Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why is Bill Bryson so funny?

I've read several Bill Bryson books - Notes From a Small County, Neither Here Nor There, Shakespeare, Notes from a Big Country...and enjoyed them all immensely. Well, maybe not the last one, that was just a bunch of columns strung together.

Anyway, I'm now reading A Walk in the Woods, which is an enjoyable, funny account of his attempts to hike the 2,000 mile plus Appalachian Trail. I'm about two-thirds through.

The thing that has struck me is just how often I keep laughing, out loud, at what he writes. Yet, when I look back at what made me laugh, I don't really see why I laughed. It was an easy joke, and sign-posted a mile off, but he just delivers them with perfect timing.

I've read many travel books where the writer tries far too hard to make jokes in every paragraph and it becomes utterly tiresome and you just wish they'd focus on the traveling.

Bryson does it the other way, spending most of his time talking about the travel or the job at hand, and then throwing the jokes in at appropriate moments, meaning most of the jokes hit their targets with enjoyable regularity.

1 comment:

Gary Parkinson said...

Analysis can kill comedy but I've come to believe it's the way he wields an adverb. Often the subtly rhythmic "excitingly" maketh the phrase.

Try his later, meatier (if arguably less focused) books - Short History and At Home. I love them and so do my kids, who laugh as they learn.