The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America
ABOUT THE BOOK
Journalist Bryson decided to relive the dreary vacation car trips of his American childhood. Starting out at his mother’s house in Des Moines, Iowa, he motors through 38 states over the course of two months, looking for the quintessential American small town.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bill Bryson’s many books include, most recently In a Sunburned Country, as well as I’m a Stranger Here Myself, A walk in the Woods, Neither Here Nor There, Made in America, and The Mother Tongue.He edited The Best American Travel Writing 2000. Born in Des Moines, Iowa, he lived in England for almost two decades. He now lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, with his wife and four children.
A travelogue by Bill Bryson is as close to a sure thing as funny books get. The Lost Continent is no exception. Following an urge to rediscover his youth (he should know better), the author leaves his native Des Moines, Iowa, in a journey that takes him across 38 states. Lucky for us, he brought a notebook.
With a razor wit and a kind heart, Bryson serves up a colorful tale of boredom, kitsch, and beauty when you least expect it. Gentler elements aside, The Lost Continent is an amusing book. Here’s Bryson on the women of his native state: “I will say this, however–and it’s a strange, strange thing–the teenaged daughters of these fat women are always utterly delectable … I don’t know what it is that happens to them, but it must be awful to marry one of those nubile cuties knowing that there is a time bomb ticking away in her that will at some unknown date make her bloat out into something huge and grotesque, presumably all of a sudden and without much notice, like a self-inflating raft from which the pin has been yanked.”
Iowa native Bryson returns from several years of residence in the U.K. and takes a long driving trip in the U.S. to see what he’s been missing. Not much apparently; he turns his rapier wit on everything and everyone he runs across. He reads billboards! He describes tacky towns! He treats us to tales of family trips with his parsimonious father! He voices glum room clerks and grumpy gas station attendants! An all-you-can-eat adventure in Amish country is a comic vignette in itself.
WHY I ACTUALLY DID NOT LIKE THIS BOOK TOO MUCH
Bryson has a funny and witty style, and I first followed him eagerly on his journey. But after a few chapters, I found him actually a bit too derogative, and especially he was describing places I had been to, and that were absolutely different than the way he described them. Now, this was written 20 years ago, so maybe the American landscape has changed for the better, and I was lucky not to go through some of Bryson’s tough experiences. This is not one of the best book by Bryson. I’ll try a couple more.
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