Thursday, September 11, 2008

Review: The Lost Continent

Bill Bryson created a name for himself as a travel writer with Notes from a Small Island, his tale of road travel around England. In The Lost Continent Bryson does the same for the United States as he did for England. Notes from a Small Island: part humor, part travelogue, narrates Bryson's road trip across the United States and back again. Reminiscing about the automobile vacations of his youth, Bryson gets in his car and drives in search of small-town America. Bryson's trip lacks strict itinerary, and with frequent stops in small towns across the country, it is certainly a meandering trip. The narrative is written in classic Bryson style, with frequent diversions to explain the origin of many of life's oddities, and with constant sideline commentary. As is usually the case with Bryson, the narrative is illuminating, amusing, and shows Bryson's sense of adventure. It was a pleasure to read. Yes, Bryson is frequently critical, but it's important to note that he's an equal-opportunity offender. Wherever he goes he brings his decidedly sarcastic wit, but he also balances criticism with admiration. This is not a book with a weighty message about humanity or morality, but it is a fun read to pick up and put down at leisure. The ability to dive in and out is one of the beautiful things about this book; one can enjoy it and put it aside at will, and it takes little time to become reengaged in Bryson's prose.

Bill Bryson, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America (Harper Perennial, 1990) ISBN: 0060920084

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