Part II – “It is an environment that wants your dead” – Bryson writes
about his travels through the Australian Outback – 18 Sept 2014
Part III – “Unaccountably overlooked and packed with unappreciated wonders” – is about Aborigines, earth’s oldest culture and stromatolites – earth’s oldest life form – 25 Sept
In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson gives robust insight into Australia’s irresistible appeal. We lose ourselves in Bryson’s sense of humor, stopping momentarily to smile, chuckle and laugh out loud. Commenting on Australia’s “curious sense of disconnectedness,” originally meaning its separation from Great Britain, but stereotypically meaning, well, the place is far away from everything, Bryson says
It is amazingly easy in Australia to forget, or at least to reduce to a dim awareness, that there is a world out there. Australians work hard in their news coverage to overcome the handicap of distance, but even so sometimes around the margins of the news you get a curious sense of disconnectedness — little things that remind you that this is a far, far country. I had noticed, for instance, that Australian newspapers commonly run obituaries, particularly of foreign figures, weeks
and even sometimes months after they die.
Bryson delights us with “Australiana” – facts, figures, observations and anecdotes about the land Down Under. It is the “world’s sixth largest country and its largest island.” It is home to “the largest living thing on earth, the Great Barrier Reef, and the largest monolith, Uluru,” formerly called Ayers Rock.
The people are immensely likable — cheerful, extrovert, quick-witted, and unfailingly obliging. Their cities are safe and clean and nearly always built on water. They have a society that is prosperous, well ordered, and instinctively egalitarian. The food is excellent. The beer is cold. The sun nearly always shines. There is coffee on every corner. Rupert Murdoch no longer lives there. Life doesn’t get much better than this.
Bryson and his pal take the Indian Pacific across much of the land. It is the world’s second longest train ride, after Russia’s Trans-Siberian. It is but one, relatively modest benefit of touring this vast continent.
There is something wonderfully lulling about being stuck for a long spell on a train. It was like being given a preview of what it will be like to be in your eighties. All those things eighty-year-olds appear to enjoy — staring vacantly out windows, dozing in a chair, boring the pants off anyone foolish enough to sit beside them — took on a special treasured meaning for me. This was the life!
There is much to learn about this “beguiling fusion” of America and Britain, two countries Bryson knows intimately
I suppose it helped that I had spent half my life in America and half in Britain, because Australia was such a beguiling fusion of the two. It had a casualness and vivacity—a lack of reserve, a comfortableness with strangers—that felt distinctly American, but hung on a British framework. In their optimism and informality, Australians could pass at a glance for Americans, but they drove on the left, drank tea, played cricket, adorned their public places with statues of Queen Victoria, dressed their children in the sort of school uniforms that only a Britannic people could wear without conspicuous regret.
More about Bryson’s stimulating humor, Australia’s lethal brood of insects, reptiles and plants, the city of Darwin and the outback in the next two installments.
— Tucker Cox – Zeteo Contributing Writer
Amidst the opportunity to travel and visit and sightsee, let us pause a moment to remember those who perished on
9-11 and their surviving loved ones. See NYPD and NYFD personnel and pipers begin a memorial ceremony in NYC (1 minute 50 secs)