The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America

ISBN: 0060920084
ISBN 13: 9780060920081
By: Bill Bryson

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About this book

'I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to'And, as soon as Bill Bryson was old enough, he left. Des Moines couldn't hold him, but it did lure him back. After ten years in England, he returned to the land of his youth, and drove almost 14,000 miles in search of a mythical small town called Amalgam, the kind of trim and sunny place where the films of his youth were set. Instead, his search led him to Anywhere, USA; a lookalike strip of gas stations, motels and hamburger outlets populated by lookalike people with a penchant for synthetic fibres. Travelling around thirty-eight of the lower states - united only in their mind-numbingly dreary uniformity - he discovered a continent that was doubly lost; lost to itself because blighted by greed, pollution, mobile homes and television; lost to him because he had become a stranger in his own land.The Lost Continent is a classic of travel literature - hilariously, stomach-achingly funny, yet tinged with heartache - and the book that first staked Bill Bryson's claim as the most beloved writer of his generation.

Reader's Thoughts


Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person who's noticed the fact that Bill Bryson is a smug bastard who casts a pall of depressing sarcasm over everything he writes about. I mean, I'm all for sarcasm in most cases, but it's as though all of his subjects are cheapened and made despicable by his prose. In The Lost Continent, he turns every small-town inhabitant into an ignorant, obnoxious caricature. The book has virtually nothing to offer, unless you, too, are hell-bent on whining about the constant ennui of middle-American travel. If you'd like a travelogue with value and interest, try Blue Highways, by William Least Heat Moon, who actually has some respect for his fellow human beings.


I started this book while I was sitting in the jury pool waiting room. The first chapter made me laugh out loud. I was sitting in the most uncomfortable, boring, and annoying place in the universe and it still made me laugh out loud. People looked at me. However, after the first few chapters I noticed a steady decline. I stopped reading about halfway through the book because I had read the word fat about 3,000 times. I get it. You don't like fat people. Noted. (But, by the look of the jacket photo, you are no where near slim, Billy.) I picked it up again a few months later to finish it because frankly, I want to give it away and thought I might as well finish it first. That being said, Bryson's writing throughout the book was clean and concise, regardless if I liked what he was saying. Unfortunately, the point of the book strayed from revisiting some of the places his father took him as a kid to visiting every boring sad town he could find, where he stayed at a boring sad hotel, and ate at the greasiest and saddest restaurants. He made no effort. Literally he rolled out of bed off of his empty cans of beer to the closest restaurant. I get it. Parts of Amercia aren't beautiful, wealthy, or exciting. But he made zero effort to even talk to anyone from these towns. Maybe he could have listened to a few stories about why they loved or loathed their town. The closest he ever came to talking to someone was over hearing a conversation, and those accounts ususally rang untrue. However, without talking to anyone besides a waitress and a hotel resptionists he makes this sweeping judgement, "I drove on, thinking what an ironic thing it was that the really beautiful places in America-the Smoky Mountains, Appalachia, and now Vermont-were always inhabited by the poorest, most uneducated people."I know he went out of his way to pick the worst and most boring towns in America because in California he visited LA, Fresno, and Jackson. Are you kidding me? There are 3,000,000 quaint sweet little towns up and down the coast and he chose to go to Fresno? I usually like people who have a negative sense of humor. Mainly, I like them because I have a negative sense of humor. However, Bryson refused to look for anything positive about a town unless the residents were wealthy. If he was touring a museum or area with big houses and a Ralph Lauren shop on the Main Street the guy lit up like a big FAT Christmas tree. Her are a few examples of his overwhelming negativity:"Poor guy! And on top of that here he was married to a woman who was slovenly and indiscreet, and had a butt like a barn door. I hoped old Harvey had sense enough to appreciate all the incredible natural beauty with which God had blessed his native state because it didn't sound as if He has blesses Harvey very much. Even his kids were ugly as sin. I was half tempted to give one of them a clout myself as I went out the door. There was just something about his nasty little face that made you itch to smack him.""It was a shock to realize that never again in the whole of eternity would he laugh over "I Love Lucy" or repair his car or talk with his mouth full (something for which he was widely noted in the family). It was awesome." (This was him reflecting on his Grandfather's funeral, by the way.)"...all the cigarette girl and ladies who gave change were dressed in skimpy togas, even if they were old and overweight, which most of them were, so their thighs wobbled as they walked. it was like watching moving JELL-O.""Not surprisingly, none of these dreams came true. (Which is perhaps just as well. Sally Ann Summerfield is a blimp now. She turned up at my high-school reunion two years ago and looked like a shipping hazard.)As you can tell, one of the themes of the book was sexist, misogynistic, and condescending remarks about women. I imagine his wife and kids at home celebrating every day he was gone wasting his time driving around boring, stupid, fat America. There is no way this judgmental sexist prick was missed by his family. I bet the whole trip was their idea.

