Monday, August 27, 2012

Five top books about the decline of England

John Sutherland is Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London and a former long-time faculty member at the California Institute of Technology. He is author of over 20 books, editor of 30 more, and a regular columnist and critic on radio and television.

His books include Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives.

One of Sutherland's five favorite novels about the decline of England, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
England, England
by Julian Barnes (1998)

Here is a work of virtuosic Anglophobic satire. A financier cum newspaper tycoon, Sir Jack Pitman (transparently based on the seven-years-dead Sir Robert Maxwell), resolves to create a theme-park England on the Isle of Wight (in the English Channel). It is called, in Disney-esque fashion, "Englandland." Old England can't compete. The novel is based on the conceit than the country has nothing left but its "heritage." And Pitman's replica will be more real, more sanitary—above all more salable—than the real thing. Ironists will note that, to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee earlier this year, the nation did a bit of ersatz staging itself, mounting a replica of the Thames flotilla pageant of 1662.
Read about the other novels on Sutherland's list.

--Marshal Zeringue