Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cannonball Read #52: A Walk In The Woods, by Bill Bryson

WARNING: Bill Bryson will make you snort.

This is how his books came to be passed around our family. You would be sitting around, minding your own business while someone paged through one of his excellent travelogues, and all of a sudden you'd hear this gurgly snort. You'd look up, then go back to whatever you were doing, and then the snort would come again. You'd look at the reader and they'd look back at you, and they'd look like they were going to say something but think better of it, and then when you went back to whatever you were doing, you'd get halfway there and they'd blurt out "okay okay I gotta read you this" and they'd read you the passage and you'd both crack up. And then you called dibs on the book.

Bryson is a travel writer, but that descriptor falls a bit short. He is a keen observer of human greatness as well as human weirdness, and writes beautifully on both. This outing follows his decision to hike the Appalachian Trail, and if you can get through this book and not want to head out to the nearest hiking store to empty your bank account,'re a stronger person than I. Not only is the book stuffed with information about camping, hiking, weather, nature and of course, the Trail itself, but it's illuminated with portraits of the various wizards and weirdos inhabiting the AT. It's a fascinating look at the experience, particularly as viewed through Bryson's experience and that of Katz, his erstwhile hiking partner.

I love Katz. I love Katz because everyone has a Katz. He's the friend that you have that you spend half of your friendship wanting to stab directly in the face, but the other half, you can't even remember where the knives are because you're so busy laughing right from your gut. These are the friends that remind you what humanity is all about. Katz is...epically unsuited for the enterprise of hiking the Appalachian Trail. Bryson was perhaps unprepared for the scale of the AT, but Katz was unprepared for any hiking trip more strenuous than a lap of a small, 80s era mall. There are blowups and tantrums, but I don't think that Bryson's trek would have been the same without Katz; you can see true friendship there, strange and erratic though it may be.

This is a wonderful read, particularly for anyone interested in hiking or the AT itself, but certainly not limited to that audience. I heartily recommend any of Bryson's books, and his travelogues are particularly great beach reading.

397 pages

No comments:

Post a Comment