Monday 25 September 2017

Travel: The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Random House, €11.99

The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Hilary A White

In the prologue to this hearty volume, Bill Bryson recalls with typical wit a meeting with his publisher.

Pound signs glinted in his eyes as he convinced the US non-fiction Goliath to rediscover the island of Britain on the 20th anniversary of his gargantuan bestseller Notes From a Small Island.

That Bryson was taking British citizenship at the time - via an exam which he details hilariously - was further sign that the time was right.

Bryson could more or less pen a 300-pager about a trip to the supermarket and it would zing with brilliance, so it's surprising absolutely nobody to confirm that … Little Dribbling (here in paperback) is yet another outstanding, laugh-out-loud Bryson travel log.

Perhaps what is most appealing as Bryson gets older is the grouchiness that he is now bringing in alongside his mastery as a researcher and anecdote teller.

Here, there are hoots of fun to be had as he despairs over bad grammar, slouching youths, crappy service and a family trip to McDonald's.

He calls out stupidity and ugliness when he sees. But he is not one of the most loved writers in the world for nothing, and can still sing with wonderment about natural beauty and firecrackers of historical trivia.

Britain, he insists, "cherishes fair play" and this chimes with his approach to his adopted homeland.

Travelling loosely north on what he dubs "the Bryson Line" (an imaginary south-to-north axis that is, by his reckoning, the longest line you can draw through the island), he is simply magnificent company for every step of the way.

A treat.

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