It’s also the first book by Bill Bryson that I’ve ever read. It came into my hands not through choice but because members of the library reading group that I coordinate requested something by Bill Bryson.
Notes from a Big Country is a collection of Bill’s columns about life in America that appeared in the Mail on Sunday‘s Night & Day Magazine in the late 90s. Despite being twenty years old the topics addressed are still interesting today, things such as the death penalty, Americans driving everywhere instead of walking, the devastating effect of a skunk spraying in your home, the history of diners (they came in prefabricated kits on the back of lorries) and how low key Christmas is in the US compared to here.
Bill Bryson has a wonderful turn of phrase and this quote made me smile in particular: My father, who like all dads sometimes seemed to be practising for a world’s most boring man competition.
I read the book straight through from start to finish because of our looming reading group meeting but I would advise others to dip in and out so that each column can be savoured like a favourite chocolate.
I had another American connection this week when I was congratulated on Twitter for my article in the Washington Post. Unfortunately I had to be honest and admit to never having written for the Washington Post and explain that the article was probably written by my doppelganger, the US sports writer Sally Jenkins. This is the second time I’ve been mistaken for my more famous counterpart. A couple of years ago I was contacted by someone who wanted help with their autobiography following ‘my’ success ghosting Lance Armstong’s It’s Not About the Bike. Perhaps one day the US Sally Jenkins will be mistaken for me!