Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Know your stereotypes

Here is Augusten Burroughs, moderately amusing serial autobiographer, in Dry, his second volume. He is talking to an Englishman called Hayden over breakfast at a rehab centre:

"These are delicious," he says of the reconstituted scrambled eggs, the same eggs that sit on my own plate, untouched.

So far I have lost almost ten pounds. Why do stars suddenly appear... "You're from London, what would you know?"

He laughs, "That's very true, actually. This is far better than anything my mother ever made."

I make a face. "Did you have that nasty, yeasty stuff they spread on toast, what's it called?"

His eyes brighten. "Vegemite! Oh yes, I love Vegemite."

"You'll enjoy dinner then," I promise him.

Now, I accept a bit of national caricature here and there, and this is a fairly affectionate case. The character would in real life probably go for Brit-in-New-York self-parody, so fine. But how difficult is it to get the details right? Australians like Vegemite. English people (some of them) like Marmite. It's an entirely different semi-repulsive yeast spread.

[Dry, by Augusten Burroughs (Atlantic, 2004). Memoir of an alcoholic young adman -- rehab to beer campaign -- and sequel to a memoir of traumatic-but-somehow-heartwarming childhood called Running with Scissors. Despite loud eccentricity, this feels more machine-finished than I would like; you can tell he's written screenplays.]

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