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26 September 2012

'Down Under' by Bill Bryson I need to visit Australia

I am suspicious of those quotes on book jackets... you know the ones, "riveting", "engaging","best one yet".  I can only think of one occasion when the quote and the name by the quote encouraged me to buy a book.  But never mind that, as to this particular book, the quote said "funny as ever".  I hoped so.  I read the book because it was there.  By there I mean covered in dust under my husband's nightstand.  My son had brought the book from school, certain chapters were required reading (astonished? I was).  The rest of us had not touched it and so it lay.  I vacuumed and dusted and thought "ok, a travel book, why not?"  I don't read travel books unless I'm certain I am going somewhere.  Travel books are not entertaining, I find them slightly pathetic without an actual destination.

Bill Bryson is fortunately in a league of his own.  He travels.  He does not take careful, anal notes.  Instead, he experiences, blunders, learns, discovers and finally makes readers like me laugh out loud in public places.  His dry humor gives the aridity of Australia a good run for its money.  Bill put me in mind of Terry Pratchett's 'Lost Continent' (which is not about Australia).  Any moment I expected to find Death (Terry's DEATH) propping up a dusty bar in the outback Bill was exploring.  There are so many painful, unexpected, horrible ways to die inAustralia and Bill Bryson made me laugh about most of them; Death had to have been around trying to get the joke.

Bill's observations on local idiosyncrasies, politics and cricket give me glimpses of English speaking aliens.  My theory is that given their isolation and red dirt/dust/sand perhaps they are homesick colonizers from Mars.  The result of all this laughing is that now I need to visit Australia.  I need to rent a car with very good climate control.  And I need to try the beer ( yes, I know I live in Germany and beer here is the BEER but Australian beer sounded so good in Bill's book).  I need to vista Uluru and Perth and a crocodile park.  I will carry 'Down Under' with me like a treasure to bury in some desolate beach, provided the local inhabitant of a seashell doesn't kill me first.

Bill Bryson
ISBN: 9780552997034

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