28 October 2006

Bryson

Above - Bill Bryson born in Iowa,USA in 1951. Whilst in Venice, I finished his latest book, "The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid". Whereas Bryson is known first and foremost as a witty, unassuming and observant travel writer, this book was about growing up in and around Des Moines before America started to question itself, before nuclear nightmares and Vietnam when for many white midwesterners, it seemed as if they were living in a post war paradise of cars and consumer goods, unlocked doors, silver screens and absolute certainties under the star spangled banner. The book mourns the loss of innocence while still managing to make you chuckle, giggle or belly laugh.

I have read almost everything Bryson has ever written. The only book I just couldn't get into was "A Short History of Almost Everything" which has an excitable scientific focus. Not for me. After all, I was the grammar school kid who was asked to drop O level Physics and spent my time at the back of the Physics lab writing poetry for two years. I have loved all of Bryson's travel books and I especially liked "Made In America" which explores American uses of the English language and is both informative and entertaining.


Two real life, as opposed to virtual, Americans I know had both never heard of Bill Bryson till I let them in on his work. It seems he's a bigger literary star over in the UK than he is in his home country. If you like bookshops you surely couldn't have missed Bill Bryson these past ten years. I'm not saying he's a truly great writer but he has a lovely, intimate and self-deprecating style. He finds humour in odd nooks and crannies and through his travel writing allows you to see places in ways that Rough Guides or Lonely Planet Guides cannot mirror. If you're reading this Bill - thanks for so many engrossing hours.

12 comments:

  1. MADE IN AMERICA was one of the most fascinating books about language I've read. Don't know where those two Americans were from, but I can tell you that lots of us have heard about him and enjoy his work.

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  2. Phyics! Ugh!! I used to be in tears over my homework every week and my dad used to have to do it for me. :(

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  3. I read 'Notes from a Small Island' a while back. Bloody hilarious to read of an Americans view of this sceptred isle and its inhabitants.
    Reminder: Must get hold of his other tomes.

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  4. Mother Tongue was also fascinating. Both me and Master P are big fans and enjoyed his Short History of Nearly Everything as it concentrated on the interesting bits of science and not the boring ones!

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  5. Errr? Mister Sparrots - What interesting bits are there? And thanks to Jennyta for making me feel less stupid about my disability re. Physics. And Krips, I'm sure that if you grabbed Bryson by the tomes he'd deck ya!

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  6. I've read pretty much all his stuff too but have also met a few yanks who had never heard of him. He lived for a while over in malham in the dales and you don't mind him taking the piss as he lived here so long and is such an out and out anglophile. he's also chancllor of Durham University here in the North east and he was over here just a short while ago opening something or carving the roast swan of whatever chancellors do.

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  7. Mr Arthur Clewley uses the term "yank". Ever thought where it came from?
    WORD HISTORY The origin of Yankee has been the subject of much debate, but the most likely source is the Dutch name Janke, meaning “little Jan” or “little John,” a nickname that dates back to the 1680s. Perhaps because it was used as the name of pirates, the name Yankee came to be used as a term of contempt. It was used this way in the 1750s by General James Wolfe, the British general who secured British domination of North America by defeating the French at Quebec. The name may have been applied to New Englanders as an extension of an original use referring to Dutch settlers living along the Hudson River. Whatever the reason, Yankee is first recorded in 1765 as a name for an inhabitant of New England. The first recorded use of the term by the British to refer to Americans in general appears in the 1780s, in a letter by Lord Horatio Nelson, no less. Around the same time it began to be abbreviated to Yank. During the American Revolution, American soldiers adopted this term of derision as a term of national pride. The derisive use nonetheless remained alive and even intensified in the South during the Civil War, when it referred not to all Americans but to those loyal to the Union. Now the term carries less emotion—except of course for baseball fans.

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  8. crikey. I didn't expect such an exeptional exhibition of entymological expertise. Good thing I didn't mention limeys as well.

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  9. I am passionate about physics! I can't understand a blessed thing about quantum mechanics, but it makes me furious when I read about it, ergo, I am passionate about physics.

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  10. I too have read Notes from a small island amongst some of his other works, and have found all of them hilarious!

    Bill Bryson is pure genius for the way he delivers his stories with a wit rarely seen written these days.

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  11. It's OK, Bryson only has pentagonal tomes so that's alright.

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