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July 24, 2006 2:49 AM   Subscribe

A guide to Britain as seen through the eyes of an average American. A celebration of the inadequacies and shortfalls, misunderstandings and culture gaps. Brought to you by the ineffible, George Saunders.
posted by metaxa (58 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
uhm...that should have been...

'...culture gaps betwixt the US and the UK'.
posted by metaxa at 2:54 AM on July 24, 2006


I don't think that article could be much lamer.
posted by Joeforking at 3:14 AM on July 24, 2006


a bit dodgy overall, but this bit was a charmer:

"The traveller must, of course, always be cautious of the overly broad generalisation. But I am an American, and a paucity of data does not stop me from making sweeping, vague, conceptual statements and, if necessary, following these statements up with troops."
posted by stenseng at 3:20 AM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


The first thing I did in England was travel to a town called Hay, the site of a big literary festival. Hay is known as The Town Of Books, because it has approximately 14,000 used book shops. The cars are all shaped like books and all of their food is book-shaped and the women wear a special perfume that smells like old musty books and all of the dogs are named "Baudelaire".

Irregardless of the other dry witticisms - albeit somewhat low-hanging fruit - please write more porn such as this. I think every single nerve cell in my central nervous system just had it's own orgasm. That was unusually delightful. I will pay handsomely for a commissioned piece of erotic literature if it includes many more bawdy, lustful librarians and book-smell drenched folks of the female persuasion.

Please, no papercuts. I'm not that sick of a freak.
posted by loquacious at 3:22 AM on July 24, 2006


I've always found that Americans tend to generalise too much.
posted by johnny novak at 3:23 AM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


At least not yet. No, I'm not drunk. At least not yet. Fuck off!
posted by loquacious at 3:24 AM on July 24, 2006


Irrirreregardless.
posted by nthdegx at 3:28 AM on July 24, 2006


Also, regarding "playing his terrorist music too loudly.": Please send links to terrorist music to the email that is clearly listed in my profile, which is available upon clicking on the hyperlink that is my own handle as indicated below this very comment. If said links or files exceed 10 megabytes in volume, please utilize the popular file hosting service known as "You Send It" to send it.

I fully expect that such music would be terribly hard on the ears as well as the psyche. If it is not, don't bother. If this non-difficulty is in fact so, please do go climb up the nearest, tallest tree whilst carrying a rusty bucket of stale rainwater and proceed to soak your head in it before flinging yourself into the open but near heavens and your inevitable doom.
posted by loquacious at 3:30 AM on July 24, 2006


This was written by a clever man trying appear cleverer still by appearing stupid. He failed and instead appeared stupider.
posted by A189Nut at 3:39 AM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


As a literate, drunk & self-appointed Londoner, I found this article rather amusing.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:44 AM on July 24, 2006


A kind of bad Dave Barry?

Not that I'm saying that Dave Barry is great; some of his writing is funny, some of it isn't. But he isn't nearly so awful. You know an author's bad when you find yourself *trying* to find good writing or something funny in an article.

loquacious, I usually find your postings intelligent, and frankly I'm surprised that all it takes is a suggestion of musty-smelling ladies to get you excited.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:50 AM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


loquacious, I usually find your postings intelligent, and frankly I'm surprised that all it takes is a suggestion of musty-smelling ladies to get you excited.

Bookish, bookly and book-scented musty ladies. Humina-humina. Hubba-hubba. Goddamn. I think I'm going to have to rub yet another one out, you corrupter!
posted by loquacious at 3:55 AM on July 24, 2006


As a literate, drunk & self-appointed Londoner, I found this article decidedly unamusing.

Quick, someone fetch the scales of truth!
posted by ninebelow at 4:01 AM on July 24, 2006


The only funny bit is how people in the UK are always drunk.

It's funny cause it's true
posted by Deathalicious at 4:08 AM on July 24, 2006


"London is the largest city in Britain and is, consequently, full of British"

He clearly has never set foot in London.
posted by Mutant at 4:10 AM on July 24, 2006


The more I read it, the retarder it is.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:22 AM on July 24, 2006


&prevFascinating that Sanders — seemingly that most urbane and English of actors* — has hoodwinked so many people. It's like learning Maurice Chevalier faked his Parisian accent, and hailed from ... say, Paramus.
*Native son of St. Petersburg, former spouse of multiple Gabors (Magda and Zsa Zsa).

Never mind.
posted by rob511 at 4:37 AM on July 24, 2006


www.jesushchrist.com. Lame lame lame!
To get to Britain, you fly over several oceans, including the Atlantic. I think also Missouri? I did not see very much of the Atlantic or Missouri or whatever because, as we passed over, I was watching a movie on our aeroplane, called Dumb And Dumber. It was funny.
That's a bad paragraph for a 3rd grader to write. This guy got paid for this?
posted by eriko at 4:42 AM on July 24, 2006


The more I read it, the retarder it is.

