"Know yourself. If you need help, call the FBI."
Tony Hendra & Michael O'Donoghue
BOOK REVIEW: ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BRITAIN BY BAMBER GASCOIGNE
by Richard Karsmakers
My parents go to England at about an average of two times per
year. My dad, after divorce my real mother (a bitch despite the
presence of only 2 teats) in 1981, remarried an English lady
called Sally in 1988. She still has her mother - a nice but silly
old complaining bat <grin> - living somewhere in a tiny village
in Devon. She needs to be visited regularly, a procedure that's
said to be partly tax deductible.
I studied Biology for a year, most of it in the latter half of
1988. It sortof went down the drain because of various reasons
involving chemistry, mathematics, physics, girls, the "Ultimate
Virus Killer" (though it wasn't called that at the time) and an
overall lack of drive. I went to work for Thalion afterwards,
during which time I made a fair living. When I quit work for
Thalion and went back to study English, in 1991, my dad decided
he wouldn't pay me his monthly allowance. In the Netherlands you
get something like 560 Dutch guilders of allowance from the
state, per month, if you live on your own and study. When they
can afford to, parents have to pay another 450 or 500 per month.
This is not compulsory by law. My dad decided he wouldn't,
primarily because I screwed up Biology and should have spent my
money more wisely when I had it (an example of this was the fact
that I bought a second-hand Peugeot 205 GTI 1.9 at 17,000 German
marks, which my dad considered stupid - as I lived in Germany I
should have bought a German car, like a 40,000 DM BMW of
Anyway, these two paragraphs supply me with two things: 1)
People who go the England a lot - the land where books are ever
so much cheaper than in Holland, and 2) A father with a
subsconscious feeling of guilt that allows for easy exploitation
by yours truly.
Ergo: I always give my parents a list of books I would like and
they buy them without my having to pay a penny. It's not quite
the equivalent of the 500 or even 450 Dutch guilders per month
that would actually need to be paid, but it's something. I've
obtained dozens of books in the last two years, most of them some
kind of English classics because, in the end, I intend to read a
lot and possibly become a teacher until, hopefully, some
publisher will deem me worthy of a try at the writers' market.
To cut a long story around the bush short without beating it too
much (sounds like French to me, does it to you?), one of the
books I asked them to bring along last time, in May, was
"Encyclopaedia of Britain" by Bamber Gascoigne. I had always been
a bit of a nutter where English culture was concerned, and now I
saw my chance at learning all there was to learn - or at least
having all that knowledge at my fingertips. My dad's guilt saved
me £29.95. Cheers, mate!
First of all: I think Bamber looks like a pratt. I am not sure
whether he actually is one, but he might very well be. I never
actually saw his TV shows; I only watch BBC when there's a humour
series or a good film on.
Anyway, "Encyclopedia of Britain" contains some 6000 entries on
720 pages containing an additional 370 illustrations and 100
graphs and boxes. It contains a vast amount of indispensable (and
perhaps less so) facts that will cause any person interested in
the history and culture of Great Britain to foam at the mouth.
I can hardly describe to you the plot, for there isn't one
obviously. If I had the time I could write down all the entry
names. But, like you probably guessed, time is a valuable asset
and I have none too much of it. To give you an idea of what's in
it, however, I'd like to mention the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the
Galaxy, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, foto model Naomi Campbell,
Rolling Stones, loads gastronomical Stuff, Georges, Jameses,
Marys, Status Quo, Dire Straits, Comic Relief, Fawlty Towers
(did you know there were only 13 episodes in all?), Old Vic,
Stephen Hawking, Jethro Tull (to band to beat Metallica to their
Grammy Award some years back!), the Guildford 4, the Maguire 7,
Sellafield and even Maastricht (the Treaty).
Now for the fun bit. The bits that I didn't find on my days of
careful browsing and interested reading. Some things that I would
reckon are equally important within the scope of Great Britain's
culture as some of the entries mentioned above, if not more so.
Sadly lacking are "Viz" (a cult magazine that even had a game
made out of; and characters such as Johnny Fartypants remain
unnamed), Terry Pratchett (the highly prolific humourous
fantasy/scifi writer we all know and love), "Red Dwarf" (one of
the funniest BBC series ever), Black Sabbath (who were at the
roots of literally just about any contemporary hard rock and
especially metal band), Iron Maiden (see Black Sabbath), the
London Dungeons (the thing to go and see when you're not being
tired of life and not tired of London either), Koo Stark (the
rather ravishing girl who once had an affair with one of the
Royal Princes, and who co-starred as Lady Sabrina Mulholland
Jjones in the "Timeslides" episode of "Red Dwarf"!!), Led
Zeppelin (who were just as influential as Deep Purple, if not
more so), Venom (the band after which all death/doom/black metal
bands modelled themselves) and Richard Owen (a genuinely famous
paleontologist lacking among lots of other Owens).
Well, these remarks should tell you enough, really. It's a good
book and I am very happy with it but there are quite a few things
I feel would need to be added in a future revision (if ever there
will be one).
Apart from all that, it should be revealed that it smells really
nicely of "new book". More so than, say, your average paperback.
Bamber Gasciogne, "Encyclopedia of Britain"; ISBN 0-333-54764-0,
Macmillan Press, £29.95.
My parents will be going to England again in September.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.