May 22, 2007KR BlogUncategorized

Take Two: The British Edition

A tidy, stiff upper lip. Two books celebrating quintessentially British qualities are receiving rave reviews across the pond. In the Guardian, Claire Armitstead explains why David Kynaston’s Austerity Britain, “a 700-page history of the era just after the second world war,” has managed to take the number four spot [24 hours later, it is now perched at sixth] on Amazon. And Sophie Harrison at The Sunday Times reviews Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity by Virginia Smith. Harrison calls it “a breath-taking account of cleanliness from prehistory up to the present day: from the painstakingly manicured ancient Egyptians to us, the inventors of the antibacterial wet wipe.” Ah, progress.

Perhaps Smith and Kynaston will be among the throngs of authors attending literary festivals across Great Britain this year. According to the Independent, England is experiencing a boom in lit fests “akin to that in the music industry.” The Independent writes, “From the revelation that London’s South Bank Centre is to hold its first literary festival, attended by figures as diverse as the Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and the children’s author Lauren Child, to the unveiling of new events all over the UK, there are now more than 100 jamborees for the prose and poetry-obsessed every year.” Prime minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown “cited the growing popularity of the festivals as proof of Briton’s ennui with celebrity culture and their thirst for serious debate.” The Independent adds that Brown “will have racked up three appearances at book festivals in as many weeks…in an apparent attempt to win back literary liberals angry about the war in Iraq.” [All are free to ponder the prospects of the U.S. president attending such events.]