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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably one of the funniest books about the U.S.
The first book by Bill Bryson I read was "A walk in the woods", and I could not imagine any book to be funnier and wittier. Then, one day, I saw "The lost continent", bought it, read it - and had to change my opinion. In this book, Iowa-born writer Bryson, who has moved to Great Britain some years ago, becomes homesick, borrows his mother's rusty car...
Published on 31 Jan 2001

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting insight into contemporary America
This book sees Bill Bryson return to his native America after 15 years of living in Britain. He travels through small town America in search of the Main Street of the American dream. Bryson's observations and experiences are both interesting and amusing, and the book is similar in character to his later "Notes from a Small Island". This book is perfect for...
Published on 21 Nov 1998


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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shallow, unremarkable travelogue, 25 Feb 1999
By A Customer
Shallow, unremarkable travelogue that is short on original insight. The humor grows stale after the first few chapters thanks to an over-reliance on a single spiteful undercurrent.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A change of heart, 16 Feb 2010
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After some problems with the post office World of Books made me a very generous offer, which more than made up for all the troubles. I will use again. Bruce Anderson
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars okay, 11 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America (Kindle Edition)
Drags on, gag after gag. gets to be about as boring as the described landscape and endless fat Bermuda shorts wearing Walmart population.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing...., 27 July 2014
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This review is from: The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America (Kindle Edition)
I have read many of Bill Bryson's books and love them, found this one disappointing in comparison considering the potential.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 7 Nov 2014
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B. Rochester "brochester" (Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
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Great
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 28 July 2014
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Husband birthday present - very pleased
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The sort of book for people who like this sort of book, 2 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Bill Bryson is an unpleasant little curmudgeon, and it shows all over this book. When he comes home from England and decides to drive around his native country, he is shocked - shocked! - to find that:
A) The distances are long and a lot of them are boring. B) Poor people don't live in quaint little cottages, but in distasteful trailers, and their dress sense isn't always the greatest. C) People who cater to tourists like to make money, and some of their advertising claims are inflated.
Bryson's livestock mentality toward women is a dead giveaway of the Midwestern upbringing he tries so hard to put behind him. Oh, and what is up with his love of pricey boutiques? He always approves when he finds a town that has converted itself into an upscale tourist mall (Warm Springs, Ga. for one). Evidently tourist traps are fine as long as they're tasteful and expensive. This is the kind of predictable America-bashing that Brits and Europeans love (which is fine - nobody's asking them to come here). It gets boring pretty fast, especially since some of his rants are practically verbatim copies of one another: he drives into a town with an ugly strip, eats some bad food, goes back to a saggy motel bed and watches some cheesy TV. Every so often he adds a run-in with a rude waitress or a big mean RV for levity. Whee!
It's hard to understand why Bryson went on this trip if he knew from the start what he would find. In fact, you have to wonder whether he really bothered to do all that driving. He could just as easily have written all this from some cozy armchair without ever having to leave England. Bill, take up a hobby or something. I hear tae-bo is great for the endorphins.
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11 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Something went wrong with this book, 2 Jan 2005
I don't think this one should have got past the editor. I like BB's style of writing normally, but in this book he comes across as the most awful snob.
He looks down on people because of the way they speak, he sneers at people who don't know who Thomas Hardy is, he seems to resent people because they are fat, poor, uneducated. Its all too easy. I expected more thought and less malice from Bryson.
If you're looking for a good read try "Down Under" or "A Walk in the Woods" instead.
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7 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars American Caustic, 1 Oct 1998
By A Customer
This is the sort of book that prompts one to ask, "what is the purpose of travel writing?"
Should it inform us about places we will never go and people we will never meet? Amaze us with tales of grandeur and exotica? Must travel writers seek out and celebrate the remaining pockets of difference and distinction in a world all too quickly tending toward homogeneity? Or should they seek to unite us, teasing out threads of common human experience from beneath the misunderstanding and fear that so often blanket us when we contemplate The Other.
