The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America

Paperback Black Swan

By (author) Bill Bryson

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  • Publisher: Black Swan
  • Format: Paperback | 384 pages
  • Dimensions: 124mm x 196mm x 24mm | 259g
  • Publication date: 2 January 1999
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0552998087
  • ISBN 13: 9780552998086
  • Sales rank: 9,769

Product description

I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to'. And, as soon as Bill Bryson was old enough, he left. Des Moines couldn't hold him, but it did lure him back. After ten years in England, he returned to the land of his youth, and drove almost 14,000 miles in search of a mythical small town called Amalgam, the kind of trim and sunny place where the films of his youth were set. Instead, his search led him to Anywhere, USA; a lookalike strip of gas stations, motels and hamburger outlets populated by lookalike people with a penchant for synthetic fibres. Travelling around thirty-eight of the lower states - united only in their mind-numbingly dreary uniformity - he discovered a continent that was doubly lost; lost to itself because blighted by greed, pollution, mobile homes and television; lost to him because he had become a stranger in his own land. The Lost Continent is a classic of travel literature - hilariously, stomach-achingly funny, yet tinged with heartache - and the book that first staked Bill Bryson's claim as the most beloved writer of his generation.

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Author information

Bill Bryson is much loved for his bestselling travel books, from The Lost Continent to Down Under, but Notes from a Small Island has earned a particularly special place in the nation's heart (a national poll for World Book Day in 2003 voted it the book that best represents Britain). His acclaimed A Short History of Nearly Everything won the Aventis Prize for Science Books and the Descartes Science Communication Prize. He has now returned to live in the UK with his wife and family. www.billbryson.co.uk

Review quote

"High-spirited... hilarious" Observer "Hilarious... he can be suave, sarcastic and very funny... not your typical travel writer" Sunday Telegraph "Funny as this wonderful book is, it is also a serious indictment of the American way of life and the direction in which it is going... he is genuinely shocked, as we are, by the statistics of affluence, poverty, crime and culture that he drops in hither and thither" Irish Times "A very funny performance, littered with wonderful lines and memorable images" Literary Review

Editorial reviews

An unending barrage of sarcastic commentary - some of it funny, most of it obnoxious - nearly obscures the occasional acute perceptions of America that Bryson peppers throughout this prodigal son's report. After living and travel-writing for more than a decade in England, Bryson, inspired by a trip to his hometown of Des Moines to attend his father's funeral, decided to explore the US. Here, he reports on his recent trip crisscrossing the nation, guffawing and complaining most of the way, visiting mainly small towns and the countryside in between, but also a few cities, most on the East Coast. True to the book's sour spirit, it begins with a disappointment: a visit to Bryson's grandparents' Iowa house, now no longer the happy home of memory but merely a "shack" surrounded by "cheap little houses." Bryson finds solace by buying the Sunday New York Times, though, and points out that it costs 75,000 trees to reproduce: "So what it' our grandchildren have no oxygen lo breath? Fuck'em." Bryson's humor doesn't get much sharper than that, but his eye for American foibles does, as he endures the, to him, dull plains of Nebraska; garishness of Las Vegas; spookiness of the Smoky Mountains; terrors of a Philadelphia slum; overorderliness of the Smithsonian, and onwards. The mailing of America, the violence that pervades the land, the sleazy films that fill the airwaves: these are the sores that shock or amuse his expatriate's eye. But still Bryson finds good here: the simple dignity of Elvis' birthplace in Tupelo, Miss,; the glories of the Grand Canyon; the nostalgic treasures of baseball's spacious Hall of Fame; and, finally, returning lo Des Moines, all that makes this city "friendly and decent and nice." Bryson is a smooth writer, only far too Smug and self-consciously cranky; still, his account is funny al times, insightful at others. But for a mine mature, wise, and winsome American odyssey by another expatriate, see Mort Rosenblum's excellent Back Home (p. 978). (Kirkus Reviews)