Monday, July 16, 2007

Book Review...Watching The English

Watching The English.The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour. Kate Fox.2004.416pages.Hodder and Stoughton.

This is an engaging analysis of what makes the English tick.Its author attempts to set out the rules of Englishness as she sees them.
The book is at the serious end of what might be called "pop anthropology".At the start Fox spends some pages defining various terms she will use through the book to identify Englishness such as "culture","class" and "race".
After the preamble,chapter by chapter she takes on various features such as humour and dress and what part they play in English daily life and society.At the end of each chapter she sums up what that feature adds to the sum total of her rules about Englishness.

It is very detailed.She obvivously spent a lot of time observing and talking to her subject matter.What one plants in your garden and what reading material you have in your loo apparently indicates what social rank you belong to.
Then again its possible to identify a fellows breeding as to whether or not he utters one of "the seven deadly sins" such as "pardon","toilet" or when one uses the word "dinner".(page 76).

The author has an easy-going relaxed self mocking style,often peppered with amusing asides and observations.After having calculated the best way to eat peas,either prongs up or the spear and squash them technique she admits "I really should get a life".(pg 317).
In the conclusion Fox tries to tie up the preceeding chapters with a definitive list of what she sees as the defining characteristics of Englishness.I enjoyed the chapters on humour and conversation including mobile phone useage.To sum up its an intriguing read.Lots of personal observations and comments about human foibles and interaction.
The only major quibble I have involves the books production.The printing is very small.Typeset in monotype sabon,its a very small font type that doesnt lend itself to being read on trains or public transport,the pages often a blur as you take a corner or hit a bump.

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