Londoners: The Days and Nights

Craig Taylor. Ecco, $29.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-06-200585-4
Playwright Taylor (A Million Tiny Plays About Britain) provides an ambitious, wide-ranging compilation of oral histories by the people who live, work, and, even quit the city, with a lively, unvarnished sense of the feelings the city inspires. In Studs Terkel fashion, Taylor tries to let the voices emerge with a distinctive timbre, revealing myriad backgrounds and motivations—an Iranian immigrant was smuggled in illegally by hiding in a lorry via Dover in 2007; a BBC woman recounts how she was hired to make the London Underground recordings (“Mind the gap” and so on); an accidental member of the Queen’s Household Cavalry initially signed up only because he wanted to learn to drive; an old-timer from North London named Smartie depicts how gritty the city used to be in the late 1970s and ’80s; some savvy market traders at New Spitalfields negotiate sales of fruits and vegetables in rhyming slang (“Tom Mix” means six); the ubiquitous taxi driver recounts taking the grueling Knowledge of London exam (“The Knowledge”) among dozens of others. Taylor groups his accounts under general headings about what people do, such as “Keeping the Peace” (e.g., police officer, barrister) or “Gleaning on the Margins” (skipper, angler). Readers will be happy to see the map of the 32 boroughs. Although the work embarks initially on a depressing remembrance by “Former Londoner” Simon Kushner (“I suddenly realized that if I stayed in London, I’d be in exactly the same place in 10 or 20 years”), Taylor builds to true heights of civic virtue, as in Lost Property clerk Graig Clark’s account of restoring lost objects to their owners, like umbrellas and a “slice of gateau.” (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/2011
Release date: 02/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 436 pages - 978-1-84708-329-6
Ebook - 978-1-84708-448-4
Paperback - 413 pages - 978-0-06-200586-1
Ebook - 448 pages - 978-0-06-209693-7
Hardcover - 978-1-84708-447-7
Hardcover - 436 pages - 978-1-84708-253-4
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