Friday, 11 May 2012
Devouring Books: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
That's what this book's about, by the way. Bryson's all like 'ooh, I've just moved to New Hampshire and the AT is right by my house... I should write a book about it' because he has the thought processes of a normal person. Ahem. Deciding to walk the whole thing is a decision that he almost immediately regrets, and so what follows are descriptions of bear attacks, murders and just general bad deaths on the old AT, making one think that maybe, just maybe, this isn't necessarily going to be Bryson's most successful mission ever.
It is a lot of fun though. Made much, MUCH funnier by the inclusion of Bryson's old friend Katz (who apparently also appears in Neither Here Nor There, aka the next Bryson book I'm reading, clearly). And here's why Katz is so great: Bryson is really good at researching things and writing things in a grumpy yet charming way, but he's also fairly polite to strangers. Katz is... much less concerned with social niceties like that, and pretty much just says what's on his mind. He's not outright HORRID to anyone, but he doesn't waste his time being polite to people who he's not really interested in. This may make him not the nicest person in real life, but in terms of reading a book, he's sort of awesome. He's so awesome, in fact, that I managed to forget Bryson's typical writing style of 'here's what I was doing and now some background on the place' (which, by the way, I really like) and started thinking 'why is he telling me all this boring crap? WHERE'S KATZ AND WHAT IS HE DOING?' Seriously. Weird.
So Katz is the real star of the book, but the other one is the Appalachian Trail itself. And what a trail it is. Over 2000 miles of woodland and nature and walking a lot, all the time, whilst carrying everything you might need on your back. In other words, it's the kind of thing that sounds good on paper, but in reality seems like a fucking nightmare, which is something that Bryson comes to realise over the first part of the trail. But still... I kind of want to walk it. The whole thing. Even though I'd almost definitely die or be eaten by a bear or something. It's just another one of those things that makes America so appealing to me- I mean, the entirety of Great Britain (Lands End to John O'Groats) is 814 miles, which doesn't come anywhere close to the AT, which doesn't even stretch down the whole of the East Coast of the US or anything. I just... the scale of America is RIDICULOUS to a teeny island dweller like me, but it's also very very appealing- as is the notion that you could walk across the whole country and see so many different things... Just amazing.
It's official, guys- I heart America.
ANYWAY. This book, it is good. I shant tell you whether or not Bryson and Katz walked the whole of the AT because that would sort of ruin the thing, and besides, it doesn't really matter- it's all about the journey, and the things they learnt along the way. And also about Bryson being able to have a little complain about the growth of small towns and the super short American attention span (my love for America isn't really encouraged by anything Bryson says ever, if I'm completely honest). I have the utmost respect for this book though, for one reason alone- Bryson had the perfect opportunity to mention Dollywood when he was hiking through the Smoky Mountains, and mention it he did. That makes any book a winner in my eyes.