Wednesday, 18 March 2015

What Shall I Write About (Bill Bryson apparently)

I'm sat at my computer.

This isn't an unusual event for a geek like myself.  Off the top of my head I'd guess that I spend something like 19 hours a week on my computer, playing games, checking emails, watching YouTube videos, all that sort of thing.  Indeed, we have the attic designated as a "computer room", with desks, computers, husks of old PCs and stacks of components that would probably be of use to people if only the component managed to make its way from Location A to Location B, be fitted into another PC, drivers installed, system configuration tweaked, component removed again because it wasn't working, component blown on (because nothing makes a piece of computer hardware work like a momentary breeze of lung-processed air and sputum), replaced, new drivers installed, various forums searched via Google, even resorting to trying the Microsoft Windows Diagnostic software (which as far as I can tell does nothing except display various windows on your computer and taking up sufficient time for you to make a cup of tea) until you discover that the component in question is only compatible with Windows 7 service pack 9 (with hotfix KB18947391734810), and not Windows 7 service pack 10 (with hotfix KB18947391734811) and you end up eBaying the thing, selling it for seven quid and spending nine pounds mailing it to the lucky buyer.

I've recently discovered the works of Bill Bryson, a writer and author.  Many people will be well aware of Bill's work, but I hadn't read any of his material until this week.  I was vaguely aware of Bill as a "travel writer", which I must admit had made me exclude him for consideration when purchasing books - travel writing makes me think of something writing about the delights of some sort of Caribbean or South American resort, the sort of place that I am unlikely to ever visit and therefore have little interest in carrying out homework upon.  I live in northern England, where the weather is variable and the language clear and often heated - my desire to experience a place in which these two characteristics are swapped is limited.

However, I do sustain thoughts of visiting North America, and while those thoughts have not as yet formulated themselves into firm plans of any sort, I do enjoy reading about the USA and Canada.  And so, when in Oxfam Books the other day (a brilliant invention where a charity shop gets rid of all of those clothes that generally take up place, and replaces them with shelf after shelf of literature) I looked at the travel books, I decided to pick up "Notes From A Big Country" by Bill Bryson, using the following complex rules of logic:

1 - I had heard of him.

There were several of his books on the shelves, meaning that either he was quite popular and therefore a good writer, or he had a very good PR machine that meant that people bought his books, then realised that they had made a terrible mistake and gave them to Oxfam.  I'm pleased to report that the former reason seems to be the case.

In this book Bill talks about life in America having newly returned to America after many years living in the UK.  I'm not going to talk about the content of the book in detail (I'll let the pleasure of the content stay hidden until you read it) but suffice to say that Bill is very funny, intelligent, and erudite in his writings.

I shall be returning to Oxfam to see which other pieces of his I can pick up.

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