The Lost Continent:Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 3, 1990)
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."
There’s no denying that Bill Bryson has a quick sense of humor, and so I found myself reading a second book by Mr.. Bryson. In this book he travels around the U.S. in and out of small towns and through some of Nature’s wonders.
I wasn’t but a few pages into the book when Mr.. Bryson describes a town as such: The whole town was as tranquil as a double dose of Valium. Now, I don’t know about you but that would send me right out in search of that town!… ok so maybe not, heh. But I did know this was going to be another adventure in which Bill Bryson’s humor would abound as he traveled around our continent.
There really isn’t a lot I can say except when you need something to read and nothing seems to satisfy you ..try something different and read one of Bill Bryson’s comical books! Be careful though, he also writes more serious books, but you can pretty much tell how the book will read by the more professional reviews.
Just to bring out my thoughts on his humor I will leave you with some blurbs so that you might decide for yourself if you might want to read this or not.
(Upon watching tv in a motel in rural America): “I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t seen Joyce Brothers for years and she hadn’t changed a bit. Not one hair on her head had altered a fraction since the last time I saw her, droning about menstrual flow in 1962. It was as if they had kept her in a box for 25 years. This was as close as I would ever come to time travel!”
“Years ago, in the days of Vietnam, two friends and I drove to Florida during spring break. We all had long hair. En route we took a shortcut across the back roads of Georgia and stopped late one afternoon for a burger at a dinette in some dreary little crudville, and when we took our seats at the counter the place fell silent. Fourteen people just stopped eating their food resting in their mouths and stared at us. It was so quiet in there you could have heard a fly fart.”
(one final blurb about a place I love, the Grand Canyon. It was snowy and there was such a bad fog he was depressed that he couldn’t see a thing)..
Afterwards, I trudged towards the visitors center, perhaps 200 yards away, but before I got there I came across a snow-spattered sign announcing a lookout point half a mile away along a trail through the woods, and impulsively I went down it, mostly just to get some air. The path was slippery and took a long time to traverse, but on the way the snow stopped falling and the air felt clean and refreshing. Eventually I came to a platform of rocks, marking the edge of the canyon. There was no fence to keep you back from the edge , so I shuffled cautiously over and looked down, but could see nothing but gray soup. A middle-aged couple came along and as we stood chatting about what a dispiriting experience this was, a miraculous thing happened. 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.
Now why can’t I describe things like him??!
In this book Mr. Bryson gives his thoughts on many things and at the same time you get a mini travel log of places we may never see because we don’t or can’t travel around just to see what’s out there. What a shame that each and every one of us never really gets to see our very own country. But if you’d like… this book could give you at least a tiny view.
This makes 2 of Bill Bryson’s books I have read and I have sent for one more of the humorous books… a book about his childhood (The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir) in which I already know he will spark many memories of my own and for anyone over 40 yrs old. So if you are ready for something different, and ready to have moments that you will smile, and moments you will chuckle and even moments you will laugh out loud… well then it’s time for you to read a Bill Bryson book!
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