Bog-Standard Britain, By Quentin Letts
Sunday 16 May 2010
Bog-Standard Britain is a bog-standard rant about exactly those subjects one would expect a Daily Mail columnist to rant about: political correctness, the decline of good manners, regional accents on the BBC, rap music, modern art, Brussels, Germaine Greer, men with shaved heads and egalitarianism in all its forms.
To take such drearily predictable material and turn it into something worth reading, a good deal of wit, subtlety, and fine writing would have been needed, but these qualities are in desperately short supply here. Quentin Letts' attempts at puns are puerile in the extreme (Jade Goody was "the Duncing Queen") and his bludgeoning use of sarcasm would be regarded as heavy-handed even from a teenager. His lumbering deployment of laboured similes ("disappearing as fast as a mermaid's kneecaps", "as bent as a gynaecologist's forefinger") provokes not smiles but sighs of despair. Harrumphing ejaculations ("Come, come!"; "Oh, the shame") and ossified periphrases ("the fairer sex") reinforce the feeling that one isn't reading a book by a real person at all, but a satirist's caricature – first cousin to Craig Brown's Wallace Arnold.
"I write letters with a fountain pen," Letts confides. "I polish my shoes." But a curious paradox is that although Letts argues the need for such "civility and gentlemanly conduct", he feels entitled to be as rude as he likes about those of whom he disapproves. And sadly, his invective is not inventive. Russell Brand is a "jerk", Simon Shaps is a "twerp", Germaine Greer is "loose-knickered" and a "freckly Sheila", Ed Balls is a "bulgy-eyed berk".
I'm afraid that Bog-Standard Britain is a waste of everyone's time, and Letts would have been better employed polishing his shoes and inditing letters with his fountain pen. Still, he is right that there are a number of things wrong with modern Britain. This book is one of them.
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