Sunday, 30 September 2007

'Only if the fucking bricks arrive': why I love Bill Bryson

I didn't know I was such a huge fan of Bill Bryson until I became a member of LibraryThing (a fantastical site that lets you make your own list of favourite books, and then compares and contrasts them with other people's lists, showing you who shares your reading tastes, and what books they've enjoyed that you might relish).

Once you've built your list (you can add 200 books for free; after that you pay) you can click on the 'author cloud' link which analyses your reading list and lets you know what and who you're into. It came as a welcome shock to me to learn that my fave authors are Bill Bryson and JM Coetzee.

Anyway, the reason I love Bryson's books is that they make me laugh out loud. I don't mean a single, muted chuckle - I mean thunderous guffaws, trumpeting snorts, peals of merriment, the spurting of hot coffee through nostrils and, best of all, aftershocks (lasting several hours) of small, pleasurable sniggers.

There are precious few books that still make me laugh out loud. I say 'still', because I remember quite clearly, as a ten-year-old, reading in bed and laughing so hard that my belly cramped and I had to ask my mom for a Milk of Magnesia. Richmal Crompton's William books had me in stitches (who can forget Violet Elizabeth Bott saying "I'll thcream and thcream until I'm thick!"?). I was so entertained by Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking books that I read Pippi in the South Seas a record 17 times in a single year ( "I'm getting frecklier by the day" Pippi says at one point. "Soon I shall be quite irresistible").

Anyway, here are some of my favourite Bryson quotes. They come from memory (and I am probably hopelessly misquoting him), but I am sure you get the idea.

-In one book, Bryson tells of being on a train and sitting opposite a young boy who has his finger up his nose. The boy, Bill tells us, seems to regard his nose as a "mid-face snack dispenser".

- "He had the sort of face that makes you realise God does have a sense of humour."

-In Down Under, which is about Australia, he tells a lovely anecdote about a little four-year-old who is living next door to a house that's being renovated. Every day the little girl goes next door and hangs around a bit, until the builders invite her to 'help' out a bit with the building and have tea with them. At the end of the project, the builders give her a little pay packet containing a few dollars. Her mom, keen to show her the value of saving money, takes the little girl to the bank so she can deposit her dollars in her saving account. "Wow," says this cashier. "You're a clever girl to earn money building a house. Will you be building another house next week?"

"Yes," says the girl. "But only if the fucking bricks arrive."

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meggie said...

I love Bill Bryson too! And it does not do to read him at the local Dr's waiting room. People decide you are totally insane, as well as sick!

angel said...

i'm going to check out "library thing"... you know what a link slut i am...