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A Reluctant Anglophile’s Pilgrimage to the Mother Country

by Joe Queenan

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 2004
ISBN: 0-8050-6980-1
Publisher: Henry Holt

Prolific social critic Queenan (True Believers, 2003, etc.) considers Queen (but not much) and country (more, from Glasgow to Penzance) and delivers the age-old I-kid-because-I-love-you hustle.

Because the subject can’t be encompassed in one volume, it’s far from a comprehensive Baedeker. At times, Queenan offers a Perelman-on-the-road style, sometimes it’s Mencken-at-home, on occasion it’s snarky and usually persnickety in its take on Old Blighty. From the heydays of Boadicea and Richard the Lion Heart to Churchill and Thatcher the Iron Heart, things, in Queenan’s view, haven’t changed much. His British spouse always knew, we can be sure, that Noddy’s car goes “parp!” and is never dismayed by clotted cream. Britons at home are still endearingly crazy, even fruitcake nuts. From York to Liverpool, from Hadrian’s Wall to Tintern Abbey, he finds wonderful eccentricities and appalling pop-culture artifacts. In the latter category, the author places most of West End theater (case in point: The Mouse Trap) and the oeuvre of Sir Paul McCartney. Indeed, there’s much blather about musical taste with undue regard to Liverpuddlian tribute bands. While Sting is okay, Christopher Hogwood needs some correction, and Lloyd Webber’s crimes, we’re reminded, are horrendous. As a child, the author was captivated by Beau Geste and the myth of the inflexible upper lip. High in the Highlands, cozy in the Cotswolds, and besotted with history—of which there is simply too much—Queenan rants about legend in Glastonbury, choochiness in London, and all things twee. In its juicier moments, this apple doesn’t fall far from the twee, though the usually dyspeptic author notes that he’s personally “more sarcastic than arch.” Waxing wroth, Queenan gets our British cousins to show us their knickers. They get up his nose, so he hits our funny bones in this antic panto.

With a comic crumpet, Queenan leaves his love in Albion. It’s a bit of alright, Percival.