"Guardian" newspaper Interview with Bill Bryson
Q. Is it better to give or to receive?
A. Depends on whether you are talking about Christmas or gonorrhea.
It has taken too long but today I finished "The Road to Little Dribbling" by Bill Bryson. My daughter gave me it for Christmas and I knew that I would love reading it, twenty five years after Bryson produced "Notes from a Small Island". Both books are opinionated travelogues that focus on my country from the point of view of an American mid-westerner.
Though there's annoyance and frustration, there's also laughter and enormous affection for his adopted country where he married and with his English wife Cynthia raised four children. He travels to places that are familiar to me and observes many things that I have seen.
Rather than banging on about the book and boring you all to death, I will just give you a few quotations from it that perhaps capture something of the spirit of his writing and of his affection for Great Britain:-
“There isn't a landscape in the world that is more artfully worked, more lovely to behold, more comfortable to be in, than the countryside of Great Britain. It is the world's largest park, its most perfect accidental garden.”
“What a joy walking is. All the cares of life, all the hopeless, inept fuckwits that God has strewn along the Bill Bryson Highway of Life, suddenly seem far away and harmless, and the world becomes tranquil and welcoming and good.”
“Britain has 450,000 listed buildings, 20,000 scheduled ancient monuments, twenty-six World Heritage Sites, 1,624 registered parks and gardens (that is, gardens and parks of historic significance), 600,000 known archaeological sites (and more being found every day; more being lost, too), 3,500 historic cemeteries, 70,000 war memorials, 4,000 sites of special scientific interest, 18,500 medieval churches, and 2,500 museums containing 170 million objects.”
“England?” she said with unreserved amazement. “Why do you live in England?”
“Because it is nothing like Indianapolis.”
“That is the problem with Scotland, I find. You never know whether the next person you meet is going to offer you his bone marrow or nut you with his forehead.”
I am an unashamed Americophile as I have stated before in this curious blog, It's funny but the four living male Americans I admire the most all have first names that begin with B... Bob Dylan, Barack Obama, Bill Bryson and last but not least - Bob Brague.
That first quote puts it perfectly.ReplyDelete
I'm pleased that made you chuckle Helen.Delete
I will have to look for this book. I've read a couple of his stores before and liked them.ReplyDelete
Sorry Red. You don't read a store - you shop in one.Delete
You really got me this time! My editing is getting pretty sloppy or if I'm truthful it's completely lacking.Delete
I read this a few months ago. I meant to mention it on my blog.ReplyDelete
It is nice to hear that Bryson is becoming more familiar to ordinary American readers...err but I am not saying that you are "ordinary" Jennifer as I know that you are really Spider Woman.Delete
I read the first Notes when it was published (who did not?) and enjoyed it and many of his other books although I thought the last one I read (excluding his Short History of Nearly Everything) got a bit samey. I'll have a crack at this one perhaps.ReplyDelete
In this book he gets the sleeper train to The Highlands and even visits Ullapool and Cape Wrath. He has become more curmudgeonly in his mid-sixties but he remains like a child in a geographical/cultural sweet shop - full of wonder and curiosity.Delete
Particularly liked comment no 4 !ReplyDelete
Should have added - the one about UK not being like Indianapolis !ReplyDelete
As I have become more aware of your quirky sense of humour CG, I am sure you would love this book... unless of course you have already read it.Delete
Not yet, but it's on my list !Delete
I love Bill Bryson, he makes me chuckle a lot. I read this book earlier this year. His mix of fascination and frustration and droll observations - the train from London to Cornwall is “like rigor mortis with scenery”.ReplyDelete
Does his wife Cynthia know about his relationship with you Sue? "Droll" seems to characterise his humour and he is so self-deprecating. When asked what he didn't like about his physical appearance, he said - his body's perpetual tendency to attempt to morph into a spherical shape.Delete
I haven't read anything by him yet, but I know of Bill Bryson and am sure I'd alternate between chuckling and nodding at the statements in his book.ReplyDelete
As for the numbers of listed buildings, cemeteries and so on, it is hard to say whether there are exceptionally few or many in Britain, without having the numbers for other countries (and the ratio of population and land size) for comparison.
With your affection for Yorkshire I suspect that you would love both of his British travel books and as you say you'd be either laughing or nodding. Bill makes the point that compared with other countries British heritage "sites" are more numerous by far in relation to land area.Delete
I felt just the same about the book YP.ReplyDelete
Incidentally, I have never heard of that last 'B', but agree about the other three.
What? You have never heard of the last B?...But he is the brains behind the "Rhymes With Plague" blog out of Canton, Georgia where he lives with his ever patient wife Ellie who has just had her second eye operation. Bob is currently looking after her and isn't blogging so much. Ellie keeps ringing that damned bell!Delete
I know four Bryson brothers, but not a single one of them is named Bill -- their names are (or, more accurately, were) Roy, Clyde, Clarence, and Dewey. There is Bryson City in the mountains of North Carolina, but that's neither here nor there. Well, actually, it is there. I am sure that of the four living male Americans you know whose first names begin with B I'm the least-famous one, so I am not surprised that The Weaver of Grass never heard of me. I never heard of her either, but her photograph reminds me of a late friend of our family, Lorraine Corcoran Gallucci.ReplyDelete
YP, how is it that you know Barack Obama and Bob Dylan but not Bill Cosby or Brad Pitt or Billy Crystal or Bill Clinton or Bob Barker or even Brock Turner (the Stanford rapist)?
I know Barack Obama, Bob Dylan and Bill Bryson because we were drinking buddies when we worked together at an Ohio summer camp in the mid-seventies. Cosby, Crystal, Clinton and Barker's applications were rejected and as it happens Brad Pitt was a camper in the Iroquois group counselled by Donald Trump and Mike Tyson.Delete
You must feel exactly the same about walking, Mr. Pudding. I know I do.ReplyDelete
I certainly do Mama Thyme. Bill expressed the notion perfectly.Delete
On the subject of giving (wiping gonorrhea and other similar and dissimilar contagious nasties from the equation - none of which, by the way...I carry/suffer from)..I much prefer giving than receiving.ReplyDelete
Other than, of course, if the receiving I'm receiving is a high jackpot in the Lotto! In that instance, I'd be a very, very happy recipient.
When it comes to shopping, I do not like giving my money to the shopkeeper and I don't like giving petrol to thirsty Clint as it costs too much. I wish that Clint would drink water instead.Delete