Another Bill Bryson review: This time he takes on his homeland of America after living in England for 20 years. After such a long time away Bryson feels like a stranger in his own country.
This was adapted from weekly columns for the Mail on Sunday into one coherent novel so the chapters are short and to the point. It was perfect for reading around college, but led to a lot of “oh just one more chapter” and of course one chapter often led to five. However, as far as the book goes that’s a virtue seeing as I was more interested in it than some of my classes.
Bryson is experiencing culture shock to some degree and so are we as were enlightened by some of the jaw dropping facets and characters of North America. My personal favourite being a tale of a woman driving across country and for some profound reason believed there was a likely possibility of being kidnapped, so in order to perhaps save herself if worse comes to worst she writes a note declaring this and to call the police, low and behold she drops the note, a good citizen picks it up and does as instructed. The woman keeps on driving oblivious to the chaos and panic that has ensued. Clue the slow claps. I was reminded of one of those nature documentries in which someone spectates the existence of a species. Bryson isn’t intentionally degrading or belittling Americans, in fact he seems rather quite proud to be American, and a smart reader knows not to take everything he says at face value but it was deeply compelling and amusing nonetheless. His topics range from satirical computer construction manuals, the prolific choice and variety of essentially all products – especially food products, the lack of sarcasm in American culture, and how North America is not built for paderstirans (as someone who walks everywhere this was quite harrowing for me). Like always, he knows how to make me laugh resulting in my sanity looking questionable when in public.
I’ve never read anything like this before, and I’m going to assume you haven’t either so I would highly recommend Notes for a Big Country.