Reading with London Cabbie Will Grozier
SCOTT SIMON, host:
Many taxi drivers may be too engrossed in conversations on their cell phones to acknowledge their fares. But our friend and cabbie in London, Will Grozier, will usually want to recommend a book or two. To find out what's distracted Will recently, we are joined by him from our NPR studios at BBC's Bush House in London.
Will, it's been way too long. Nice to have you back.
Mr. WILL GROZIER (London Cabbie): It has been way too long, Scott. Good morning to you. Or good afternoon, whichever you prefer.
SIMON: Oh, well. Whichever it is wherever people happening to be listening at this point.
Mr. GROZIER: Exactly. Exactly.
SIMON: You've got a couple of nonfiction books, I guess, you wanted to tell us about.
Mr. GROZIER: I've got a couple of nonfictions for you. And we'll start with the difficult one and work from there. The book I suppose that I've enjoyed most recently is James Kynge, China Shakes the World.
Mr. GROZIER: And just talking to Rob downstairs, who, as you know, has been...
SIMON: This is Rob Gifford, our resident correspondent there in London.
Mr. GROZIER: Yeah.
Mr. GROZIER: And Rob...
SIMON: Oh, Rob. He just came back from China.
Mr. GROZIER: Yeah, and knows James very well. And the thing that struck me about this book was the authority with which he writes. I think if anyone, any of your listeners out there, want to know why everything in Wal-Mart is made in China, then they can do no worse than get this book. Because it's a double handed exposé. It praises the industriousness of the Chinese. One of the first things you stumble across is how a thousand workers descended on the ThyssenKrupp Steelworks in Dortmund and literally dismantled it in the space of 10 months and shipped it back to the Yangtze River. And when you read stories like that, then you don't really have to wonder why China, the Chinese economy is such a powerhouse.
SIMON: One of the things that certainly can startle you about China is that for a place that has called, referred to itself as the Workers Paradise, there's probably no place in the world you would want to less be a worker.
Mr. GROZIER: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, he touches on that, too. Because, you know, the man has spent 20 years in China and has visited the whole country.
Mr. GROZIER: And, you know, one of the negatives you get from this is that despite the startling economic growth, they have become a net exporter of pollution.
SIMON: Mm-hmm. What else did you read in there that just startled you about the Chinese economy?
Mr. GROZIER: The clash, I suppose, of the newly embraced capitalist system and the old tyranny of the communist control from above, inevitably, Kynge says, is on a collision course. And that's where Kynge says there is a time bomb.
SIMON: The other book you wanted to talk...
Mr. GROZIER: Well, this may appeal to your Anglophile listeners.
Mr. GROZIER: It's an analysis called The Angry Island, by A.A. Gill. And the subtitle is Hunting the English.
SIMON: Now, A.A., I know that name A.A. Gill.
Mr. GROZIER: You do, don't you? Yeah...
SIMON: The Sunday Times of London.
Mr. GROZIER: Yes, you...
SIMON: And GQ U.K.
Mr. GROZIER: GQ, Vanity Fair, Australian Gourmet; reading the flyer here. A well-known, and actually well respected journalist who has produced penetrating analysis of the psychotic nature of being English.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: What's he say about you folks?
Mr. GROZIER: Well, he basically says that we're an island race that have subsumed anger into our culture. And our whole cultural identity is addressed by a continuous process of suppressing the anger.
SIMON: Does it explain, I mean I gather reading some of the reviews that Mr. Gill ventures the idea that this also explains, I think, two of the most sterling and endearing traits of Britain's, which is their sense of humor...
Mr. GROZIER: Yes.
SIMON: And their genuine politeness.
Mr. GROZIER: Humor, yes. There's a whole part. You talked about humor. There's a whole...
SIMON: But you can't talk about Britain without talking about humor.
Mr. GROZIER: No. No. Exactly.
SIMON: They gave humor to the world, I'd like to think.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. GROZIER: A lot of that comedy comes from suppressed anger, the desire to be outraged and yet barely suppress it. This is a collection of prejudice. I mean say no more. It is one man's view. But it's a highly entertaining view, it's a highly informed view, it's a highly literate view, and as I say, for your Anglophile readers it's essential reading.
SIMON: Have you been reading any fiction, aside from some of the afternoon tabloids there, you've been reading any fiction?
Mr. GROZIER: I'll tell you what I did read and you might smile. I read the latest book by Nicholas Evans, The Divide, which is the fourth from the writer, the author of the Horse Whisperer. And I didn't read the intervening tour. I think that there's a second book syndrome. I think he got panned for a couple of those. So this was just another pure chance acquisition, but I thoroughly enjoyed it because he is a master storyteller. People might be a little bit sniffy about a writer who's maybe considered a bit lightweight in that sense, but every now and again you just got to stick your nose in a novel and say, hey, this is good, I'm enjoying this.
SIMON: Will, wonderful talking to you.
Mr. GROZIER: Thank you, Scott. Talk to you soon.
SIMON: Our friend, Will Grozier, a London taxi driver and the best-read man in several continents, speaking from BBC Studios in London.