Bill Bryson

View previous topic View next topic Go down

Bill Bryson

Post  eddie on Fri Nov 11, 2011 11:24 am


Notes from a Small Island- Bill Bryson.

After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson took the decision to move back to the States for a while, to let his kids experience life in another country, to give his wife the chance to shop until 10 p.m. seven nights a week, and, most of all, because he had read the 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, and it was thus clear to him that his people needed him. But before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, Bryson insisted on taking one last trip around Britain, a sort of valedictory tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. His aim was to take stock of the nation's public face and private parts (as it were), and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite, a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy, place names like Farleigh Wallop, Titsey and Shellow Bowells, people who said 'Mustn't grumble', and "Gardeners' Question Time". So in "Notes from a Small Island", Bryson turns a laconic but affectionate eye on his adopted country. Britain will never seem the same again.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: Bill Bryson

Post  eddie on Fri Nov 11, 2011 6:55 pm



Posted on February 18, 2011 by Joy Weese Moll

Book: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Anchor Books
Publication date: 2007, originally 1998
Pages: 394

Summary: In the mid 1990s, Bill Bryson and a friend spent parts of the spring and summer hiking the Appalachian Trail. Somewhere in there, Bryson also found time to research bears (quite extensively), the history of the Trail and many of the places it passes through, and the geology and geography of the Appalachian Mountains. All of this memoir, travelogue, and journalism is mashed together with Bill Bryson’s trademark humor to create an impressive adventure story.

Thoughts: When A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson first came out in 1998, I still entertained a fantasy of maybe walking the Appalachian Trail someday. I read a review in an outdoor magazine of some sort, probably Backpacker or Outside, and learned that Bryson and his friend started this adventure woefully unprepared and didn’t finish. At the time, I didn’t feel that I needed to read a book about a failed attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail.

Many things have changed since 1998, not the least of which is that I’m thirteen years older and hiking the Appalachian Trail is no longer a fantasy. Hiking still has an appeal to me, but sleeping on the ground does not, nor does taking a break of several months from the rest of my life in order to hike every day. Sometime in the intervening years, I read a Bill Bryson book, gave several more as gifts, and always meant to read another. So, when Erin of Erin Reads blog was looking for reading buddies for A Walk in the Woods, I decided that the time was right.

It still bugged me that Bryson and his friend weren’t better prepared for the trip, when it’s so obvious to me how to be as prepared as possible. But, then, that may be why Bryson takes adventures worth writing books about and I don’t. I do things like take a week to write up a three-year plan for hiking the Appalachian Trail (work up to walking an hour a day, start hiking in nearby parks, then do some backpacking in Missouri). Routinely, that plan fails within a month because walking an hour a day is a huge commitment for something that isn’t going to net rewards for several years. I quit and get no closer to Springer Mountain in Georgia, the southern end of the Trail. Maybe there is a happy medium between my three year plan and Bryson’s “yeah, let’s do it!” method that I never found, or maybe there are two types of people — those who plan and those who do.

I share with Erin that the most fascinating moment was Bryson’s visit to Centralia, Pennsylvania, a small town that has been sitting on a burning coal seam for decades. If Bryson weren’t a journalist, I would have thought he was making this stuff up. Erin’s post contains a video from the Discovery Channel about this place.

Appeal: This would, of course, be appealing to anyone planning to hike the Appalachian Trail or anyone interested in backpacking. I wish, now, that I had read it when it first came out. I suspect it would have cured me right then of wanting to do the Appalachian Trail (too long), but I might have done parts of it or investigated alternative trails that I would be more likely to enjoy.

Oddly enough, it has inspired me to do more walking, even though in my current life that means I have the goal of walking Grant’s Trail end-to-end and back again, a total of sixteen miles, completely paved. But I’ve never walked more than ten miles in a day so that would be an achievement for me and something that I can plan and implement this year.

