Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book Review: The Lost Continent, By Bill Bryson

The Premise:
Author Bill Bryson, after having lived abroad for years, returns to America and rediscovers the land of his youth, embarking upon a road trip that takes him through 38 of the lower 48.

The Good:
Mr. Bryson is hilarious, insightful, heartfelt and scathing. He manages the impossible: both mocking and praising a thing at once. You can tell that he finds most tourist traps ridiculous, but can’t imagine a world where they don’t exist. He delivers historical facts with aplomb and gives surprising gravity to the simplest of pleasures. And he can write. And, wow, does he make it look easy. The whole book is chocked full of imagery such as, “the waves crashed like exhausted swimmers on the shore” and hilarity, “My first rule of consumerism is never buy anything you can’t make your children carry.”

The Bad:
Like Mr. Bryson’s book, Walk in the Woods, the voyage kind of peters out in the back half. It’s still informative, poignant and funny, but you can feel that the gusto and verve displayed in the first half isn’t really found when describing town after town after landmark near the end. Also, he can be a bit crass at times, which to me is like hanging out with an old friend, but can be a bit much for the overly religious or all together too sensitive.

The Verdict:
Buy it. Read it. Laugh with it. And relish in a time capsule written by a close, yet distant friend.