Thursday, January 16, 2014

That is the thing about Australia, of course - that it is packed with unappreciated wonders

I went through a bit of a reading slump at the end of December/beginning of January. I'm not sure what it was. Probably the holidays coupled with the fact that I wasn't working (or at least I wasn't riding the train) just meant that instead of doing any reading I mostly watched stupid TV. (Also Sherlock. Lots of Sherlock.) So I picked up Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country to help get me out of the slump because 1) Bryson is great and his books are always a fun read 2) it was cold out and I wanted to read about somewhere warm 3) I had recently met up with Kayleigh and she's from Australia so hey, seems like a good choice.

Sunburned Country (or Down Under which is the British title) is about Bryson traveling around Australia, both the cities and the outback. There are a few topics he touches on again and again:

Australia is full of things, animals and environment, that are actively trying to kill you. At all times.
Australia is BIG.
Australia is far away and most of the rest of the world seems to forget it's there. Which is stupid of the rest of the world.

Bryson describes Australia as a fusion of American and British culture.
[Australia] had a casualness and vivacity - a lack of reserve, comfortableness with strangers - that felt distinctly American, but hung on a British framework. In their optimism and informality, Australians could pass for a glance as Americans, but they drove on the left, drank tea, played cricket, adorned their public places with statues of Queen Victoria, dressed their children in the sort of school uniform that only a Britannic people could wear without conspicuous regret.

Overall Bryson loves Australia. Even when he was almost murdered by some dogs in Canberra (or not since you never actually SEE the dogs) he still likes the place. He has nothing but nice things to say about the people, the cities, the deserts, sometimes even the animals. Well maybe not the ones that want him dead, but some of the others. He gets drunk at strange bars in the middle of no where on his way to see the outback, the part of Australia many Australians never even get to visit. He listens to a lot of cricket on the radio. And of course there are lots of historical anecdotes about people who have died horribly trying to cross the huge country. Really everything you'd expect from a Bryson book.

Oh and I feel I should point out that Bryson acknowledges that the (American) title of his book is taken from a poem, except it's changed from "sunburnt" to "sunburned". As he says, it should be called In a Sunburnt Country. But it isn't.

I can't say this is my favorite Bryson BUT this did make me want to visit Australia. Dammit, why are you so far away from me? Really though, you can't go wrong with Bryson. Now I just need to get my hands on his new book.

Title quote from page 288

Bryson, Bill. In a Sunburned Country. Broadway Books, 2001.