So, read A Walk in the Woods for the humor, the American history and geography, and an inspiration to do something that challenges yourself.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: Bill Bryson

Post  eddie on Fri Nov 11, 2011 7:00 pm



Reviews

'This season's best-selling volume.' Independent. 'Pleasant quirky details...make for enjoyable interludes...admirable.' Sunday Telegraph 'A brilliantly funny and gently insightful travel guide to 16th century England. Bryson is great at picking out of the morass of Elizabethan fact the small details that illuminate and amuse!he also uncovers from the world that surrounded the theatre some fascinating examples of Elizabethan eccentricity!As an abbreviated tour around the world of Shakespeare, this could hardly be bettered.' Sunday Times 'less a biography than a delightful account of Shakespeare's elusiveness -- and the extraordinary lengths people have gone to remedy it!the pairing of Bryson with Shakespeare is a happy one.' TLS 'Bill Bryson jogs along in his own ineffable way, good--humoured, undoctrinaire, nodding respectfully at experts but confidently following his own inclinations!he is shrewd on telling detail.' The Times 'Bill Bryson has always been able to spot a market; and there ought to be a market for his latest book!an accessible, sensible Life of Shakespeare!surely a fine gift for someone encountering Shakespeare for the first time!Bryson is shrewd!and as funny as you'd expect...he sets down all the important bits of evidence, and assesses them in a measured scholarly way. He's good value too.' Daily Telegraph 'Measured, sensible and, at times, as wryly humorous as you'd expect.' Times 'Bryson uses an inimitably light touch and squeezes a vast subject down to manageable proportions!he is a warm and funny guide through the whole complicated morass of Shakespearean scholarship.' Financial Times 'Bill Bryson offers us a brisk summary of all the things we'd like to know, but don't!enough to be absorbed in an entertaining evening.' Daily Mail 'Fascinating!Bryson is the master of digression. Without the asides and witty observations about Shakespearean scholarship, there wouldn't be a book. And that would be a pity.' The Guardian 'Bill Bryson's short biography of Shakespeare is a delight!fresh, concise and!sharply illuminting!Bryson is brilliant at picking out just a few telltale details to paint a bigger picture!a gem of a book, likely to be useful to both beginners and to seasoned Shakespeareans alike.' Mail on Sunday 'A joy from first to last!this is an accessible, exhilarating biography that's shot through with Bryson's trademark humour and irreverence!tremendous.' Time Out Praise for 'A Short History of Nearly Everything': 'A modern classic.' The New York Times 'It represents a wonderful education, and all schools would be better places if it were the core science reader on the curriculum.' Times Literary Supplement Praise for 'The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid': 'Outlandishly and improbably entertaining!inevitably [I] would be reduced to body-racking, tear-inducing, de-couching laughter.' New York Times 'Always witty and sometimes hilarious!wonderfully funny and touching.' Literary Review

Sunday Times
'...brilliantly funny...As an abbreviated tour around the world of Shakespeare, this could hardly be bettered.'

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: Bill Bryson

Post  eddie on Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:15 pm



Review: A Short History of Nearly Everything

by BILL BRYSON (Black Swan, 2004). Reviewed by Islwyn Rees, March 2007.

(NOTE: This review is extracted from a website called "Faith and Science Resource". As the name of the website suggests, its reviewer has an agenda, one not necessarily shared by BB.)

There are a lot of books worth reading to understand the controversy between Creationism and I.D versus Evolutionary science that stormed the public through books, newspapers and Television in 2006. But there are two I found very informative. The first is Logans’ Responding to the Challenge of Evolution, reviewed on this website, and the other is Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. With this book Bryson held number one in the Top Ten of the Best Sellers chart and in the Top Ten for 70 weeks and sold over a million copies (Sunday Times Culture Magazine, 09.01.05). On the back cover we read that it is Bryson’s "quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilisation – how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us. The ultimate eye-opening journey through time and space, revealing the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.” Oxford’s Peter Atkins writes of it being “A travelogue of science, with a witty, engaging, and well informed guide who loves his patch and is desperate to share its delights with us.” Writing on the front cover, John Waller of the Guardian would represent most readers' view that it is “Truly impressive . . . it’s hard to imagine a better rough guide to science.”

