The angry island by AA Gill
Mr Gill has published a series of essays which I presume he previously published in newspapers or magazines, though he does not admit it. In contrast with Clive James (see previous review), he narrows the focus to an exploration of the English nation / people. There is a reasonably wide spread of topics within that binding theme. His basic thesis, revealed in the book’s title is that the English are an angry people, or at least working continuously to repress the anger beneath.
This is a startling thesis and proves quite amusing and fruitful. Doubtless it helps sell the book to both foreigners and the English themselves (who are interested in perceptions of themselves, similarly to the Japanese). Gill himself is Scottish - or partly. He has genetic roots in Scotland and lived there before coming to England. He professes to hate England, but chooses to live here. Maybe he is the angry one, suppressing it or letting off steam through these essays.
He is evidently clever, educated and good at writing, but he pales beside Clive James. His essay on humour picks up a Jamesian style, which is one of the lighter parts of the book. But a bitterness and bias takes over too often for it to be very enlightening or enjoyable – especially for an Englishman like myself. The other voice I notice coming through is a Jeremy Clarkson tone, when he launches into a ranting series of extreme statements. (I half read a book of Clarkson articles over Christmas, but eventually threw it in the bin and have not bothered to review it).
There is an interesting tension in his true position, since England and the English evidently fascinate him. He cannot help himself in admitting the stunning achievements of the English, revealing the Scottish chip on the shoulder regarding their neighbours. Maybe he has deflected his hidden admiration by re-labelling English energy as anger.
The book became tiresome to me, so I diverted to a lighter book (see ‘The adultery club’ review below). Finally I felt I was being endlessly insulted by an intelligent drunk. It made me angry.