Why do they keep writing books about us?


Eagleton’s Across the Pond chiefly shows why it’s dangerous to offer British academics secondary or tertiary appointments at American universities (in Eagleton’s case, at Notre Dame). They become know-it-alls. Across the Pond most closely resembles BAD and Class, the sardonic later works of Paul Fussell—slingshots from the prestigious literary scholar on a lark, unburdening his prejudices in any bloody way he pleases, with cheeks frequently stuffed of tongue. A large part of Eagleton’s outrage rides on the familiar George Bernard Shaw quip about two countries divided by a common language—mocking our use, for example, of “bathroom” and “restroom” for public closets where people neither bathe nor rest. A predictable, arch tone about obvious targets appears quickly, usually with enough overkill to sour the point. “If the word ‘awesome’ were banned from American speech,” Eagleton assures, “airplanes would fall from the skies, cars would lurch wildly off freeways, elevators would shudder to a halt between floors, and goldfish would commit suicide by leaping despairingly from their bowls.”

more from Carlin Romano at Bookforum here.