Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pg. 99: "Welcome to Everytown"

The current feature at the Page 99 test: Julian Baggini 's new book, Welcome to Everytown.

About the book, from the publisher:

What do the English think? Every country has a dominant set of beliefs and attitudes concerning everything from how to live a good life, how we should organize society, and the roles of the sexes. Yet despite many attempts to define our national character, what might be called the nation's philosophy has remained largely unexamined. Until now. Philosopher Julian Baggini pinpointed postcode S66 on the outskirts of Rotherham, as England in microcosm – an area which reflected most accurately the full range of the nation's inhabitants, its most typical mix of urban and rural, old and young, married and single. He then spent six months living there, immersing himself in this typical English Everytown, in order to get to know the mind of a people.

It sees the world as full of patterns and order, a view manifest in its enjoyment of gambling. It has a functional, puritanical streak, evident in its notoriously bad cuisine. In the English mind, men should be men and women should be women (but it's not sure what children should be). Baggini's account of the English is both a portrait of its people and a personal story about being an alien in your own land. Sympathetic but critical, serious yet witty, Welcome to Everytown shows a country in which the familiar becomes strange, and the strange familiar.

Among the praise for Welcome to Everytown:

"This is a thoughtful, sympathetic portrait of white working-class life which is essential reading"

"Intelligent and resourceful... (with) many fascinating observations"
Book Magazine

"Many books have sought the essence of the English character through films, literature and history. Few set out to ask the ordinary English what they think. Baggini brings a refreshing empathy"
Financial Times

"This book is about what happened when he - bravely, fascinatingly - decided to break free of his comfort zone and go in search of what the real England is like... Baggini turns out to be a sensitive observer who takes people and places on their own terms. He is also good at examining his own prejudices and fears"

"What sets Baggini's account apart is the fascinating localised detail of the lives of ordinary British people... What really makes this worth reading though, is Baggini's sophisticated, open-minded analysis"
Psychologies Magazine

Visit Baggini's website, the publisher's page for Welcome to Everytown, and The Philosophers' Magazine online.

The Page 99 test: Welcome to Everytown.

--Marshal Zeringue