D.A. Cairns

This is the first Bill Bryson book I have read and it's not hard to see why he has become so popular. Written in a mostly conversational style, as though he were relating the highs and lows of his travel experiences to his friends over dinner just after he returned, it is filled with very poignant, evocative language. Bryson's descriptions make you feel as though you can see what he can sees. I really enjoyed The Lost Continent for this reason alone.However, The Lost Continent is almost more of an anti travel guide. I reckon that for more than half the book he is mercilessly bagging the places he visited during his drive around the United Sates, and the people who live there. It's really very mean at times, although I'm sure it is intended to be funny. Crass generalizations and hyperbolic stereotyping are the order of the day. Clearly this is meant to be a humourous read, but I have to say, I barely cracked a smile.I'm not saying it's a bad book. On the contrary, it's very good. It's just that Bryson comes across badly. He doesn't sound like a nice person, although he, and his critics may argue that he is simply being honest, and that the nasty and predominantly negative commentary he provides is not indicative of his character.Ironically, I feel as though I must visit the places he visited. I feel compelled to walk in his footsteps and see how my perception and experience marry with his. Could some of these small American towns be as bad, or as good, as he described? It's a question I hope to be able to answer one day. For now, I will consider reading what he has to say about my homeland, Australia, in his book, Down Under. Do I dare? Am I brave enough?


This book: part humor, part travelogue, narrates Bryson's road trip across the United States and back again. Bryson travels without strict itinerary, and with frequent stops in small towns across the country. The narrative is written in classic Bryson style, with frequent diversions to explain the origin of many of life's oddities, and with constant sideline commentary. As is usually the case with Bryson, the narrative is illuminating, amusing, and shows Bryson's sense of adventure. It was a pleasure to read. Yes, Bryson is frequently critical, but it's important to note that he's an equal-opportunity offender. Wherever he goes he brings his decidedly sarcastic wit, but he also balances criticism with admiration. This is not a book with a weighty message about humanity or morality, but it is a fun read to pick up and put down at leisure. And the ability to dive in and out is one of the beautiful things about this book; one can enjoy it and put it aside at will, and it takes little time to become reengaged in Bryson's prose.


