In spite of all the xenophobic rants from our "love it or leave it" reviewers, Bryson is not out to bring down the good ole U.S. of A., but only to give to British readers glimpses of America that they don't normally see on reruns of "Law and Order", "The O.C.", or the myriad other American TV imports that are slowly taking over British television. If some of his subjects might upset some of these readers, they need to get over it. The columns, and the book in which the columns were compiled, were NOT meant for them in the first place. The columns that make up this book were written between October 1996 and May 1998 and published in the Mail on Sunday's Night and Day magazine for a primarily British audience. The selling point for this run of articles was that Bryson would be returning to the States after some twenty years in Britain and that the America he would be describing would be seen by the eyes of an American, but an American that had absorbed enough of Britannia to become something of a hybrid. The resulting columns would naturally be informative, witty, and penetrating.
Unfortunately, this goal was only partially successful. Bryson can be a very insightful observer, and his writing style is infectious enough, but now and then it seems that he is neither interested in the subject of which he writes nor is he able to bring the full talent of his art to the task. Both of these weaknesses are apparent in this collection of articles. The subject of his notes run the gamut from the obesity and ignorance of a goodly portion of the American population to the wonders and brilliance of the American landscape. And since these writings were intended for "light" reading there is an attempt to make them humorous. Bryson can be VERY funny when he is not TRYING to be funny; alas, most of the humor in this book is of the contrived type: Bryson acting the dunce for a few cheap laughs. Equally annoying is his way of ending each of his notes, where the reader is to believe that Bryson is bringing his weekly musings to a close because of some outside event like eating dinner, decorating the Christmas tree, or playing catch with his kids, rather than the fact that his word quota has been met.
And since I'm being finicky here, it must be mentioned that ole Bill is triple dipping. First, he writes these 70 odd notes for a weekly periodical; he then incorportes them into this book; and then he incorporates THIS book (minus those Briticisms and British spellings so anathema to the "love it or leave it" crowd) into another book, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, which is intended for an American audience. Not a bad return for some random musings originally intended for British readers passing a lazy weekend.