Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Brit-bashing, big time

My apologies to everyone who stopped by here yesterday looking for a new post. My internet connection was out sick.

A week ago we chuckled over an unintentionally hilarious tirade by a "former editor" who warned that the proliferation of chick lit is carrying America to hell in a handbasket. Well, look what bit of fun I've found for you today, kids: a French writer is pounding Brits for having no class and extremely bad manners.

At this juncture we will pause so that students of Miss Manners may recall that for an individual to accuse someone else of having bad manners is--ahem--extremely bad manners. But be that as it may. This tirade is even funnier than the chick-lit-is-bad-for-America rant, so I can't resist sharing these excerpts from Sunday's Daily Mail:

Britain has been branded a nation of "vulgar, aggressive, unprincipled, consumerist zombies" in a scathing new book by a French academic.
In a savage tirade of abuse that rips the 'entente cordiale' to shreds, author Agnes Poirier unleashes a savage attack on our culture, lifestyle and politics.

Even by French standards of Brit-bashing, the stream of insults is impressive.

But it is made all the more extraordinary considering Miss Poirier has a British boyfriend and has lived in Britain for a decade.

Sheesh. Talk about abusing a country's hospitality. And am I the only one wondering how the "vulgar, aggressive, unprincipled, consumerist zombie" boyfriend feels about this kind of talk?

The article includes these and other howlers for our enjoyment:

Miss Poirier begins with a venomous deluge of abuse aimed at the British character, saying: "They have no understanding of philosophy, beauty or art. They do not even have any intellectuals.

"It is a kingdom of narrowly educated specialists on the one hand and those lacking general culture on the other.

"This makes for boring conversation. People talk only about what they know about or else limit themselves to comments on the weather, the property market or the cost of educating children."

Apparently, Miss Poirier enjoys talking to people who have no idea what they're talking about. Which explains quite a lot, don't you think?

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Kristi said...

(insert a reaallllly heavy twang)

Guess she really wouldn't like talkin' t'us'Mericans, huh?

Can't you just see her face turning green when someone says "Git-R-Duuun".... :)

Ruth said...

That's hilarious. It really, really tempts me to indulge in the all too easy past-time of "French-bashing" but I'll refrain... *wink*

Neal said...

Ah, but she's French. 'Nuff said ;-) (remove tongue from cheek)

But then again, this was in the Daily Mail. The DAILY MAIL. Everyone in the UK knows how they just HATE publishing articles like this. Oh yes indeed. Almost as much as they hate publishing articles on Diana. Or anti-Blair articles. (Actually, maybe I should have kept my tongue in my cheek for just a little longer.)

All I can say is "vive la France!"

Laura Vivanco said...

As Neal says, you have to be careful while reading the Daily Mail. It's a rather right-wing tabloid. There's another review of Poirier's book here and the impression I get from that is that the book is meant to be humorous. And yes, that does mean that there are exaggerations and stereotypes, but they're not all anti-British. Sometimes she mocks the French and Americans too. And there are aspects of British life which she admires and praises.

Brenda Coulter said...

Laura, I don't know anything about her, except that the two or three of her articles I've read in The Guardian didn't seem to have been written with any humorous slant, and the quotes presented in the Daily Mail (don't worry about me, Neal--I'm not a regular reader) seem fairly damning.

I checked Google and Technorati just now and was unable to find anything about her book (The English Model, A French Illusion) online. (No, not even at Amazon.) The only other reference I was able to dig up was this one from Metro.co.uk which says:

Her book is intended as a warning to French voters against supporting a new generation of French politicians who model themselves on British politics, and Tony Blair in particular. Right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy and moderate left-winger Segolene Royal both base their politics and presentation on Blair's techniques, and are considered front-runners for the presidency.

Thanks, Laura, for the Scotsman.com link. That didn't show up in my Google search. Yes, perhaps Miss Poirier meant to be clever, but my take (even after reading your link) is that she still sounds like a mean-spirited critic who's endeavoring to impress us with her wit as she trashes the play.

If anybody knows more about the book or has a link to share, please speak up.

Laura Vivanco said...

The book is called Touché and there's a description and link to a pdf extract from it here. I found another review, in the Daily Telegraph here where the reviwer says that:

Perhaps it doesn't sound like much fun to be set straight on everything from politics to art, food and sex by a French "intellectual", especially by one as perky and as self-assured as Poirier.

Strangely, it is.

The Amazon link is here.

Brenda Coulter said...

Goodness, Laura, that cartoonish cover alone suggests it's not an altogether serious treatment. Wish I'd seen that earlier. (I had checked Amazon.com and could find no books by Agnes Poirier. I don't know why I didn't think to try Amazon.co.uk.) Thanks for sharing those links.

Joy said...

Sorry...did some Frenchie say something?

[I wasn't listening.]