THE LOST CONTINENT by Bill Bryson

THE LOST CONTINENT

Travels In Small-town America

KIRKUS REVIEW

An unending barrage of sarcastic commentary--some of it funny, most of it obnoxious--nearly obscures the occasional acute perceptions of America that Bryson peppers throughout this prodigal son's report. After living and travel-writing for more than a decade in England, Bryson, inspired by a trip to his hometown of Des Moines to attend his father's funeral, decided to explore the US. Here, he reports on his recent trip crisscrossing the nation, guffawing and complaining most of the way, visiting mainly small towns and the countryside in between, but also a few cities, most on the East Coast. True to the book's sour spirit, it begins with a disappointment: a visit to Bryson's grandparents' Iowa house, now no longer the happy home of memory but merely a "shack" surrounded by "cheap little houses." Bryson finds solace by buying the Sunday New York Times, though, and points out that it costs 75,000 trees to reproduce: "So what it' our grandchildren have no oxygen lo breath? Fuck'em." Bryson's humor doesn't get much sharper than that, but his eye for American foibles does, as he endures the, to him, dull plains of Nebraska; garishness of Las Vegas; spookiness of the Smoky Mountains; terrors of a Philadelphia slum; overorderliness of the Smithsonian, and onwards. The mailing of America, the violence that pervades the land, the sleazy films that fill the airwaves: these are the sores that shock or amuse his expatriate's eye. But still Bryson finds good here: the simple dignity of Elvis' birthplace in Tupelo, Miss,; the glories of the Grand Canyon; the nostalgic treasures of baseball's spacious Hall of Fame; and, finally, returning lo Des Moines, all that makes this city "friendly and decent and nice." Bryson is a smooth writer, only far too Smug and self-consciously cranky; still, his account is funny al times, insightful at others. But for a mine mature, wise, and winsome American odyssey by another expatriate, see Mort Rosenblum's excellent Back Home (p. 978).
Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
ISBN: 0060920084
Page count: 324pp
Publisher: Harper & Row
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1989




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