From Publishers Weekly
Humorist Queenan calls this account of his 2002 trip to Great Britain "an affectionate jeremiad," conveying both his emotional ambivalence and displaying his favorite rhetorical device, the oxymoron. The West End musical We Will Rock You
is "triumphantly cretinous"; a village woman is "belligerently harmless"; the museum curator wears an "ecstatically sober dress," etc. More broadly, contradiction is basic both to Queenan's humor and to his love-hate relationship with the British. He loves their "arch phrasing, infectious understatement and delightful euphemisms," just as he hates when all that posturing culminates in "the twit," that "master of rehearsed eccentricity." As with many travel accounts, one learns more about the traveler than about the locale. Queenan is a connoisseur of bad art; he can endure roomfuls of bad paintings at the Tate, just to make naughty remarks about the "insidious" hairstyles of yesteryear. Madame Tussaud's? It's "insufficiently absurd... nowhere near as bad as it ought to be." Conversely, he's thrilled to book a room at Durham's 500-year-old castle, complete with ghosts and a view of the cathedral. Indeed, the "American Dream," as Queenan explains it, is to stand on a fog-swept London street, watching the bobbies and dodging the double-deckers. As he says, there "isn't anything in the world better than riding a London double-decker bus." Hand-sell to the tweedies?
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Who knew that Joe Queenan--who years ago called the English "pasty-faced, mean-spirited, stingy, badly-dressed, anal-retentive, unfriendly, unadventurous, unimaginative people"--could bring himself to write this book-length love letter to the "mother country." Perhaps his English wife of 25 years finally softened him up. He fights the Joe Queenan fight: railing here against Paul McCartney, Pre-Raphaelites, Cats,
English haircuts and public transportation, Fergie, Chelsea football supporters, Rod Stewart's Great American Songbook,
and more. But the complaints are outnumbered by Queenan's love of a nice cup of tea, England's circuitous roads and stone houses, its writers (Swift, Dryden, Pope, Boswell, Samuel Johnson), its domestic niceties, and its "ebulliently shabby pubs." Queenan's is not a quickie romance; nor is this book an afterthought. It is written with the depth and detail of someone who's paid attention to his subject for a long time. Alan MooresCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved