Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Anglo Files

I am currently reading The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British by Sarah Lyall. I have continually picked this book up, flipped through a few pages, and then placed it back onto the desk. Have I finished it? No.

At a surface glance Lyall's book is interesting and comical. She describes her experiences as an American woman immigrating to England, all for love I might add. She chronicles the dating fumbles of Englishmen, the English penchant for alcohol (which she claims would be considered alcoholism in North America), England's love and care for animals over children, and a faulty political system. She claims that England is typified by a culture abounding in homo-eroticism, a love for spanking (she says it reflects a childhood fetish), and a profound belief that sex must occur before the formation of a relationship.

I'll admit, her depiction of Englishmen removing their pants in an attempt to flirt and attract women (and North American women's revulsion at such an occurrence) was laughable. This included a distinct warning for men to avoid exposing their "pelvic region" as a seduction technique.

However, Lyall writes according to a principle that I despise. Essentialism. Lyall suggests throughout her book that all English people can be attributed with her stereotypical descriptions. English and North American culture is very different... but labelling all English people with certain characteristics is a major fault in her work. Her essentialist argument is heightened through her failure to make an adequate distinction between English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish cultures.

I think what really caused me to put down Lyall's book for good (and only 50 pages shy of completion) is her failure to meet my expectations. Her book was funny at times and yet heavily tainted by cockiness and long discussions on inconsequential topics (ie - political debates on the existence of UFOs, hedgehogs, and cricket). I hoped The Anglo Files would be an English parallel to Jessica Valenti's writing style. No such luck.


  1. I would tend to agree that putting any group of people in a box and saying that they all act in a certain way is wrong. I doubt it would keep my from reading the book--my best friend is English--but I do wish that people would not every stereotype groups of people.

  2. Thank you for visiting, ruthhill74. I completely agree with you - I find stereotyping groups of people an unjust act that denies diversity. Having said that, the book was dry and dragged on and on... I tried comparing what Lyall wrote to my English family and loved ones and I still wasn't entertained, haha :)

    Take care - and again, thanks for visiting and commenting :)


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