The Lost Continental: A Look at Bill BrysonI must preface this essay by saying that if everyone didn’t like this Bill Bryson book as much as I didn’t, he would be about the wealthiest author on the planet. At least I bought it. I have several of his books and have read all of them. Bill Bryson can be assured that with detractors like me, he doesn’t need fans. I should also say that I have lived a full one fifth of my life outside of the United States and I don’t care if someone makes fun of anything and everything American (I’ve done a bit of bashing myself). A dyspeptic man in his middle thirties, whose constant bad mood seems more like someone in their mid seventies, drives around the U.S. and complains about absolutely everything he sees, smells, hears, and eats. If this sounds like your idea of a good time, read Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America (Abacus, 1990).He constantly mocks small towns in America by referring to them by such names as Dog Water, Dunceville, Urinal, Spigot, and Hooterville—and this is in the first five pages. Don’t worry about him running out of clever names for hick towns; Bryson has a million of them and he uses every single one.The only things about which Bryon has a favorable view are natural wonders and the homes of rich people. He marvels at the obscenely-posh residences of ultra-wealthy, early 20th century industrialists on Mackinac Island which were built before income taxes and most labor laws. He would probably be thrilled with pre-revolutionary France or Czarist Russia. One of his very few favorable reviews of American cities was of the ski town of Stowe, Vermont which caters almost exclusively to the rich.When he is traveling through the southwest he complains about the Mexican music on the radio. He seems more content to resort to chauvinism than to come to some sort of understanding about the culture he is visiting. In my opinion, it’s always more interesting to praise something that you understand than to mock something that you don’t. I would have taken the time to translate a few of the songs and tell readers what they are about. In fact, I have done this and Mexican ranchera music is all about stories of love, heartbreak, and often violence which describe the cowboy culture of Mexico’s northern territories. Bryson implies that the people who listen to this music are just too stupid to realize that it is only one tune played over and over.He gripes about a weatherman on TV who seems rather gleeful at the prospect of a coming snow storm yet Bryson seems to relish in the idea of not liking anything that he experiences in his journey. His entire trip is like a storm he passes through. Just once I wanted him to roll into some town that he liked and get into an interesting conversation with one of its residents.Here are examples of the cheeriness with which Bryson opens a few of his chapters:“I drove on and on across South Dakota. God, what a flat and empty state.”“What is the difference between Nevada and a toilet? You can flush a toilet.” (One reviewer called Bryson "witty.")“I was headed for Nebraska. Now there’s a sentence you don’t want to have to say too often if you can possibly help it.”“In 1958, my grandmother got cancer of the colon and came to our house to die.” This last event must have brought untold joy to the young writer.Tell us more, Bill. His narrative is more tiresome than any Kansas wheat field he may have passed on his road trip through hell. Most Americans seem to be either fat, or stupid, or both in the eyes of Bryson. I can only assume that Bryson himself is some sort or genius body builder. Just one time I wanted him to talk to a local resident over a beer or a cup of coffee. I wanted him to describe his partner in conversation as other than fat or stupid. Not even one time do we hear about a place from somebody who lives there. We could just as easily have read the guidebooks as Bryson did and he could have stayed home and saved himself thousands of miles of misery.


Bryson does two things very well in this book, besides his trademark humour which is happily a constant in this and every other book he's ever written. He captures the spirit of the land at a very specific time in its recent history: 1987, the high water mark of the Reaganite project. Time and again, he is left demoralized by the mindless affluenza that was the hallmark of American society during the latter half of the 1980s. More broadly, Bryson leaves a depressingly accurate description of the tawdriness and vulgarity of America's built environment - a cement desert of motels, burger joints, gas stations, strip malls, freeways and parking lots repeated ad nauseam throughout the Lower 48 - that is painfully recognizable even 25 years later. If you have ever wondered at the wanton debasement that has been visited on the land by its greedy natives, if you have ever been saddened by the pitiless ugliness that surrounds you in America's cities, towns and suburbs, then surely this book is for you. Afterwards, read Edward Abbey and Philip Connors to cleanse your soul and to give thanks for the national parks and wildernesses that still do a stalwart job of protecting nature's beauty and grandeur against a hostile population. PS This was Bryson's first book. The opening lines - "I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to." - must constitute one of the great introductions by any writer in contemporary literature.