Of course, good travel writing -- from the journeys of Herodotus in a Mediterranean-centered world to Eric Newby high in the Hindu Kush or Redmond O'Hanlon deep in Borneo -- does all of these things, and entertains us in the process.
Not, alas, Bill Bryson -- his highest aim is to entertain, and this he manages to do roughly on the level of an extended fart joke.
In this book, Mr Bryson - an American who lives in England - goes on a car journey across the continental United States. He travels alone, staying in motels and eating in restaurants. Some evenings he finds a comfortable bed or an acceptable meal. These times, he is happy and he says nice things.
Much more often, however, Bill Bryson isn't happy. He dislikes the big cities, which he finds very big. He also dislikes the small towns, yes, for their smallness. He despises equally the conveniences of tourist towns and the inconvenience of towns that do not cater to tourists. He finds the East is too industrial, the West too cold and empty; the South is unpleasantly hot; there is too much corn in Iowa. On and on he goes. Everywhere, he finds stupid people.
When Bill Bryson is unhappy, which is most of the time, he vents his spleen on whatever town or city happens to disappoint him. Occasionally, his invective is amusing; more often, it is predictable and juvenile. A sample of the Bryson wit, picked more or less at random: "... his name wasn't Mr Toerag, of course. It was Mr Superdickhead."
As a humorist, Bill Bryson specialises in easy targets. Overweight Americans are particular favourites, as are those with regional accents. Here is a conversation between Mr Bryson and a Mississippi police officer, both of whom are in their cars, stopped at a stoplight:
... he said, "How yew doin'?" This so surprised me that I answered, in a cracking voice, "Pardon?" "I said how yew doin'?"
Bryson responds that he is fine, and the officer asks if he is on vacation.
"Yup." "Hah doo lack Miss Hippy?" "Pardon?" "I say, `Hah doo lack Miss Hippy?'" I was quietly distressed. The man was armed and Southern and I couldn't understand a word he was saying to me. "I'm sorry," I said, "I'm kind of slow, and I don't understand what you're saying." "I say" - and he repeated it more carefully - "how doo yew lack Mississippi?" It dawned on me. "Oh! I like it fine! I like it heaps! I think it's wonderful. The people are so friendly and helpful." I wanted to add that I had been there for an hour and hadn't been shot at once, but the light changed and he was gone, and I sighed and thought, "Thank you, Jesus."
So Bryson escapes from his brush with the law, but not from his stereotype of the South (or from any of the many other stereotypes of Americans). The above conversation, almost the longest in the book, is one of the few times Bryson talks to someone who isn't a waitress (another group he delights in mocking).
Perhaps we should feel pity for Bill Bryson as he drives around America, completely failing to engage with its people or to penetrate beyond the its service industries and, occassionally, museums. But he gives us very little reason to do so. Bill Bryson appears no deeper than his own shallow lampooning.
For a part of this book, Bryson is retracing the family vacations of his childhood. But in bringing these earlier adventures to life, he relies on more of the two-dimensional caricaturing that so fails to animate the rest of the book: his mother, says Bryson, spoke only to feed the family ("Another sandwich, dear?"). His father, more fully characterised, manages to be both the most interesting and the most sympathetic person in the book. Every summer, it seems, Bryson senior would load his wife and children into the car and drive off across the continent in search of history, beauty or adventure.
Although rudely depicted by his son as a skinflint, barely able to read a map, Bill Bryson's father appears to have been a man who was passionate about his country. In one scene, he is described spending an entire afternoon pacing off troop movements on some historic battlefield (much to the boredom of his son, of course). And, we are told, he frequently engaged in long, involved conversations with the strangers he happened to meet. Bryson senior was, in other words, a pretty good traveller.
Too bad he didn't write a book.
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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It's a fine line..., 3 July 2001
By A Customer
I have to agree with the other reviewers on this one. Bryson has made a living out of wringing humour from everyday situations, and I've enjoyed the low key nature of his other works enormously. But this time it was as if he simply didn't have enough material: it was simply TOO bland. Nothing happens, then he drives on and nothing happens again. Do yourself a favour and choose 'A Walk in the Woods' or 'Down Under' instead.
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