Monday, September 11, 2006

Bill Bryson

Hanging around Liverpool airport, I was stuck for something to read so I bought The Lost Continent. The blurb gave the impression that it would be light and amusing, exactly the sort of reading you want while waiting for a plane. It describes Bryson's 14,000 mile car journey through small-town America and, sure enough, it did turn out to be light and amusing - even, on occasion, funny enough to make me laugh aloud - and, frequently, I found myself nodding my head in agreement (especially at his endorsement of a long-held opinion/prejudice of my own: "Can there anywhere be a breed of people more irritating and imbecilic than disc jockeys?").

One unexpected feature was his seemingly relentless obsession with fat people. He rarely loses a chance to regale us with derogatory details ("... a fat young woman with a pair of ill-kempt children moaning in a loud voice about her financial problems...", and, nine pages later, "... a fat woman asleep in the front passenger seat, her mouth hugely agape."), so much so that I ended up wondering what his problem was. He's not exactly sylph-like himself.

Last night I happened to see a South Bank Show profile and there it was again, this childish glee in poking fun at those bigger than himself. Also present was the unmistakable whiff of smugness. Not to mention hypocrisy. He was constantly bemoaning the fact that so many residents were deserting the centres of small cities like his native Des Moines, yet he chooses to live in England.


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