The Lost Continent

The Lost Continent

Travels in Small Town America; And, Neither Here Nor There : Travels in Europe

Book - 1992
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Bill Bryson drove 14,000 miles in search of the mythical small town of his youth. Instead he found a lookalike strip of gas stations, motels and hamburger joints; a continent lost to itself through greed, pollution and television, and lost to him because he had become a foreigner in his own country. A funny and serious view of smalltown America.

Publisher: Secker & Warbug, 1992
ISBN: 9780436201301
Characteristics: p. ; cm


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rb3221 Nov 11, 2015

This book is Bryson's attempt to explain the U.S. to the British. There certainly is lots of humour, although somewhat dated, and Bryson is often sarcastic, critical and occasionally condescending. There seems to be little effort to view the many towns and states in a positive light but that I believe is perhaps the point of the book. He often talks about the poor quality of the food but seemed to miss the opportunity to talk about the American people. Occasional vulgar language and a mean attitude to many things American is commonplace (again the purpose of the book to sell more copies??).
Yet despite these criticisms there is a lot of humour in the book as he travels throughout America looking for the perfect town. Some examples: "75,000 tress to produce one issue of the New York what if our grandchildren have no oxygen to breathe"; passing into Mississippi a sign reads " Welcome to Mississippi. We shoot to kill"; "The average Southern has the speech patterns of someone slipping in and out of consciousness"; "RV people are another breed...who do not expose themselves to a moment of discomfort or inconvenience"; "Cape Cod is a place so singularly devoted to sucking money out of tourists"; "Americans revere the past as long as there is some money in it somewhere and it doesn't mean going without air conditioning, free parking ..."; What's the difference between Nevada and a toilet? Answer: You can flush a toilet"; "Given a choice between TV test patterns and TV evangelists, I would unhesitatingly choose the he patterns".
The European section of this book also contains a lot of humour. Examples: A town near Oslo was described as "a thank-you-God-for-not-making-me-live-here"; in Copenhagen the exchange rate was so high that he comments "I don't know why I don't just pin money to my jacket and let you people pick it off me"; on how Italians park, he comments "it looks like a parking competition for blind people." Overall worth reading as a funny travelogue.

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