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I'm a Stranger Here Myself:
In the world of contemporary travel writing, Bill Bryson, the bestselling author of A Walk in the Woods, often emerges as a major contender for King of Crankiness. Granted, he complains well and humorously, but between every line of his travel books you can almost hear the tinny echo: "I wanna go home, I miss my wife."
Happily, I'm a Stranger Here Myself unleashes a new Bryson, more contemplative and less likely to toss daggers. After two decades in England, he's relocated to Hanover, New Hampshire. In this collection (drawn from dispatches for London's Night & Day magazine), he's writing from home, in close proximity to wife and family. We find a happy marriage between humor and reflection as he assesses life both in New England and in the contemporary United States. With the telescopic perspective of one who's stepped out of the American mainstream and come back after 20 years, Bryson aptly holds the mirror up to U.S. culture, capturing its absurdities--such as hotlines for dental floss, the cult of the lawsuit, and strange American injuries such as those sustained from pillows and beds. "In the time it takes you to read this," he writes, "four of my fellow citizens will somehow manage to be wounded by their bedding."
The book also reflects the sweet side of small-town USA, with columns about post-office parties, dining at diners, and Thanksgiving--when the only goal is to "get your stomach into the approximate shape of a beach ball" and be grateful. And grateful we are that the previously peripatetic Bryson has returned to the U.S., turning his eye to this land--while living at home and near his wife. Under her benevolent influence, he entertains through thoughtful insights, not sarcastic stabs. --Melissa Rossi [via]