Books: England, England

By Julian Barnes

Do we sense a strain of self-contempt these days in English satire? Not self-doubt, of course, and certainly not humility, just a weary roll of the eyes that follows a glance in the mirror? So it seems with Barnes' very funny, very sour new novel, which re-creates England as a theme park on the Isle of Wight. The park is the brainstorm of Sir Jack Pitman, an overweening press lord, and his staff members, one of whom has doubts: "How do we advertise the English...a people widely cold, snobbish, emotionally retarded, and xenophobic? As well as perfidious .." No fear;...

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