- Hardcover: 317 pages
- Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc; 1st American ed edition (May 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393033813
- ISBN-13: 978-0393033816
- Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 137 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #655,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Among the Thugs 1st American ed Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
The American-born editor of the British literary magazine Granta presents a horrifying, searing account of the young British men who turn soccer matches at home and abroad into battlegrounds and slaughterhouses. Buford, resident in England for the last 15 years, set out to get acquainted with these football supporters--as their fellow Britons call them in more measured moments--to learn what motivates their behavior. He discovered a group of violent, furiously nationalistic, xenophobic and racist young men, many employed in high-paying blue-collar jobs, who actively enjoy destroying property and hurting people, finding "absolute completeness" in the havoc they wreak. He also discerned strong elements of latent homosexuality in this destructive male bonding. Following his subjects from local matches to contests in Italy, Germany and Sardinia, Buford shows that they are the same wherever they go: pillaging soldiers fighting a self-created war.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Buford, a native of the United States, is the editor of the London-based literary magazine Granta . In 1982 he witnessed the takeover of a train, a football special, by English soccer thugs. He reveals how fascination for this distinctly English phenomenon of "soccer hooliganism" led him to follow a group of violent supporters of the Manchester United Red Devils. Buford is accepted into the group and in time seems to develop a sixth sense about impending violence or when things, in English parlance, are "going to go off." Particularly riveting is his account of the aftermath of a match in Turin, Italy, where 200 or so Manchester supporters marched through the ancient streets leaving fire and destruction in their wake. Buford's original theories on football violence, fraught with notions about disenfranchised youth and the frustration of the working class, are forever dashed. He concludes that the English working class is dead, and what remains is a culture so vapid that " . . . it pricks itself so that it has feeling, burns its flesh so that is has smell." Public and academic libraries should have this.
- Mark Annichiarico, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
The book has a clear arc. At the beginning Buford is an outsider in every sense of the word: he stands on a railroad platform as a train overtaken by “supporters” stops only to kick a few people out. The singing and debauchery are contained within the railroad cars; the scene is as mysterious as it is shocking. Determined to learn more, the reporter goes to his first football match, but finds that, even inside the cages at the Tottenham ground, he is still an outsider. Then he meets Mick, a hard-drinking, brawling Manchester United supporter. The rest of the book follows Buford as he makes his way deeper into the Manchester “firm.” He travels with them to Turin, where he is belittled as a fooking journalist and sees (or participates in?) in his first riot. Eventually he is accepted.
But by the end of the book Buford has referred to his “fellows” as “a bunch of little s***s” and has broken off from the main group in the middle of a riot. Disgusted at the crowd he was so recently a part of, he is beaten by Italian police.
Buford uses his narrative to avoid the greatest weakness of post-modern writing: its nearly religious aversion to the value judgment. There was a moment when I feared for the quality of the book. On page 182 Buford begins a historiography of crowd psychology and physiology. He trots out theories and drops names – Clarendon, Gabriel Tarde, Alexander Hamilton, Hipplyte Taine, Scipio Sighele, Plato, Thomas Carlyle, Gustave LeBon, Gibbon, Hitler, and Freud – spends several pages on a photograph from Yugoslavia, and waxes poetic about the crowd consciousness, for a moment concluding that its key component is nothingness, simplicity, “nihilistic purity.” He lists this together with religious ecstasy, sexual excess, inflicting and feeling pain, and drugs as the best examples of the “incineration of self-consciousness,” the “transcendence of our sense of the personal.” But the last words, which I've already mentioned, are “Nothingness in its beauty, its simplicity, its nihilistic purity.”
I had to put the book down upon reading and re-reading this section. All of a sudden the well-chosen photograph of the thug on the cover didn't seem so ugly. How could it when compared to the idea that the “incineration of self-consciousness” is so easily associated with “nothingness,” with “nihilistic purity”? This assertion of the “transcendence of the personal” actually – and very clearly – denied the existence of anything but the personal. Had Buford delved more deeply into Plato and less deeply into Freud, he might have been reminded that the transcendence of the personal also takes place in conversation (friendship), politics, and especially philosophy. If he had not skipped from Plato straight to thoroughly modern examples like Gibbon and Hamilton, he might not have implied that religious ecstasy is nihilistic in nature.
And in the end, Buford may well have done these things. In fact, he may have added his own nonviolent, non-sexually excessive, non-drug induced “incineration of self-consciousness.”
Toward the height of the riot at the end of the book, Buford steps out of the crowd in one direction and observes one who has done the same in the opposite direction. A young Englishman is breaking things. His time not breaking things is spent looking for things to break. Something in Buford snaps. The lad is a little s***, and nothing more. Then he sees an Italian man rushing his family to the relative safety of their home, struggling to get a stroller up the steps and behind the metal screen of his shop. This man, because he is not called one, is not a little s***.
After Buford transcends himself and becomes human again, he wants nothing more than to be rid of the crowd. He sprints ahead of them, right into a trap set by Italian police. As the mob retreats, trying to stuff themselves through a tiny gate, Buford sulks behind two cars and assumes a fetal position, bringing up his arms to protect his head. The police will follow the crowd, he reasons. But not all of them do, and our intrepid narrator is beaten very badly by policemen who cannot have been apprised of his sudden change of heart. He was a member of a rioting crowd, and has paid for the “transcendence” of his humanity by being treated inhumanely. A fair price, I suppose.
The wisest of the thinkers Buford references in the book seem to have been right. The crowd is a wild animal, a pack of wolves, the scum that boils up the surface of the cauldron of a city, even a bunch of little s***s. I don't believe that grammarians have invented a suitable opposite of personification. But that opposite of personification is what a crowd does to itself, and therefore what the great thinkers – and, more immediately, the civil authorities – do to the crowd. To be in a crowd is exhilarating, as Buford learns early on, as the mustachioed man in that picture from Yugoslavia learned in that moment. But there is no good “transcendence of the personal” or “incineration of the self-consciousness” that happens in a crowd: each of those things is requisite to an abandonment of humanity. Not to pass moral judgment on crowds as such is to remain neutral on the very idea of human exceptionalism.
I was very happy that Buford could drum up the courage, finally, to see things as they are.
I am in awe of his bravery and his foolishness.
As I write this, weeks of "protests" against police brutality having been going on in nearby cities. They start out as peaceful marches, and then eventually result in blocked freeways, destroyed property, and looting. The narrative is always that a few bad apples have coopted the protests and used them for cover to commit crimes.
But now, having read this book, I wonder, is that really what is happening?
Buford discovers something amazing: Being part of a lawless crowd is a high better than most drugs, an intensely euphoric experience.
And, beyond that, there really is not much more in the way of meaning or explanation for what a violent crowd does.
Buford, in addition to being nuts, is a supremely talented writer. I found myself being entertained and appalled by his descriptions, and I liked how he structured his book.
It is a great book, and I don't know that anyone else could or would have written anything like it.
Content-wise, it's an excellent view into England's hooligan culture, as well as English national pride and regional association. There is also some interesting material on the skinhead movement and the National Front.