did. Each chapter took a look at an oddity of British society from the point of view of a New York transplant writer. So far so good. I was interested in chapters that had more social commentary than personal anecdotes. Parliamentary behavior? Fascinating! Transit and shopping behavior changing for the nation as a whole? Also good. Personal accounts of dinners and stilted conversation with reticent colleagues? Eh.
I wanted more anthropology than solo bemusement. And I found her witticisms uneven. Laughed at some, felt like she was trying too hard to be Bill Bryson, mostly. ( )
  ewillse | Jan 18, 2016 |
American married to a Brit. works as a journalist in London. funny interesting well told. I think I liked Watching the English better, but it has been awhile since I read this one. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
After listening to the first chapter of this book, I thought the author was a total moron and that I would listen to the whole thing and have fun writing a scathing, wicked review. But in the end, the whole thing just sort of fell flat and I don't even feel like zinging this one. (And no, I don't exactly think the author is a moron. She's just someone I'm glad I don't know.)

Lyall is a journalist for the New York Times who transfered from NYC to London in the 1990s, married an Englishman, and had two children. I'm not sure exactly what she's trying to do with this book. First, the title is completely misleading, as it's seeming play on Anglophile--one who loves all things English--doesn't fit her litany of complaints about her adopted home, as she shows no affection for the country or the people. (Also, it's not about the British, it's about some English people.) The whole thing is overwhelmingly negative, but in a rather pointless way. She opens the book with a riduculous chapter on repressed English sexuality and how most of the men are closeted homosexuals because they like to dress in women's clothes. Yes, you read that right. She goes on to complain about Parliament, the House of Lords, excessive alchohol consumption, cricket, and bad dentistry (so the dental treatment provided by the National Health Service sucks? How does it compare to the dental services paid for by the US gov't? Oh, right--they don't provide any.) She also complains about bad service--except she acknowledges it has vastly improved, and she complains about the food--except she acknowledges that it has vastly improved. And finally, she complains about the weather, which I find rich considering she comes from a place with insufferably humid summers and inhospitable winters. Other than the chapter about hedgehog aficionados, I didn't learn anything.

With this sort of book, one expects some astute observations and some witty remarks, but there is none of that here. It's also clear that she doesn't understand British humour--to such a degree that she finds it offensive. On the other hand, if you're not going to make a book like this clever, then at least write a meaningful critique. Instead she decided to pick out most of the obvious English stereotypes and say a bunch of negative things about them, which in turn makes her the stereotypical ugly American. I feel sorry for her family--it actually seems that she would like her children better if they weren't English.

Recommended for: not recommended for anyone. Or, maybe recommended for New Yorkers who want to hate-on the English. ( )
11 vote Nickelini | Dec 5, 2013 |
“Instead of bragging, the British turn to humor and misdirection. If you ask someone, say, “How was the job interview?” she won’t give you a straight answer. She will spin an amusing tale of a deadly encounter replete with gaffes, miscommunication, and uncomfortable silences in which she could barely string two words together, let alone hope to get the job...
“Why do they do this? I think Britons emphasize their faults in part as a way to demonstrate the charm of their self-deprecation. This is starkly illustrated in the personal ads section of the ‘London Review of Books,’ where the lovelorn advertise themselves as aggressively unappealing, even actively repellent....
“The tradition began with the first submission the ‘London Review’ received when it began accepting personals, in 1998: ’67-year-old dis-affiliated flaneur picking my toothless way through the urban sprawl,’ the ad said, ‘self-destructive, sliding towards pathos, jacked up on Viagra and on the lookout for a contortionist who plays the trumpet.’” Kindle location 2492-2500

“Sometimes [the British] could have it both ways: endure the sacrifice, suffer the discomfort and love to tell the tale. One of my personal favorites in the who-cares-how-bleak-this-is-I’m-an-Englishman genre was the Earl of Uxbridge, who fought alongside the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. At one point, Uxbridge, commanding the Anglo-Belgian cavalry, happened to notice that his leg had been blown off by a cannonball. The story goes that he then turned to Wellington and announced: ‘By God, Sir, I’ve lost my leg!’ To which Wellington is said to have replied, ‘By God, Sir, so you have!’ Following the convention that you are supposed to pretend your complaint doesn’t matter, or laugh it off with amusing tales, Uxbridge later had the amputated leg buried with full military honors in France and thereafter enjoyed the nickname ‘One-Leg,’ in the approved eccentric manner....
“But like shopping-free Sundays, all that is receding into the past. In twenty-first century Britain, this idea of accepting your fate without complaint, sacrificing yourself for others, and keeping your troubles to yourself (to the extent that you admit you have any) is going quickly, if it has not already gone.... Perhaps the greatest legacy of the late Princess Diana was to open the floodgates in Britain to naked displayed of unedited emotion....” loc 3824-3836
  Mary_Overton | Aug 9, 2013 |
Things now are different in the UK from when I spent the summer of 1986 working in London, but the English obviously aren't all that different judging by this book. Most amusing. ( )
  snooksmcdermott | Apr 6, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Now she produces the latest in a seemingly inexhaustible genre that dissects British quirks and remarks how peculiar are the inhabitants of that moist little isle. . .But Lyall’s observations are neither overly perceptive nor interesting and much of her material is creakingly familiar: aristocrats, for example, pronounce some words differently than their working-class compatriots, Britons love animals (a special memorial honors animals who aided British troops in wartime) and the game of cricket is boring. . . . it will disappoint those seeking serious analysis or original insights.
added by Nickelini | editPublisher's Weekly (Jun 23, 2008)
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For Robert and our English girls,
Alice and Isobel
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Soon after I moved to London I was invited, through some mutual friends, to have lunch with an earl—a real one, as opposed to someone like James Earl Jones or my Uncle Earl back home.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393058468, Hardcover)

Dispatches from the new Britain: a slyly funny and compulsively readable portrait of a nation finally refurbished for the twenty-first century.

Sarah Lyall, a reporter for the New York Times, moved to London in the mid-1990s and soon became known for her amusing and incisive dispatches on her adopted country. As she came to terms with its eccentric inhabitants (the English husband who never turned on the lights, the legislators who behaved like drunken frat boys, the hedgehog lovers, the people who extracted their own teeth), she found that she had a ringside seat at a singular transitional era in British life. The roller-coaster decade of Tony Blair's New Labor government was an increasingly materialistic time when old-world symbols of aristocratic privilege and stiff-upper-lip sensibility collided with modern consumerism, overwrought emotion, and a new (but still unsuccessful) effort to make the trains run on time. Appearing a half-century after Nancy Mitford's classic Noblesse Oblige, Lyall's book is a brilliantly witty account of twenty-first-century Britain that will be recognized as a contemporary classic.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:01 -0400)

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Dispatches from the new Britain: a slyly funny and compulsively readable portrait of a nation finally refurbished for the twenty-first century.

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393058468, 0393334767

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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