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Think of England, and anger hardly springs to mind as its primary national characteristic. Yet in The Angry Island, A. A. Gill argues that, in fact, it is plain old fury that is the wellspring for England's accomplishments.

The default setting of England is anger. The English are naturally, congenitally, collectively and singularly livid much of the time. They're incensed, incandescent, splenetic, prickly, touchy, and fractious. They can be mildly annoyed, really annoyed and, most scarily, not remotely annoyed. They sit apart on their half of a damply disappointing little island, nursing and picking at their irritations. The English itch inside their own skins. They feel foreign in their own country and run naked through their own heads.

Perhaps aware that they're living on top of a keg of fulminating fury, the English have, throughout their history, come up with hundreds of ingenious and bizarre ways to diffuse anger or transform it into something benign. Good manners and queues, cul-de-sacs and garden sheds, and almost every game ever invented from tennis to bridge. They've built things, discovered stuff, made puddings, written hymns and novels, and for people who don't like to talk much, they have come up with the most minutely nuanced and replete language ever spoken -- just so there'll be no misunderstandings.

The Angry Island by turns attacks and praises the English, bringing up numerous points of debate for Anglophiles and anyone who wonders about the origins of national identity. This book hunts down the causes and the results of being the Angry Island.
Published: Simon & Schuster on
ISBN: 9781416545606
List price: $11.99
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This bloke is wonderful. He had the very English gift of fluent cursing (despite his insistence that he isn't English). Shakespeare was probably the best at it but Gill is up there with the rest. In this book he examines aspects of the English way of life and relates them to his theory of the angry Englishman. It's good fun, interesting and sometimes persuasive as long as you don't take it too seriously.more
This book is well-written, witty, occasionally insightful and often harsh. Just as in a number of the reviews before me, I agree that some of the observations seem subjective and unfounded; however, this is a darkly humorous stab at many things held dear and if you like your cultural critique sharp and merciless, it's a fab read.more
Mixed feelings on this book - sometimes his observations seem razor sharp and deep, but at other times he loses me completely in what seems to be highly psersonal, untraceable generalisations of situations which are not representative of english people as a whole. Other people have suggested that he is actually highly representative of the very same angry english people he describes in his book.more
Not so much a book as a collection of articles with a common theme - that of the English. AA Gill, a journalist and essayist, selects a series of Anglo attributes and considers them fairly lightly, a chapter at a time. His overall schtick is that the English can be defined as a people with a well repressed anger. Each chapter turns back to this thesis with varying degrees of success.In my opinion, AA Gill has a fairly equal number of hits and misses as he muses over everything from the trite queues, sport, animals, drink and humour to the rather more revealing face and voice. I found him more vociferous and belligerent where I thought he was wrong - over class for instance which I would argue is still transparently bound into social commerce. It is as though, jacket off and shirtsleeves rolled up, he is already spoiling for a fight before the insinuation has been uttered. I was pleased to see a hearty defence of political correctness, popularly maligned so as to allow petty prejudices and abhorrent views to be openly flaunted without challenge in the name of (and to the wicked detriment of) free speech.In all this is a quick and appetizing read although rather unsatisfying as a main course.more
I moved to England in September 2006, having spent the vast majority of my life living in various parts of Scotland. England's never somewhere I've spent that much time (my English geography is appallingly bad), and I figured I needed some sort of crash course in England and the English. I've read books of this sort before - Jeremy Paxman's excellent The English from a few years back for example - but Gill's book is relatively newly out, and it seemed to make sense. Gill is nominally a Scot, though effectively raised in England since he was a young child, but claims it gives him more of a removed perspective on England and the English. I'm not sure I'd agree with that (he sounds more like an Englishman with a peculiar sense of self-loathing than any Scot I know), but The Angry Island, his collection of opinions on various English stereotypies was entertaining enough. Gill's a right-wing sort, known for his often caustic views on everything from restaurants to the Welsh ("loquacious dissemblers, immoral liars, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls"), and while I often don't agree with exactly what he says, he writes on it well enough. His central argument, that he hangs everything else off of, is that the core of the English identity is anger and, more specifically, repressed anger; but he acknowledges that the fundamental problem about the idea of an English national identity is that it is so hard to pin down. I don't think his book offered me anything new on the idea of England or the English, but it was a gentle reminder of just how much difference there can be between Scotland and England on the train on the way down. In the end it read more like Gill attempting to reconcile himself to the fact that he's English rather than offering any particular new insights on what it is to be English.more
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Reviews

This bloke is wonderful. He had the very English gift of fluent cursing (despite his insistence that he isn't English). Shakespeare was probably the best at it but Gill is up there with the rest. In this book he examines aspects of the English way of life and relates them to his theory of the angry Englishman. It's good fun, interesting and sometimes persuasive as long as you don't take it too seriously.more
This book is well-written, witty, occasionally insightful and often harsh. Just as in a number of the reviews before me, I agree that some of the observations seem subjective and unfounded; however, this is a darkly humorous stab at many things held dear and if you like your cultural critique sharp and merciless, it's a fab read.more
Mixed feelings on this book - sometimes his observations seem razor sharp and deep, but at other times he loses me completely in what seems to be highly psersonal, untraceable generalisations of situations which are not representative of english people as a whole. Other people have suggested that he is actually highly representative of the very same angry english people he describes in his book.more
Not so much a book as a collection of articles with a common theme - that of the English. AA Gill, a journalist and essayist, selects a series of Anglo attributes and considers them fairly lightly, a chapter at a time. His overall schtick is that the English can be defined as a people with a well repressed anger. Each chapter turns back to this thesis with varying degrees of success.In my opinion, AA Gill has a fairly equal number of hits and misses as he muses over everything from the trite queues, sport, animals, drink and humour to the rather more revealing face and voice. I found him more vociferous and belligerent where I thought he was wrong - over class for instance which I would argue is still transparently bound into social commerce. It is as though, jacket off and shirtsleeves rolled up, he is already spoiling for a fight before the insinuation has been uttered. I was pleased to see a hearty defence of political correctness, popularly maligned so as to allow petty prejudices and abhorrent views to be openly flaunted without challenge in the name of (and to the wicked detriment of) free speech.In all this is a quick and appetizing read although rather unsatisfying as a main course.more
I moved to England in September 2006, having spent the vast majority of my life living in various parts of Scotland. England's never somewhere I've spent that much time (my English geography is appallingly bad), and I figured I needed some sort of crash course in England and the English. I've read books of this sort before - Jeremy Paxman's excellent The English from a few years back for example - but Gill's book is relatively newly out, and it seemed to make sense. Gill is nominally a Scot, though effectively raised in England since he was a young child, but claims it gives him more of a removed perspective on England and the English. I'm not sure I'd agree with that (he sounds more like an Englishman with a peculiar sense of self-loathing than any Scot I know), but The Angry Island, his collection of opinions on various English stereotypies was entertaining enough. Gill's a right-wing sort, known for his often caustic views on everything from restaurants to the Welsh ("loquacious dissemblers, immoral liars, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls"), and while I often don't agree with exactly what he says, he writes on it well enough. His central argument, that he hangs everything else off of, is that the core of the English identity is anger and, more specifically, repressed anger; but he acknowledges that the fundamental problem about the idea of an English national identity is that it is so hard to pin down. I don't think his book offered me anything new on the idea of England or the English, but it was a gentle reminder of just how much difference there can be between Scotland and England on the train on the way down. In the end it read more like Gill attempting to reconcile himself to the fact that he's English rather than offering any particular new insights on what it is to be English.more
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