Sitzmedia: Bill Bryson Quote

This will be my first official contribution to the “Sitzmedia” idea that I mentioned yesterday. I was recently reading the book The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America by Bill Bryson. I liked a few passages that I wanted to share, mainly because they were funny or talked shit about Nebraska. So, I’ll put up the first quote in a moment, but first I wanted to mention something about Bryson.

He’s brilliant.

Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors. I believe–although this belief is not entirely confirmed– that my friend Brad Bonner loaned me one of Bryson’s books when we were exchange students together in Germany ten years ago. Ah yes, 1999. The German air was cool, my head was covered in hair, and a sense of a promising future filled with Eurotrash permeated every aspect of our lives. Basically, we were partying like it was 1999.

Brad loaned me Bryson’s book, and even then it was 10 years old. Neither those 10 years, nor the 10 more that have passed since I first read this book, have diminished its entertainment value in any way. In the book Bryson basically drives around the US in a shitty Corvair, and snarkiness (and excellent writing) ensue. I can thoroughly recommend this book or any other one by Bryson, to anyone who enjoys humorous non-fiction writing. I’ll put up a quote about Columbus today, and tomorrow I’ll put up the aforementioned Nebraska-slamming excerpt. Hope you enjoy:

(From page 147 of “The Lost Continent,” by Bill Bryson):

“It was the Columbus Day weekend and the roads were busy. Columbus has always seemed to me an odd choice of hero for a country that celebrates success as America does because he was such a dismal failure. Consider the facts: he made four long voyages to the Americas, but never once realized that he wasn’t in Asia and never found anything worthwhile. Every other explorer was coming back with exciting new products like potatoes and tobacco and nylon stockings, and all Columbus found to bring home were some puzzled-looking Indians—and he thought they were Japanese. (“Come on, you guys, let’s see a little sumo.”)

“But perhaps Columbus’ most remarkable shortcoming was that he never actually saw the land that was to become the United States. This surprises a lot of people. They imagine him trampling over Florida, saying, “You know, this would make a nice resort.” But in fact his voyages were all spent in the Caribbean and bouncing around the swampy, bug-infested coasts of Central America. If you ask me, the Vikings would make far more worthy heroes for America. For one thing, they did actually discover it. On top of that, the Vikings were manly and drank out of skulls and didn’t take crap from anybody. Now that’s the American way.”

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3 thoughts on “Sitzmedia: Bill Bryson Quote

  1. Bryson kinda reminds me of David Lynch who says this: “I never really knew that it was possible to be an artist in the modern world. I just never figured that you could do that. Forget being the best of anything, that’s the fruit of the action. And you do the work, they say, for the doing, not the fruit. You can never really know how it’s going to turn out in the world, but you know if you enjoy doing it. And ideas start flowing and you start getting excited about stuff. Then you are having a great time in the doing, and that’s what its all about. If you don’t enjoy the doing, then do something else.”

    Great advice, but I think it comes through in Bryson’s work, where he knows he wants to write something, but doesn’t actually worry about what it is until after he’s done everything he wants to, and then the story should fall into place.

  2. Paul,
    That’s a great quote, and great advice. I think you’ve picked up this idea in your movie-making.
    Speaking of Lynch, did you ever see “The Straight Story”? It’s about a guy who rides his lawnmower hundreds of miles to visit his sick brother. A true story. Anyhow, it’s weird, cause it’s Lynch’s least weird film, from what I’ve seen.
    Check it out.

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