Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hilarious Look at English Life

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson


I picked this up because I am working on my own travel writing and was anxious to see how other authors did it.  I'm always looking for good travel reads, books about unique places and experiences and how others choose to write about them.  I also was quite intrigued by the topic:  England.  After having taken my first trip across the pond last spring, I was really anxious to return there, if only to live vicariously through Bryson's words.  I also really liked that he was an American writing about the experience and wanted to see if any of his experiences were similar to mine.

I think to really appreciate the book, a reader should have gone to England.  I felt that many of his references and stories would have gone completely over my head before going there.  It's not a book to read if you want to travel to England, certainly.  Bryson's descriptions of the people, the weather, the tourist attractions come from a writer who loves his country regardless of, and sometimes in spite of, its eccentricities and quirks.  Had I never been, I might have run screaming to another vacation spot.  According to Bryson, the only things there are rain, pubs, and roundabouts.  After having been there, I can now say the rain is not so much a weather feature as a permanent mood, the pubs are oases of warmth and conviviality, and the roundabouts border between screeching hilarity an screaming frustration.

Overall, Bryson was a terribly funny writer.  It's not really a book to sit down and inhale, more a book to munch on slowly, like a box of chocolates.  A piece a day brought it all back and allowed me to relive my own experiences.  Bryson is droll, dark, and a bit of a curmudgeon.  He's probably not to everyone's taste, but I love that kind of humor.  I liked the book enough that his other books are now on my "to-read" list.  I can't wait to see what he does with Appalachia!

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