Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bill Bryson on Everything

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to win Bill Bryson's back catalogue, he was touring a new book and appeared on the ABC's First Tuesday Book club program. Their was a travel writing competition and I won it! Several weeks later a giant box appeared containing a pile of signed paperbacks by Bryson. I have been making my way through them ever since. Prior to this lucky event I had only ever read about his travel adventures to Australia; currently I am reading his A Short History of Nearly Everything, an insightful science book that does what the title says it will do. It also has Bryson's famous wit. Reading about these extraordinary men and women of the sciences also makes one feel rather insignificant, then again, one should not pit onesself against Noble prize winners. Suffice to say, other than feeling academically insignificant, I have enjoyed the book more than I expected (not having a science background at all) and really enjoyed finding out things I else wise wouldn't have.


The Australian newspaper had an interview with him a few weeks ago that you can read online here. I love the last two paragraphs that illustrate well his kind of wit; writing about Bryson the journalist says:

He is now planning to take the rest of 2010 off "to read" and may even finally apply for British citizenship. Although Bryson is married to a Brit and has four grown-up British children, "I'm still afraid to take the test because I don't want to flunk it", he says. "I had an American friend who recently did it and said it was really tough. Not questions like 'What's Marmite?' or 'Morecambe and blank', but technical things like: 'To the nearest five, how many MPs are there?' A British citizen would fail."

He would much prefer an interview, "somebody saying, you speak English, you're not on welfare, you're not a pedophile, you're OK". What sort of exam questions would he like? "Well," he says, "something like, 'Mr Bryson, how can we make you more comfortable?' "

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