Friday, 11 May 2012
Devouring Books: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
That's what this book's about, by the way. Bryson's all like 'ooh, I've just moved to New Hampshire and the AT is right by my house... I should write a book about it' because he has the thought processes of a normal person. Ahem. Deciding to walk the whole thing is a decision that he almost immediately regrets, and so what follows are descriptions of bear attacks, murders and just general bad deaths on the old AT, making one think that maybe, just maybe, this isn't necessarily going to be Bryson's most successful mission ever.
It is a lot of fun though. Made much, MUCH funnier by the inclusion of Bryson's old friend Katz (who apparently also appears in Neither Here Nor There, aka the next Bryson book I'm reading, clearly). And here's why Katz is so great: Bryson is really good at researching things and writing things in a grumpy yet charming way, but he's also fairly polite to strangers. Katz is... much less concerned with social niceties like that, and pretty much just says what's on his mind. He's not outright HORRID to anyone, but he doesn't waste his time being polite to people who he's not really interested in. This may make him not the nicest person in real life, but in terms of reading a book, he's sort of awesome. He's so awesome, in fact, that I managed to forget Bryson's typical writing style of 'here's what I was doing and now some background on the place' (which, by the way, I really like) and started thinking 'why is he telling me all this boring crap? WHERE'S KATZ AND WHAT IS HE DOING?' Seriously. Weird.
So Katz is the real star of the book, but the other one is the Appalachian Trail itself. And what a trail it is. Over 2000 miles of woodland and nature and walking a lot, all the time, whilst carrying everything you might need on your back. In other words, it's the kind of thing that sounds good on paper, but in reality seems like a fucking nightmare, which is something that Bryson comes to realise over the first part of the trail. But still... I kind of want to walk it. The whole thing. Even though I'd almost definitely die or be eaten by a bear or something. It's just another one of those things that makes America so appealing to me- I mean, the entirety of Great Britain (Lands End to John O'Groats) is 814 miles, which doesn't come anywhere close to the AT, which doesn't even stretch down the whole of the East Coast of the US or anything. I just... the scale of America is RIDICULOUS to a teeny island dweller like me, but it's also very very appealing- as is the notion that you could walk across the whole country and see so many different things... Just amazing.
It's official, guys- I heart America.
ANYWAY. This book, it is good. I shant tell you whether or not Bryson and Katz walked the whole of the AT because that would sort of ruin the thing, and besides, it doesn't really matter- it's all about the journey, and the things they learnt along the way. And also about Bryson being able to have a little complain about the growth of small towns and the super short American attention span (my love for America isn't really encouraged by anything Bryson says ever, if I'm completely honest). I have the utmost respect for this book though, for one reason alone- Bryson had the perfect opportunity to mention Dollywood when he was hiking through the Smoky Mountains, and mention it he did. That makes any book a winner in my eyes.
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Aw, look at you saying "horrid" like an English person.ReplyDelete
I will read Bryson. If only because you and others KEEP TALKING ABOUT HIM.
Aww, little island dweller. *pats you* America is indeed giant, which I think we forget sometimes, because airplanes! But then Megs lives in California and I live in Illinois and booo.
Is horrid an English thing? Good to know! I shall stop saying it immediately (not really... poor old England...)Delete
BRYSON IS THE BEST READ HIM NOW!
Indeed this is true- because I just think, 'well, it's not *that* far for Alice and Megs to meet, they live in the same country' only, in fact, it is really really far. Like, waaaay further than I would have to travel to meet someone in the same country as me. Not that I think about yours and Megs lack of physical loveage. Much...
Physical loveage? Oh my.Delete
I have this book and haven't yet read it, but I keep hearing loads and loads of wonderful things about Bryson. Looks like it's time to read him.ReplyDelete
Yay! I was you like before November last year- I literally had like 7 unread Bryson books cause I kept buying them and not reading them. If you want to love him forever, I recommend reading A Short History of Nearly Everything first :)Delete
This was my very first Bryson book - and you're completely right, he's like that uncle that drones on and on and goes on tangents... BUT like his hiking, he always finds his way back on track and proves to be really knowledgeable once you actually pay attention to his ramblings!ReplyDelete
Indeed he does, indeed he does. Although I would never describe him as droning! HeheDelete
Doesn't this book make you want to hike the AT? I mean, before you actually stop and think about what it actually would mean to do that? Even with all his talk about bear attacks and murders and general Deliverance like people?ReplyDelete
Keep going with Bryson! Katz is in Neither Here Nor There less than A Walk in the Woods but he makes the most of his brief time.
Erm, YES! I'm basically like Bill at the beginning of the book, before he does all that research and stuff, even though I've read all the research too. Because apparently I'm a masochist! You and me, Red, let's hike the AT. We can do it!Delete
Also, nooooo, I want more Katz, not less! Now there's a guy who should write a book! (I feel like I'm inadvertently offending Bryson when I say this. But I'm not! Or at least I'm not trying to!)
Oh yeah, Katz totally elevates A Walk in the Woods from a good to great read. I remember that part where he plunges off-trail down a mountain in Maine. I've never attempted even an overnight hike, but I like day-hikes and my dad and I once hiked the part of the trail in Maine where Katz rejoins Bryson after that off-trail detour. My dad and I had our own little adventure there as a fawn barreled down the trail towards us at one point, spooked by an oncoming thunderstorm.ReplyDelete