Bill Bryson is an excellent writer; this book reads quickly; I enjoyed the process of reading it, the general narrative, and the humor therein.That said, either Bill Bryson is a huge jerk and America is a great place, or America is awful and Bill Bryson is just a decent guy being honest. Seriously, the book runs something like this:1) I don't like this town, it's all shoddy motels and neon signs and fast food. I want a quaint little town.2) I don't like this quaint little town, all it does is use its quaintness to cater to tourists.3) I don't like this quaint little town, all it is is a quaint little town that is friendly to tourists (but doesn't cater to them)--I want shoddy motels and neon signs and fast food!Again, Bryson is an excellent writer--I definitely laughed out loud several times, but with a couple of minor exceptions (western Wyoming, a couple of small towns here and there) there is absolutely nothing that he likes in America. And while that's okay from time to time, after a hundred pages it starts to wear on you a bit, and by the end of the book you're sort of half hoping that he's set upon by hillbillies or angry ranchers or some such. So, I guess I can recommend the book in terms of it being a good read, but with the warning that this book is rancorous without that necessary sense that there's good humor hidden under the surface that can make a cranky person enjoyable to be around.


While in the Frankfurt airport killing time, I decided I needed something to read while waiting in the airport and on the long flight back. During my vacation, I had already read Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of Freedom, Judith Butler's Excitable Speech, and Yves Simon's Freedom and Community, as well as most of two issues of CCC and an issue of Hypatia. I was a bit tired of academic voices and theory (though I had enjoyed everything I read, except perhaps Simon, whose Thomistic perspective irked me and whose writing seemed dry), so I went to the bookstore and perused. The English section was limited, so I was left trying to decide between a collection of short stories by Margaret Atwood and The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson.Bryson, a native Iowan who had moved to Britain, had been haunting me for years. If someone was knowledgeable of travel writing, they asked me about him. I have some acquaintances who have been shocked that I hadn't read any of him. I was holding Atwood's book and Bryson's book, weighing the pros and cons of each. So I read Bryson first paragraph:I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to. When you come from Des Moines you either accept the fact without question and settle down with a local girl named Bobbie and get a job at the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever, or you spend your adolescence moaning at length about what a dump it is and how you can't wait to get out, and then you settle down with a local girl named Bobbi and get a job at the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever.and decided I had to read this. Iowa-deprecating humour? I was excited. Maybe this book would be worth the astronomical 14 Euros (which, with the exchange rate, is about 1 million dollars).I admit I was chuckling a lot during his first few pages, and even occasionally throughout the rest of his book. However, it wasn't before too long that his book just began to annoy me. Every attempt at humor in his book, besides some self-deprecation or making fun of his family, is targeted shots at those who are different from him. Bryson's book seems like a good example of how to enact the construction of "normal." Overweight? Here's a few jokes thrown at you. An accent that isn't accepted as standard? He'll mock you incessantly. Differently abled and in the same room as Bryson? You're there for one purpose alone: to stare at because you're a freak.I haven't quite finished the book, and I probably will (I only have about 50 pages left), but I have to say I'm greatly disappointed. The sour icing smothered the cake when he announced that, feeling incredibly visible and alone in a nearly all black Southern town, that he now knew what it was like to be black in South Dakota. I beg your pardon, Mr. Bryson, but you have no idea what it's like to be black anywhere. If anything, Bryson's book is a chronicling of his extreme naiveté at his own unearned privilege.It seems like the only group not worth mocking in his book are queer folk, and that's probably because they are so invisible to him that they're not even on the radar to mock. Jokes about other people can be amazingly funny, but a book constructed completely on mocking others, a book that seems to function mostly as a reinforcement of normalcy, fails to continue to be funny. It's just tiring.I should have picked up Atwood's book instead.


The quote on the cover of this book is by New York magazine and says, "The kind of book Steinbeck might have written if he'd traveled with David Letterman instead of Charlie the Poodle."Thus proving my theory that any and every situation can be improved by the presence of a dog. As others have mentioned, Bryson tends to be fairly degrading towards minorities in this book, depending on the situation. HOWEVER, throughout this book, Bryson is degrading towards everything... all people, white, black, male, female, fat, thin, child, adult. So it's a bit fanatical to flat out say that he is racist - he just doesn't like anyone (at least in this book). All places, too, whether it be in a city or suburbs or countryside. I've been to most of the places he talks about and was really surprised to read him talking about, for example, how a particular stretch of highway was boring and/or ugly. I remember some of these areas as amazingly beautiful. Sure, he wrote the book twenty years ago but many of these areas are old wood forests and deserts that would have been the same twenty years ago, if not more beautiful because now there's more of a chance that places are being overpopulated and modernized. Bryson is always amusing and witty and this balances the book out a bit but not enough to make me recommend it to anyone.

