The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America
© 1989 Bill Bryson
When I read The Road to Little Dribbling, full of Bryson complaining and thinking murderously about people who so much as annoyed him, I returned it disappointed. “Bryson’s turned into a real crank,” I thought. The Lost Continent makes me think he’s always been that way, he just hides it better in some books than others.
This book chronicles Bryson’s attempt to apparently re-live his childhood road trips, often following the very routes his father chose to get lost on in those bygone summers. That can only be a beginning, however, because by the end of the book he has visited (or at least zoomed through) all but eight of the 48 states, Hawaii and Alaska being frauds. Although billed as a tour of small-town America, he zooms through several larger cities as well. (One, Los Angeles, is pointedly avoided.) The book consists of Bryson chattering along as he drives, recounting stories of his family’s travel misadventures, complaining about the view (or rarely, admiring it), or venturing into completely irrelevant terrain. When he is not being an utter pill — heaping scorn on any development that is not a 18th century mansion, or raging against locals for being ignorant, too friendly, too suspicious, etc, Bryson can be funny. To an extent he’s funny when attacking people, but it grows obnoxious after a while.
I’m a Stranger Here, Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years, Bill Bryson