black swan


Notes From A Big Country

Des Moines, Iowa born writer Bryson’s first success was the travel book "The Lost Continent". After living in England for several years, he wanted to go back to the USA to find the perfect little US town of his past, he lovingly called Amalgam. More travel books followed, in the form of "Neither Here Nor There" (where he travels through Europe), "Notes From A Small Island" (where he travels around the United Kingdom, before returning back with his family to the USA to live there for good) and "A Walk In The Woods" (where he walks the Appalachian trail). Always successful, with an unbeatable charm and wit, the combination of an American casual and British humor, his book always were a easy read. After moving back to the States, Bryson started to write a column for ‘Mail on Sunday’s Night And Day’ magazine. This is a collection of these column entries that strayed away from his travel writing (just like "Made In America" and "Mother Tongue" did), but it still remains something similar, as he often reports of what is happening to him.

There’s only one way to explain this book: stand up comedy in book form, with a conscious. Bryson writes about everything from everyday chores, to sue people, the beach, TV, movies, air conditioners, college, Americana, injury dangers, wasting resources and holiday seasons. Combining his liking for statistic with his humor to deal with them, all the encounters and mishaps are not only enjoyable, but are a platform for further elaborations and discussions in their own right. This is where the stand up comedian comes in. Just as if he was on the stage, he shares anecdotes and findings with us, giving them the ‘Bryson’ twist, just to hand it to us for our amusement. And we find the conscious part in his interpretations, in his comments and in his oftentimes serious approach to equal serious problems. Not only does he talk about the jail system of the US, he also sheds light on the drug war, amongst several more topics.

He gives himself this freedom of his ‘comedy’ being political. In his writing, you will find comments that shed light on known problems from a different light, and as such are even educational. Like in his entry "Hotel California", where he talks about the death penalty, sharing shocking numbers. He does not try to hide his opinion writing "there used to be a time when politicians tried to change public opinion. Now they just respond to it." And although his humor steps aside for statements like this, the insight they give into double standards, misconceptions and illnesses are very welcome. He does not go as far as forcing a political agenda on us, though. This is a ‘funny’ book after all.

With a varied selection of pastime reading material, thought provoking entries, this is a complete book that can be enjoyed by everybody and everyone. May it just be because it actually makes you laugh out loud.

review by tadah

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