A Short History of Nearly Everything is worth reading to catch the overall picture of the development of science but also to get the popular views of scientists on pre-history. It is in his prehistory that we become informed about a side of evolutionary thinking in science that is refreshing to read.

On the beginnings of the universe Bryson introduces us to the idea of ‘singularity,’ an infinitesimal speck of proton invisible to the naked eye. Describing the Big Bang origins of the universe he says on page 28, “In a single blinding pulse, a moment of glory much too swift and expansive for any form of words, the singularity assumes heavenly dimensions, space beyond conception . . .. In less than a minute the universe is a million billion miles across and growing fast. In three minutes . . . we have a universe . . .. And it was all done in about the time it takes to make a sandwich.” Says Bryson on page 31, “It seems impossible that you can get something from nothing, but the fact that once there was nothing and now there is a universe is evident proof that you can.” That is how Bryson presents the thinking of evolutionary scientists about how the universe began – our universe came from nothing in about the time it takes to make a sandwich!

Darwinian evolution is a belief that says the organised universe came from nothing. Bryson tells us it all happened around 15 billion years ago – and now we have our wonderful ordered universe. And then – 4.6 billion years ago the earth got formed. And then – there was life.

That is what Bryson’s book is about, “how we went from there being nothing at all to there being something, and then how little of that something turned into us, and also some of what happened in between and since” (p. 19-20).

There is much in the book that could have been written by Intelligent Design theorists. For instance: “Proteins can’t exist without DNA and DNA has no purpose without proteins. Are we to assume, then, that they arose simultaneously with the purpose of supporting each other? If so: wow.” “As Davies puts it, ‘If everything needs everything else, how did the community of molecules ever arise in the first place?’ It is rather as if all the ingredients in your kitchen somehow got together and baked themselves into a cake – but a cake that could moreover divide when necessary to produce more cakes. It is little wonder that we call it the miracle of life,” says Bryson (p.352-3).

But Bryson’s wonder is saved for time and chance and even ‘luck’. There is no Intelligent Designer behind it all; it is as if inanimate material possesses some creative force, to be able to think about the creation of life, survival and development. He has amino acids conglomerating and discovering improvements. There is no shortage of self-assembly.

So powerful is this material impulse to assemble that some scientists believe that life may be more inevitable than we think, (p.363). Conditions (for life) would be encountered perhaps a million times in every galaxy. On p. 356, he says, “Life emerged so swiftly, in fact, that some authorities think it must have had help – perhaps a good deal of help (this is the nearest Bryson gets to acknowledging the Intelligent Design Theorists!). Although not sharing the same conclusions with the ‘how,’ creationist scientists would agree with Bryson when he says, “Whatever prompted life to begin, it happened just once. That is the most extraordinary fact in biology, perhaps the most extraordinary fact we know” (p.357).

Reflecting evolutionary belief, Bryson says, “everything that has ever lived, plant or animal, dates its beginnings from the same primordial twitch. At some point in an unimaginably distant past some little bag of chemicals fidgeted to life. It absorbed some nutrients, gently pulsed, had a brief existence. This much may have happened before many times. But this ancestral packet did something additional and extraordinary: it cleaved itself and produced an heir. A tiny bundle of genetic material passed from one living entity to another, and has never stopped moving since. It was the moment of creation for us all. Biologists sometimes call it the Big Birth” (p.357-Cool.

Bryson tries to get as near as anyone can to tell us how life began, except, just as no one else can, neither is Bryson able to say how inanimate material ‘fidgeted to life.’ Andrew Billen, in his review of The Ancestor’s Tale in The Times, quotes Richard Dawkins, “the time is now right for speculating on the origin of life. It is still speculation, but it’s far more informed speculation and it's got to the point where you can have serious scientific theories about how life might have originated.” In A Short History of Everything, Bryson is reflecting what he understands are the conclusions of evolutionary science such as Professor Richard Dawkins presents, but as Dawkins admits, it is still speculation.

