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Road Reads

Sunday, February 20, 2005; Page P02

BOOK: "Queenan Country: A Reluctant Anglophile's Pilgrimage to the Mother Country," by Joe Queenan (Henry Holt & Co., $24)

TARGET AUDIENCE: People who love Britain; people who hate Britain; cranks and curmudgeons with a sense of humor and an appreciation for gross (but hilarious) generalities.

Self-appointed cultural critic and arbiter of bad taste Joe Queenan declares in his introduction that this love letter to England -- for that's what it is -- is "not a travel book per se, as travel books are dull." Well, he's wrong about that. Or rather, he's right about many travel books being dull, but this is indeed a travel book, and it's the best kind: a smart, funny, idiosyncratic take on a place the author knows well. Queenan, a frequent visitor to the motherland (his wife is British), sets out on a six-week solo tour of the island, dispensing history lessons and quirky travel tips with equal aplomb.

That's all very interesting, but what keeps you reading are his spot-on, tremendously entertaining generalizations about the Brits -- the twits and the tightwads, the loutish rugby fans, the garrulous innkeepers. And his additional gratuitous yet delicious digs at feminists, hunchbacks, Paul McCartney, Hugh Grant, Lassie, Civil War buffs, Madonna and Neil Simon? Even better.

-- K.C. Summers

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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