Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pies and Prejudice

Well, I was bought Stuart Maconie's Pies and Prejudice for my birthday last month. I was really looking forward to reading it, but to be honest, apart from the very occasional chuckle, it bored the fillings out of my teeth.

I was disappointed mainly on the point that Maconie appears to have lived in the south for far too long and hasclearly become very soft and soppy about t'north.

Now, I ain't thick (some would argue with that). I'm no academic neither (no one would argue with that). But I consider that I have a pretty average vocabulary, but Maconie, as a journalist and broadcaster, has a far better one, and doesn't he like to show it. For me, a good simple book about t'north could have done with being written more simply. Not 'showing off' as Maconie's, and my own Mam, would have said.

Maconie's basis for writing about any of the towns visited is largely based on a single recent re-visit. As a northerner I'm disappointed. As someone who lived in 'Skem' I can see that Maconie's view of at least this (and a few of the other towns I'm most familar with) is very accurate, but his commentary is dull. He seems to have written a book for a very southern audience where he can come across as the educated northerner taking them on a wee tour of t'north - some nice bits and some of the dirty bits (nice balance).

Pies and Prejudice, In Search of the North - well, based on a few day trips back home and a little beyond, Maconie was never going to find it was. And he didn't. If this was the other way round and someone had written a book about 'down south', then I would have come away thinking that it was small and deeply dull. This book gives no sense of scale of the north. It doesn't come close to delving into its depths or feeling its breadth. He would have been better writing a book about his home area, west Lancashire, and providing us with a more meaningful, deeper, grittier view of the area he knows intimately. As it is, his lack of knowledge of the wider north shines - simply cos he missed so much of out.

Pies and Prejudice scores 3/10 - and I'm being generous.


DorsetDipper said...

well I liked it. He's exactly the same age as me (although I was on the other side of the Pennines), so a lot of his musical memories chimed exactly, and I liked the anecdotes about his time as a journalist.

Steve said...

I'm roughly the same age as Maconie and grew up in the same towns as him (Skem and Wigan), sharing similar musical taste. Thats all fine, I get all that. But it doesnt offer anything new. Like most exiled northerners, I like nothing more than to reminisce about my northern roots, and was so looking forward to this. Just it fell way short of expectation. I greatly prefer Simon Armitage.

Peter and June said...

I thought Maconie's book was quite entertaining. I'm a native of the West Midlands and it reinforced all of my prejudices about both the north and the south of England.
I actually find his musical taste rather baffling - there were lots of references to bands I have never heard of, he is a Morrissey fan (!) and he obviously rates The Beatles much higher than I do. I guess it's an age thing!