“Craig Taylor is the real deal: a peerless journalist and a beautiful craftsman.”
—David Rakoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Fraud and Half Empty
“Londoners is a wonderful book—I wanted it to be twice as long.”
—Diana Athill, New York Times bestselling author of Somewhere Towards the End
In Londoners, acclaimed journalist Craig Taylor paints readers an epic portrait of today’s London that is as rich and lively as the city itself. In the style of Studs Terkel (Working, Hard Times, The Good War) and Dave Isay (Listening Is an Act of Love), Londoners offers up the stories, the gripes, the memories, and the dreams of those in the great and vibrant British metropolis who “love it, hate it, live it, left it, and long for it,” from a West End rickshaw driver to a Soldier of the Guard at Buckingham Palace to a recovering heroin addict seeing Big Ben for the very first time. Published just in time for the 2012 London Olympic Games, Londoners is a glorious literary celebration of one of the world’s truly great cities.
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."