“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

As the book reviews on this (extended holiday) month’s book have started rolling in, I figured I had better get my butt in gear.  I finished the book three weeks ago, but got caught in that bloated post-holiday “I’d rather sit on the couch and bleh” than blog.

Here is why I love Bill Bryson – if you ever, ever wanted a glimpse of my inner voice, of the way my thinking processes work, read Bryson.  He has that same taste for the absurdity of life, the same feeling of passing through as an observer, almost a voyeur, as I do.  He recognizes how insanely funny the world really is.  Everyday.  And he shares the absolute necessity to believe that it IS insanely funny in order to see beyond what is also poignantly tragic.  Read his African Diary and you will understand completely.

I think the scene in the book that is most illustrative of this is the description of his near-collision on an Outback highway.  The sublime irony of the only two pieces of moving metal for hundreds and hundreds of miles on a direct crash-course is something that makes me teary-eyed with laughter.  I think I would be giggling to the point of impact at the same time I was soiling my trousers.

He also shares my ability to see beauty as a less-than perfect condition.  I love New Orleans almost because of it’s flaws rather than in spite of them.  It is a city that does not feel compelled to “dress itself up for company”.  Bryson duly notes Australia’s complete, even criminal, failure to deal fairly with its aboriginal population, but it does not keep him from falling in love with the country and its people. 

I am bucking the trend here with Australia.  I want to go.  I love big empty spaces.  And I am the absolute model of the curious traveler.  I want to go places because, well, because they’re there.  I get ONE passage through this life on this earth.  It seems such a waste if I don’t try to see as much of it as possible.  I mean, isn’t that kind of sad?  To die having missed seeing the wonder of this world?  In that, Bryson and I are of one mind.  This book doesn’t really express that mindset as well as A Short History of Nearly Everything, but nevertheless, I was vicariously enjoying his good fortune at having a job that enables him to fulfill that wish.

So, I guess, the bottom line here, is that while this isn’t my favorite Bryson book, it’s like saying milk chocolate isn’t my favorite chocolate.  It’s not as bittersweet, but it’s still damned good.

January 29th, 2007 at 4:15 pm