Monday, 1 June 2009

English soul

Miranda Sawyer in the Observer on 'The Blur I Knew':

"...Graham [Coxon] is sensitive and can find it hard to find the right words. He once told me that he expressed his sorrow at Damon's upset over Justine through his guitar playing, rather than talking to him."

Has England been so good at producing great pop and rock because of the emotional reticence of its people? George Mikes in 'How to be an Alien' wrote 'The English have no soul, they have the understatement instead'. Perhaps the soul ends up in the music?

My Austrian father-in-law identifies with 'How to be an Alien'. When he was a 'resident alien' he had to travel to otherworldly Croydon to get his papers in order, to a place called Lunar House.

My other favourite Mikes quote is: 'An Englishman, even when he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one'; more an historical than a contemporary observation.

4 comments:

worm said...

I remember finding 'how to be an alien' in a bookcase as a 10 year old, and being thoroughly disappointed to discover that it wasn't a ronald-searle-style illustrated guide to being a slimy extra-terrestrial. However I end up reading it, and even quite enjoyed it.
It's funny because I actually just purchased a george mikes first edition last week ('uber alles') as I have a german partner and thought it might contain some amusing generalisations and stereotypes for me to aim at her. Havn't got round to reading it yet though!

Anonymous said...

English understatement, of course, is contrasted with the Continental soul, as expressed like this: "When I am alone in a forest at night-time, and jump from one tree to another, I often think that life is so strange."

Who hasn't thought that? Ah, but maybe that proves I'm not English.

Mrs Pouncer said...

Hello, Gaw. Both of my grandfathers, and one grandmother, were resident aliens; one was an enemy of the basest order. He established an appalling retail empire and was excited by what he called die Kaufkraft der Jugendlichen. He translated this to the bank manager as "the pennyspending might happening of youth". A catchy phrase, although we never hear it from Gerald Ratner. No wonder the economy is in the doldrums.

Gaw said...

Worm: I hope your partner possesses the famous German sense of humour. Another central European favourite of mine is The Good Soldier Svejk. Unlike a lot of famously funny books from the old days, it actually is funny.

Anon: I'd forgotten the second part - thanks. I think I've heard you whooping from the street lamps of Islington. Happy swinging!

Mrs P: Welcome! Your alien retailing grandfather sounds...interesting. What did he retail? Was it something that contrasted or complemented his baseness?