Quoting, Bryson says, “wherever you go in the world, whatever animal, plant, bug or blob you look at, if it is alive, it will use the same dictionary and know the same code (creationists use that as an argument for Intelligent Design, the same building blocks being used for all life – it really is about interpretation). Quoting another scientist on the oldest marine organism, he reports on p. 359, “It was as basic as life can get – but it was life nevertheless. It propagated. And it eventually led to us.”

(Could it be that what surprised the British science community in the outcome of the MORI Poll that followed the Horizon programme presented on BBC2 on 26 January 2006, and the survey printed in The Guardian on 15 August 2006 titled How Did we Get Here, was due to such revelations that evolution is no more and no less a belief system as any other?).

What is also interesting from the point of the creation/evolution debate is Bryson highlighting the paltriness in the fossil record. Speaking on the shortage of human evidence from several billion humans who have lived since the dawn of time, he is told by the Curator of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, “You could fit it all into the back of a pickup truck if you didn’t mind how much you jumbled everything up” (p. 529). Bryson affirms what Professor Robert Winston admitted in the Radio Times 22-28 March, 2003 speaking on his elaborate BBC programme, Walking with Cavemen: “the fossil evidence on which the evolutionary assumptions are based could easily be fitted into the back of his car” (p.106). On page 15 Winston said, “Inferring the psychology of creatures from a small number of fossilised remains is a matter of considerable conjecture” (p.15).

It all affirms Bryson’s honest reflections on pre-history evolutionary beliefs.

Bryson says, “Museums give the impression that we have a global abundance of dinosaur fossils. In fact, overwhelmingly, museum displays are artificial.” The exhibit dominating the entrance hall of the natural History Museum of London “is made entirely of plaster” (p. 422). "The entrance hall of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, is dominated by an even grandeur tableau: . . . a wonderfully impressive display – the barosaurus rises perhaps 9 metres towards the high ceiling - but also entirely fake . . . . Visit almost any large natural history museum in the world . . . and what will greet you are antique models, not ancient bones. The fact is, we really don’t know a great deal about the dinosaurs” (p. 423).

Commenting on Mary Leakey’s find of a pair of footprints, Bryson says on page 534: “The American museum of Natural history in New York . . . depicts life-sized recreations of a male and a female walking side by side across the ancient African plain.” Although having chimp-like features, their bearing suggests such humanness to be convincing – except he says, “that virtually everything above the footprints is imaginary.” Almost everything about it in shape, size and colour – “is necessarily suppositional.”

Bryson has a way of telling it like it is? After reading Bryson what might the reader think of Professor Dawkins’ imaginations depicted in the ‘500 heavily illustrated pages’ of The Ancestor’s Tale? There is an awful credibility gap between evolutionary fantasy and what we know is reality.

In Bryson we see evolutionists wanting us to fantasise about a time – just one time – far enough in the dim and distant past, when an accident of nature happened – and how we don’t know, but life began just as Bryson has described for us, a reversal of the laws of the universe as we know of them today, the two first laws of thermodynamics as well as the information theory, which says life can only come from life. Despite evidence to the contrary, Bryson relays to us the evolutionary conviction that somehow in the dim and distant past, matter was responsible for creating intelligence, you and me.

Bryson is fascinating and provides an enormous amount of history and science made simple ‘for a rough guide’ in an entertaining way, and when it comes to prehistory and origins, it is worth the reading for his honesty about evolution, even if it appears he believes it. It is nearly 600 pages of very readable, informative and entertaining stuff. As John Waller says, it is ‘truly impressive . . . it’s hard to imagine a better rough guide to science.’

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: Bill Bryson

Post  Sponsored content Today at 2:57 pm


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum