Saturday, May 29, 2010

Getting a Sunburn with Bill Bryson

If last week was Bacon Week here At Home.... this would be Book Week.

Author Bill Bryson has the best job ever.

I'm not kidding. Think about it. He gets paid to travel and write about his experiences. In my mind this is a dream job.

In the book, "From a Sunburned Country", Bryson takes on the enormous Australian continent. This is a subject that resonates with me. My four stepbrothers and one stepsister all live in Australia, spread out from one end of the continent to the other.

Bryson visited the major Australian cities several times during book tours but those frenetic schedules did not allow for any meaningful connection with the land down under. He made plans to return for an extended stay, setting himself an ambitious itinerary.

At one point in his trip he had a traveling companion, a professional photographer. What a lucky man because Bryson is my kind of tourist. He goes to a place without any preconceived notions and he hits the ground running. Literally. His plane lands, he establishes base camp at his hotel and he hits the streets, walking the neighborhoods and commercial areas, often finding himself in strange situations...... such as surrounded by a pack of dogs in a secluded park.

He gives his impressions of each of the major cities, including the architecture, the people and the general sense of the place. He understands and is able to communicate the excitement of discovering a place for the first time. In my experience, a place is never as exciting or interested as the first time you visit and everything is a fresh experience.

Bryson is funny to be sure, but there's no mean spiritedness to his humor. He geniunely LOVES Australians and his enthusiasm for them and their land is contagious. He's constantly amazed at their nonchalant attitude towards the hoards of very dangerous creatures that share their land. Ten of the world's deadliest snakes, poisonous seashells, Great White sharks and the most poisonous creature on earth, the delicate box jellyfish.

There are great adventures to be had in this larger-than-life place, and he avails himself of the opportunity to experience as many of them as he can. He takes the famous railway across the Nullabor Plains and drives a rental car from Darwin to Alice Springs and Ayers Rock.

My mom and stepdad made many trips to Australia and experienced many of the same things he describes in the book. It's fun to compare what my mom had to say with his account. Remember when I told you how my stepsister couldn't wait to get back to the U.S. where she could stuff herself with American bacon? I almost fell off the chair laughing when Bryson mentioned how he loved Australian bacon - couldn't get enough!

Bill Bryson does something more than simply write a travelogue. He does exhaustive research and dishes up history and knowledge along with fun and games. He's included some facts that even the experts have failed to mention in their books.

Have you seen the movie, Rabbit Proof Fence? Did you wonder why there are millions of rabbits denuding the continent? Read the book and discover the answer. (Aussies - no fair telling them why in the comments section!)

The best thing about this author is that he has maintained his childhood wonder, far into adulthood. He has an imagination, a sense of humor and a manner of writing that allows us all to take a trip Down Under.

I highly recommend this book.

Here's a link to Renae's blog. She one of my readers from Down Under. I had to laugh at my stupidity. I was reading her blog and looking at the pictures of her visit to Herronswood and couldn't figure out why her and her husband Colin were all bundled up! Sheesh. You'd think it was wintertime or something. HA ....IT IS winter... in the southern hemisphere. Duh.


And yes, Renae.... you should read this book and give us all a book report! HA.


Jenni said...

Funny that you should review this book this morning. I just picked it up at a garage sale yesterday afternoon! I knew it would be a good buy because I enjoyed A Walk in the Woods so much. Yes, Bryson does have the perfect job. If we can't make our own pile that way, at least we can live vicariously by reading his books!

MelissaD said...

I loved Sunburned Country - it was the first Bill Bryson book I read. I have always been interested in Australia and I really enjoyed his viewpoint and laughed through many parts of the book - it was the reason I dashed off to read some of his other ones.
Funny you should mention this was your dream job - I always though being a photographer for National Geographic sounded just about perfect for me. Imagine - being able to travel around the world and photograph amazing things!
Enjoy the long weekend

Renae said...

Oh! I missed this post! (I've been having an 'no internet' holiday). I think I should definitely pick this up - I remember my mum laughing and laughing at the dangerous critters part.

I hope you get to come here one day and have adventures of your own :)