Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Lost Continent (Bill Bryson)

In A Brief History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson is excited. So excited in fact, that you, the reader, get really excited (enough to want to start a Bill Bryson fan club).

In The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America, he's not excited. He's young and brash, easily annoyed, disrespectful, quick to judge, and frankly no fun to be around. I did not find the first half of this book to be very entertaining or funny (though I felt that was the intention). Now, I may be especially biased about this, I'm well aware. Let me explain.

I am, like Bill Bryson, from Iowa. However, he is from Des Moines (king of all the cities in Iowa in terms of bigness and prides itself for being bigger than any other city in Iowa), whereas I am from Davenport (a medium-sized Iowa city that would be small in most other states but prides itself in being near a muddy river and being bigger than the small towns in Iowa). And, just like your family, you can complain all you want, but no one can make fun of them but you.

Technically then, Bill Bryson qualifies to make fun of the Midwest, but the problem is that he has been out of the country, living in England, for a long time, so he's especially put off by American life for most of the book as he takes a 38-state tour of the country via car for 300-some pages. Single-person road trips can make people cranky, and I feel like he's covered too much material. I found the second part of the book better, but not enough to recommend it. Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation does a great job presenting somewhat similar material in a more focused, and more entertaining way.

Next book up: Galloway's Book on Running by Jeff Galloway

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