Yes We Have No: Adventures in the Other England

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9780394568706: Yes We Have No: Adventures in the Other England

Forget about cricket, tea with the vicar and the changing of the guard (and about the much-hyped Cool Britannia as well), and encounter a hidden nation -- the many millions who've fallen out of the mainstream, or chosen to jump. Nik Cohn's kaleidoscopic England is made up of techno-freaks and soccer-obsessives, faith healers and fetishists, graffiti artists, Odinists, Rastas, Elvis impersonators, even the Antichrist. Armed with insatiable curiosity and guided by Mary Carson, an unstoppable Irish firebrand, Cohn whirls from the changing countryside of Cornwall and East Anglia to the ravaged postindustrial North, from riotous seaside towns to London netherworlds. Whether rampaging native or second-generation immigrant, each member of this remarkable chorus has a distinct story and a voice to match, and their lives define a world cut loose from tradition and all certainty. Gone bananas, in fact.

Humane and exuberant -- a surprising guide to a country we thought we knew, and writing of the highest order.

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Review:

Yes We Have No: Adventures in the Other England is a dazzling, brilliant book, brimming with brutal truths--so much so it's amazing it ever saw the ink of American printing presses. In an industry that practically mandates that travel books paint foreign countries in romantically glowing colors and their residents be portrayed at worst as mischievous angels, Cohn emerges with the fresh slap of honesty, capturing on paper a group of sometimes grisly, sometimes mad, and often timeworn characters who push on with dignity and usually at least a dash of hope.

After growing up in Northern Ireland and rollicking a bit in the British music scene, Cohn settles into an English village so perfect and sleepy that for many years it seems untouched by time. When modernity strikes--in the form of a surly new neighbor who composes ad jingles--Cohn cuts his ties to idyllic living. In a miniature car driven by a feisty, if nearly dwarf-sized, female Odinist--the cult revival of the Norse god is but many of the discoveries he makes--Cohn sets out to the far corners of England, from depressed coal towns to New Age campgrounds, seeking modern English truth.

He finds, among others, a karaoke king, a psychic social worker, a gay transvestite-turned-straight family man, a lunatic wandering on foot town to town searching for the boyfriend who dumped her, a businessman-turned-politician who is running as the anti-Christ in the upcoming election, and a lonely widower whose only remaining valuable is shredded by a punk. In these deftly drawn sketches there is often one day that changes a life--for good or for evil--with the remaining days and years following like cars pulled by a train, fueled by blind hope or dashed dreams. Together, these portraits of those who've been brushed aside or have fallen into the cracks reflect an untold England, not one of cricket and foxhunts, but a society molded by or thrashing against the onward marching of change. --Melissa Rossi

From the Back Cover:

"A grand tour of the fringes of functioning society in England . . . A masterpiece of good writing, human sympathy and fine, understated characterisation . . . Affectionately teasing his subjects, as Dickens does, [Cohn] achieves more for them than hero-worship or vilification ever could." -- Independent on Sunday

"Triumphantly [exposing] England's underbelly in all its grotesque glory, Cohn has the kind of empathetic imagination that can locate and communicate the residual beauty in damaged human beings. He transcribes their whirling thoughts and fantasies into a considered and elegiac poetry." -- Financial Times

"England has never seemed so strange, so poignant, or so exhilarating . . . Perhaps it is his own sense of displacement -- born in Ireland, raised in England and now resident in America -- that lends Cohn a natural sympathy for the outsider. His great gift is not simply his extravagant, firecracker prose, but an ability to insinuate himself into the confidence and under the skin of his subjects; to dissect their foibles, yet leave them with their humanity and dignity intact." -- Daily Telegraph

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