Benjamin Duffy

As an experiment, if you ever decide you might like to read this book, first pick it up and simply read the opening sentence of each chapter. If I had done so, I probably wouldn't have bothered with the rest, and I would have been just as well off.The Lost Continent and I got off on the wrong foot. I knew something was amiss when the first chapter consisted of nothing more than Bill Bryson taking an enormous steaming dump on his home state of Iowa. Not a cutesy, ironic dump; nor even a sardonic-yet-affectionate dump; but a real, live, mean-spirited, rhetorical bowel movement. Here, I'll sum up the entire first chapter for you, in my own words: Iowa is boring and all the people there are fat and slow-witted. Plopbbt. (And that's Iowa, the state where his parents lived. Wait until you see what he does to Mississippi and New Mexico. Or, better yet, don't.)This was all very unpleasantly surprising, partly because of the way I've approached Bryson's written catalog in reverse chronological order. Having read A Short History of Nearly Everything, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, Made in America, and At Home: A Short History of Private Life, I had formed a mental picture of Bryson as a fifty-something professorial type: rambling, erudite, a bit geeky, smart-assed but in a wry, self-effacing manner, with a fierce populist streak.With that expectation in mind, The Lost Continent was a shock, as it is the work of a thirty-something Bryson, snarky and evidently angry. And I generally like snark and anger: Anthony Bourdain is one of my favorite writers. But where Bourdain leavens his writing with humor and occasional tenderness, The Lost Continent is just relentlessly negative, never passing up the opportunity to take a cheap shot.Ironically for a book titled "travels in small-town America," Bryson appears to hate 90% of the small towns he visits on his road trip, speaking disapprovingly of their poverty, their inhabitants' provincial ways and funny-sounding accents, yet he waxes ecstatic over such non-small places as Savannah, Charleston, and Times Square (!). I actually agreed with quite a few of his sentiments; e.g., how tacky, inauthentic, and Disneyland-like some of our national historic sites have become, but his voice makes even those shared sentiments hard to swallow.The last quarter of the book is the best part, as it slowly becomes apparent that this book is an elegy to his recently-deceased father, and perhaps a regret for having spent his adulthood in England rather than America, but it was honestly too little, too late for me. Maybe I would have enjoyed this book more if I'd read it when it was new, or at least before I read so much of his later, better work, but as it is, I couldn't really recommend this book to anyone, either as a first Bryson or a tenth.


It's funny how so many Americans begin their reviews of 'The Lost Continent' with statements such as "I loved Bryson's other books but this one is terrible!", all because he treats America the same way as he treats everywhere and everyone else.So while many Americans think it's acceptable - hilarious, even - for Bryson to make disparaging-but-witty comments about non-Americans and the places they call home, it is an utter outrage for him to be anything other than completely worshipful with regard to America and Americans.The unavoidable, undeniable fact of the matter is that Bill Bryson's 'The Lost Continent' is not only one of his finest works, but one of the best books ever written by anyone in recent times about the USA and Americans.It is as funny as anything you'll ever read, as well as being touching, poignant and fascinating. It is the first book I've read since 'Neither Here Nor There' (also by Bryson) that has caused me to think of calling my travel agent.America has never been half as interesting as it is in 'The Lost Continent' and Americans ought to be supremely grateful it was written and published.Five stars and highly recommended.


