Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bryson in Australia

Citizen Reader has a book menage (that is to say, online book club/discussion event) kicking off next week. The theme is travel books and up for discussion are two Oceani- related books, In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson and Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz. I had both of these books in my house, so I was quite happy to have an incentive to read them. The Bryson book has been sitting around here so long I had forgotten and picked up the book at the library.

I was quite taken with the Bryson book. He is as much a humorist as he is a travel writer, reminding me of PJ O'Rourke from his Holidays in Hell days. He gets a lot of mileage from the deadly fauna of the region and the Australian nonchalance towards the creatures, aside from crocs which apparently scare the hell out of them as well. The northern part of the country is famous for odd characters and Bryson finds them. Friendly and odd in Queensland, rude and odd in Darwin.

He also makes me want to go to Australia, badly. He paints a picture of a place with friendly people, incredible sights, beautiful cities and nature has to be seen to be believed. I wasn't aware that there are plants in the northern Cape York peninsula that have long been thought extinct. One was found when it was sickening cattle. Contingency has played a part in the natural history of Australia as well. He tells the story of one scientist who stopped for lunch and stumbled upon a fossil that filled in a vital gap in the historical record. Australia is so big and empty that much else is likely still to be found.

Bryson had a lot of time in Australia and that (and the cost of course) is one thing that holds me back from going. I could see myself getting a week there, which would mean I would most likely be spending it in and around Sydney. A great city, from what I can see, but it doesn't seem enough to get me to take the 24 hour plane ride. I would however be keen on a trip to the Great Barrier Reef, as long as my dive boat didn't leave me out there.


Anonymous said...

Really liked that book - Australia fits his writing style. I loved the story about the train across the Nullarbor Desert - as I recall the tracks run for 2,000 miles in a straight line from Melbourne to Perth. That gives you an idea of the scale. Steve

Ruthiella said...

I also read "In a Sunburned Country" for the menage. I think Bill Bryson is hilarious. I have read "The Lost Continent", "Made in America", The Mother Tongue" and "Neither Here nor There". All both funny and informative.

Tripp said...

I have wanted to try Made in America and Mother Tongue. This one has inspired me to do it. Glad to hear you liked them.