About Bill Bryson:
Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He settled in England in 1977, and lived for
many years with his English wife and four children in Yorkshire. He and his family recently moved
back to America. He is the best-selling author of The Lost Continent, Mother Tongue,
Made in America, Walk in the Woods, Notes from a Small Island and
Notes from a Big Country.
Summary of Notes from a Big Country, Black Swan Book, 1999:
Notes from a Big Country is a collection of some 80 independent episodes
(weekly columns) which Bryson wrote for the American magazine Mail on Sunday, Night & Day.
Reading the book, each episode brings home to you observations which people who are familiar with the American
society have also made, but never been aware of their backgrounds and implications. And what
is best about each episode is that they are all written in a fantastically humorous, often ironical way.
Bryson was asked to write his observations about America right after he came back from England
in 1997 having lived there for 20 years.
It is obviously easier to look at America more critically after you have lived for so long with
people from a different culture. Bryson's advantage is that he didn't have language problems (except for some words..).
When Bryson criticizes things, he has substantial reasons to do so and never is really unfair.
So he makes fun of America's governmental institutions like the US Immigration and Naturalization Service
or the Internal Revenue Service (Finanzbehörde) for their extreme bureaucracy. Comparatively, German bureaucrats
seem to be generous. But Bryson likes his countryfellowmen for their friendliness, hospitality and honesty.
At least people in rural New Hampshire (where B. settled) wouldn't dream of locking their homes, even when
they leave it for a couple of days. Americans like it convenient and always want instant gratification.
E.g. an advertisement in Britain for a cold relief capsule...would promise no more than it might
make you feel a bit better....A commercial for the same product in America would guarantee total, instantaneous relief.
An American would take the medicine and would actually feel better than he had for years and finish the day
having the time of his life at a bowling alley.
On the other hand Bryson is dismayed at the wastefulness of Americans and their love for predictable
uniformity (e.g. hotel chains, shopping chains, restaurant chains). But he obviously likes waste disposals
(in kitchens) and the free availability of ice in every hotel (I think it was guaranteed in the Constitution,
just above the right to bear arms and below the right to shop till you drop).
In comparison to British people, Americans generally lack a sense of humour. John Cleese should once have
said, An Englishman would rather be told he was a bad lover than he had no sense of
humour. At least in this respect Bryson rather seems to be British...
The latest book by Bill Bryson is:
Her he recounts his escapades in Australia, the only island that is also a continent and the only continent that is also a