When reading this book, American readers may very well feel like they are eavesdropping on a conversation not intended for their ears. This is because Bill Bryson obviously intended this book to be read by a British audience. There are lots of laughs in this book. His depictions of Iowa made me laugh until I had tears in my eyes. For example, his explanation for why so many farmers are missing fingers:"Yet, there is scarcely a farmer in the Midwest over the age of twenty who has not at some time or other had a limb or digit yanked off and thrown into the next field by some noisy farmyard implement. To tell you the absolute truth, I think farmers do it on purpose. I think working day after day beside these massive threshers and balers with their grinding gears and flapping fan belts and complex mechanisms they get a little hypnotized by all the noise and motion. They stand there staring at the whirring machinery and they think, 'I wonder what would happen if I just stuck my finger in there a little bit.' I know that sounds crazy. But you have to realize that farmers don't have whole lot of sense in these matters because they feel no pain. It's true. Every day in the Des Moines Register you can find a story about a farmer who has inadvertently torn off an arm and then calmly walked six miles into the nearest town to have it sewn back on. The stories always say, 'Jones, clutching his severed limb, told his physician, 'I seem to have cut my durn arm off, Doc.' It's never: 'Jones, spurting blood, jumped around hysterically for twenty minutes, fell into a swoon and then tried to run in four directions at once,' which is how it would be with you or me."This stuff cracks me up. Maybe it's because I grew up in Iowa too. From an American's point of view, I was at times amazed by the important landmarks Bryson missed seeing or failed to appreciate. He drove by Monticello, for heaven's sake! In Springfield, Illinois, he "drove around a little bit, but finding nothing worth stopping for" he left -- Springfield, Illinois -- the home of Abraham Lincoln and his burial place! He passed up touring the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, because it cost too much! He called Gettysburg a flat field -- a battlefield of such varied topography as to make one wonder whether Bryson actually visited it! He missed Lake Tahoe! He also missed seeing Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine. Nor did he have any lobster along the Maine coast. Yet he felt informed enough to conclude that there was nothing special about Maine. Hurrumph! These failings may be forgiven though, because he has lived away from the United States for a long time. And, to be fair, he traveled far and wide and saw many wonderful places. From his well-written depictions, I've regained a desire to see places in the United States I haven't visited yet, including Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; and Mackinaw Island, Michigan. Overall, I enjoyed the book and enjoyed many laughs in reading it, which is why I like reading Bryson's books so much. But he seemed to tire out toward the end of the book and toward the end of his travels. His outlook became more and more jaundiced -- which is not good, when his outlook is generally jaundiced to begin with. Part I is the best part of the book, which focuses on the Midwest and East Coast. Part II, about Bryson's travels in the West, seems tacked on and unnecessary for the book (except for his description of his drive through the Colorado mountains to Cripple Creek and his depiction of his first view of the Grand Canyon ("The fog parted. It just silently drew back, like a set of theater curtains being opened, and suddenly we saw that we were on the edge of a sheer, giddying drop of at least a thousand feet. 'Jesus!' we said and jumped back, and all along the canyon edge you could hear people saying, 'Jesus!' like a message being passed down a long line. And then for many moments all was silence, except for the tiny fretful shiftings of the snow, because out there in front of us was the most awesome, most silencing sight that exists on earth.")). *There is some swearing in the book.