Quite.
posted by kcds at 4:43 AM on July 24, 2006


The more I read it, the retarder it is.

You most certainly meant retardeder.
posted by loquacious at 4:54 AM on July 24, 2006


I find it utterly, utterly hilarious that some people just don't get this at all. Brilliant!
posted by metaxa at 4:58 AM on July 24, 2006


Also, you haters may prefer a Texan's Map of the U.S.
posted by loquacious at 4:59 AM on July 24, 2006


Nice little piece - thanks for sharing.
posted by homodigitalis at 5:02 AM on July 24, 2006


metaxa -- what's to get? Saunders isn't the first one to play the fool to make a point -- as I mentioned, Dave Barry writes like this all the time, only better.

My point is simply that his article was crap. If you're going to write some claptrap like this, at the very least you should make people think that maybe you actually went to the country.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:21 AM on July 24, 2006


I am begining to think that comments on this piece should not be allowed by Americans who have not 'lived' in the Britain yet. This is a brilliant piece, I assure you. I have just recently moved back from the United States of London to United States of New York and feel the lack of subtlety, drunken musings and incredible/intelligent converstaions we had at the pubs near work (liverpool street). What have I done :(

Speaking of the comment above, regarding London being full of British, I sorta agree it is, if you are out walking on london bridge at 8:00 am, after that its a different mix of tourists, foreigners and immigrants. Europeans are considered foreigners ofcourse. In fact I once read a rant in letters to editor section of daily mail, deriding the fact that it was so difficult to discern who was an immigrant and who wasn't since the EU integration of eastern block that you had to wait for people to open their mouth before making your opinion about them!! To my amazement, I did not find this offensive (I am a brown/first gen immigrant to US and UK), though I must admit, not much is considered offensive here anyway, even if PC brigade are begining to get there way. Good times.
posted by trol at 5:27 AM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


Hmm, that texan map reminds of a european map by British, where most of the eastern europe and asia were labelled 'Here be dragons'.
posted by trol at 5:29 AM on July 24, 2006


Ineffible?
I'd say he's well effible.
posted by Flashman at 5:49 AM on July 24, 2006


Clumsy but occasionally funny. I'm surprised it got published, but I suppose it is the Guardian.
posted by Acey at 6:45 AM on July 24, 2006


How about "London is full of British people from all over the world"?
posted by Grangousier at 7:00 AM on July 24, 2006


I am a whole lot stupider than all you smart literary people so I thought it was rather amusing.
posted by public at 7:24 AM on July 24, 2006


Seems spot on to me. But I'm British, lived with Americans in London and then moved to America, so I probably have an odd view on these things.
posted by Artw at 7:58 AM on July 24, 2006


I thought it was rather silly -consequently I found it very enjoyable.
posted by ob at 8:16 AM on July 24, 2006


Saunders: "In America we do not bury anyone in our churches, no matter how holy they are." The man has never been to Virginia, obviously.

Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island is only a decade old. Does it really need to be re-done, poorly at that?
posted by Creosote at 8:34 AM on July 24, 2006


Definitely third-rate Dave Barry. Anyone acquainted with Barry's style will recognize this as a feeble imitation.
posted by QuietDesperation at 8:36 AM on July 24, 2006


The piece is written the way it is written quite deliberately.

Notice the 'ironic' tag. It's a bit of a clue.

That's the last I'll say, and I'll silently chuckle to myself in the corner.
posted by metaxa at 8:55 AM on July 24, 2006


Am I the only one who finds Dave Barry unfunny?
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:58 AM on July 24, 2006


Am I the only one whose mother clips them out and sends them to him?
posted by Flashman at 9:10 AM on July 24, 2006


metaxa - i enjoyed bud.

never heard of dave barry. had a look at his site. reminds me of pj o'rourke a bit.
posted by slixtream at 9:32 AM on July 24, 2006


I'm amazed that no-one has cited Sellar and Yeatman's 1066 and All That, a very well-known book which appears to have been continuously in print since it was published in 1931, which parodies English history the way one remembers it a few decades after learning it in school. (If one is English.) This seems to be inspired by it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:53 AM on July 24, 2006


Shame, because Saunders' pieces are usually quite twisted, funny and spot-on. I'll stick with Twain and Perelman for my travel humor.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:56 AM on July 24, 2006


Sorry, I have to chime in here. The purposeful nuance of this article's badness is precisely what makes it so good. Anyone who honestly believes it's simply "written poorly" just hasn't got a clue. It's got a whole host more tricks than Dave Barry, who's limited to the singular "start a sentence in a benign way and end it with something entirely unexpected and wacky."
posted by esoterica at 9:56 AM on July 24, 2006


George_S, you're totally right.

