Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Lost Continent

The thing about it is, when someone sets off with a tank full of gas saying that they are going to travel the continental United States at their own pace in search of something that they haven't really grasped yet and with no real plan, you shouldn't be surprised when they fail to write much worth reading. This was the fourth book of his I've read and unfortunately, I cannot recommend it. This reads more like a private journal than a travel book in that he spends the bulk of the ink griping about how dumb/fat/lazy the people he encounters are and how poorly planned/dirty/crime-ridden/backwoods the towns are. He says very little positive about anything. The worst part of all, is that he fails to get a grasp of the people or places because he was either too pretentious, too rushed, or too lazy to make an attempt. The best example that comes to mind is his treatment of the South. It reads as if he spends about 4 days in the actual South, yet has no problem listing all of its faults -which I suppose he learned while growing up in Des Moines and living abroad for 20 years. To sum it all up, the reader spends more time reading than Bryson did experiencing anything worth the ink and paper. I'm on the brink of two significant road trips, one North and one West, and I would hate to miss something because I went into the trips with no plans or goals in mind. That said, I'm making a list of things I want to take away.

A travel book that I would and have highly recommended is Blue Highways. The biggest difference between the two books, is that Heat-Moon actually gets out of the car and talks to people. Go outside. Experience it.


J. Cook said...

I couldn't agree more. All of Blue Highways is phenomenal, but the chapters about the South are some of the best travel writing I've ever read.

Douglas said...

And Travels With Charley by Steinbeck.