Van Bill Bryson las ik eerder 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' (****1/2, zoals de titel het zegt, een beetje overvanalles) en 'In a Sunburned Country (*****, over een rondreis doorheen de Australische outback), en zoals jullie aan de toegekende sterren kunnen zien, zijn die me heel erg bevallen.'The Lost Continent' is opnieuw een reisverhaal, zoals het overgrote deel van Brysons oeuvre. Deze keer gaat het, zoals de ondertitel 'Travels in Small-Town America' aangeeft, over een rondreis doorheen de Verenigde Staten, waarbij het accent meer ligt op de kleine dorpen en steden, en de grootsteden zoveel mogelijk vermeden worden.Brysons uitgangspunt is de zoektocht naar 'the perfect small town.' Hij vertrekt vanuit de plek waar hij is opgegroeid, Des Moines, Iowa, en maakt een 8-vormige rondrit per auto doorheen 38 van de 48 Amerikaanse staten (de overzeese staten Hawaii en Alaska worden hier niet meegerekend). Eerst gaat het via het zuiden richting de Carolina's en de oostkust tot Boston, en via de Great Lakes terug naar Des Moines, voor een kleine tussenstop. Vervolgens via New Mexico naar Nevada en California, en noordwaarts naar Montana en South-Dakota, een totaal van net geen 14.000 miles (ofte +/- 22.500 km).Dit boek is een echte Bryson; vlot lezend, korte hoofdstukjes, feiten afgewisseld met subjectieve indrukken en leuke anekdotes. De leegheid van de Noordwestelijke staten Montana, Wyoming en de Dakota's, bijvoorbeeld, beschrijft hij eerst uitgebreid, om die vervolgens via feiten (amper 2,6 miljoen inwoners voor een oppervlakte van zo ongeveer West-Europa) te staven.Bryson probeert ook bij elke bezienswaardigheid of toeristische trekpleister na te gaan of het de aandacht verdient, of eigenlijk enkel een tourist-trap is.Eén minpuntje: aangezien het boek dateert van 1990, is het al serieus verouderd. Zo heeft hij het, bij zijn blitz-bezoek aan New York, over 'a guy, named Donald Trump, a developer, who is slowly taking over New York, building skyscrapers all over town with his name on them.' Maar dat speelt enkel in referenties naar beroemdheden, en die komen niet zo vaak voor. Het is eerder amusant dan dat het stoort. En uiteraard is een beetje kennis van de Amerikaanse cultuur, zoals Gettysburg en Mount Rushmore, altijd handig.Eindbeoordeling: ****


This is the worst book ever. Bryson is a fat, cynical white guy traveling around the country, proclaiming in the subtitle: "Travels in Small Town America." But like most fat white guys, Bryson is scared of small town America. He hates every small town he comes to- whether they're on Indian reservations, small farming communities in Nebraska, southern towns full of African Americans where the author is too scared to even stop the car, or small mining communities in West Virginia, also where the author is too scared to stop. How can you write a book about small town America when you're too scared to stop in any small towns??? His favorite towns? Pittsburg and Charlotte. (Definitely "small" in my world.)Driving through the north woods, crossing the border from Maine to New Hampshire: "The skies were still flat and low, the weather cold, but at least I was out of the montony of the Maine woods."In Littleton, on the Vermont border: "People on the sidewalk smiled at me as I passed. This was beginning to worry me. Nobody, even in America, is that friendly. What did they want from me?"At a cemetery in Vermont: "I stood there in the mile October sunshine, feeling so sorry for all these lukles speople and their lost lives, reflecting bleakly on mortality and my own dear, cherished family so far away in England, and I thought, 'Well, fuck this,' and walked back down the hill to the car."At least he freely refers to himself as a "flinty-hearted jerk-off."Maybe Mr. Bryson should get off his lazy ass, stop whining about England, and actually stop the car once in a while. This book spouts so much hateful white guy racism that I can't even bring myself to give it away. While I am 100% against burning or destroying any kind of book, I simply cannot let this one leave my hands. It will probably just find someone who agrees with it's horrible twisted and pessimistic point of view! I haven't decided if I'm going to just bury it in my storage space (which may mean when I leave my apartment someone else might pick it up), or "accidentally" drop it in a snowbank outside. At least in spring the pages would all be glued together, and no one would be able to read it ever again.

Troy Blackford

What a great look at what America is like on a micro-level. Having grown up in small towns in the Midwest, I really identified with the places (unfortunately, for the most part) that Bryson visited in his journey. I loved how Bryson, a Des Moines native, moved away to the UK for 20 years and thus explores the country as a knowing outsider. The tone of the book is almost explaining the US to the British, so it was great to get a fresh perspective on things. Bryson's curmudgeonly displeasure at the many inconveniences he encounters along the way is a constant source of humor. I can't recommend this book enough. A quick but fascinating and engaging read.

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