I saw it on the weekend, and thought it a pleasant and enjoyable read, but not brilliant.
I liked the idea of the "small chalkboard supplied in every single cab."
posted by Flashman at 10:15 AM on July 24, 2006


They are extremely beautiful. If you have ever heard the expression "pale lilies" or "wild English roses" or "pale wild English lilies of the field", that about sums it up.
posted by Flashman at 10:17 AM on July 24, 2006


FWIW, I read it again from an American perspective and it's not very funny. But being written for the Guardian it's clearly intended for a British audience, and is really more of a commentary on how Brits think of Americans (especially how Brits think of Americans thinking about Britain) than its premise of simply being an article about Britain.
posted by esoterica at 10:42 AM on July 24, 2006


I liked the idea of the "small chalkboard supplied in every single cab."

If only such things were actually true. Although I did once catch a cab driven by a jazz hepcat, replete with roll-neck and leather-elbowed jacket, playing Charlie Parker on a record player in the front well as he drove me home.
posted by influx at 10:47 AM on July 24, 2006


gottabetwisted - The first link didn't work, but I presume it was to Innocents Abroad. Agreed, both Twain and Perelman are delightful. Also, Frank Sullivan's travel pieces (Sullivan never left his home in Saratoga, NY) were very original and funny, and more in the vein of what Saunders was trying to pull off.
posted by QuietDesperation at 11:13 AM on July 24, 2006


If you did "get" the Guardian piece, check out "Sea Oak":
http://www.barcelonareview.com/20/e_gs.htm

Saunders is an amazing, smart, dark, and compassionate author, and his new collection (In Persuasion Nation) is well worth the read. His children's book (The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip) is also excellent.
posted by chrisgrau at 12:02 PM on July 24, 2006


I dunno Mutant. One of the things I love about London is the mental disconect you get when you are talking to someone who looks like they could have just arrived from any number of places that are more that 5000 miles away, but, open their mouth and out comes this voice that sounds like it ought to be saying, "It's now 10 minutes past the hour and you're listening to the BBC World Service. Today in Japan...."
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:13 PM on July 24, 2006


Am I the only one who finds Dave Barry unfunny?

He was pretty amazing in the 80's. Or so I discovered when I read Bad Habits. This jerk is ripping off the later Dave Barry, who generally sucks.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:24 PM on July 24, 2006


Oy. You guys are a tough audience. I thought it was extremely funny.

And I say that as someone who has been known to go into used book stores, find a nicely crumbling paperback, open it, and bury my face in its pages in order to suck up the glorious smell of decaying paper. Yeeesssss.
posted by jokeefe at 12:53 PM on July 24, 2006


And I say that as someone who has been known to go into used book stores, find a nicely crumbling paperback, open it, and bury my face in its pages in order to suck up the glorious smell of decaying paper. Yeeesssss.
Me too. I think we should form a support group.
posted by nlindstrom at 1:04 PM on July 24, 2006


I can't tell if he's trying to make a point about "americans r stoopid" or "Look how smart I am. You can tell how smart I am because I USE SARCASM! Only smart people do it!"
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 2:32 PM on July 24, 2006


The article never rose above a level of light nose snorting humour for me. I've recently moved halfway round the world to London too. Each to their own, or C'est la vie as the British say...
posted by Onanist at 3:24 PM on July 24, 2006


If could have done it without using irony, the irony would be complete.
posted by fleacircus at 5:08 PM on July 24, 2006


metaxa, Fun post. When I read it I thought the author was a Brit pretending to be an American and I got some really good bellylaughs in. Then I decided to research George Saunders . He seems like a good human being. So then I started the article again, this time knowing he was American and it wasn't so funny somehow. Weird. But I like his interview about the Buddha Boy in Nepal.
posted by nickyskye at 6:01 PM on July 24, 2006


Though this definitely isn't his best, Saunders is brilliant and anyone who would mockingly refer to him as a "third-rate Dave Barry" has obviously never read any of his other stories (might I suggest "CommComm" from the 8/05 New Yorker?).
posted by inoculatedcities at 6:23 PM on July 24, 2006


Metafiltrian n.: One who can name three humorists, if two of them are Dave Barry.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:04 PM on July 24, 2006


I agree with inoculatedcities. Saunders is something else. I recommend "Brad Carrigan, American," which is in his new book In Persuasion Nation. I really want to get a copy of that because supposedly the story "Jon" is also fantastic, but it's not available anywhere online.

For another taste of Saunders, here he is, reading his story "Offloading Mrs. Schwartz" on NPR.
posted by anjamu at 10:08 PM on July 24, 2006


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