Sunday, October 7, 2007

Week 3, Part 2

My opinion of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods has been usually fairly high. Bill has been trying throughout the book to give the message that the beauties of nature are slowly disappearing thanks to Americans. I think he does a good job of conveying that, but at the same time, he tends to go on and on. The story of hiking with Katz has been both interesting and humorous, and it stops you from putting the book down. At the start of most chapters, Bill will explain a specific topic relating to nature, which he will continue monologuing about until you want to skip ahead. His arguments are always convincing, but I think he needs to know his limits.

Another factor worth noting is that Bryson never censors anything. Katz swears to the point that even Mrs. Wangensteen wouldn't read it aloud (Maybe). I find this somewhat strange, because unlike movies or comic books, the author doesn't need to use annoying bleeps or $*@^%$s: "Katz swore." Perhaps Bill just enjoys surprising the reader. Whatever the case, I find many statements in the book offensive, and I wish Bryson would be slightly more omitting.

Similarly, he goes into the most gruesome details of stories that he read, or simply something that Katz added. This goes to the point at which I will avoid providing an example to keep myself from feeling queazy, at the possible risk of Mr. Hatten docking points.

On a more positive note, Bill has a wonderful sense of humor. He is very witty, and he adds comic relief to moments that would otherwise be very depressing. Humor is definitely what sets this book aside from dozens of other hiking books, and what most likely won the title "New York Times Bestseller."

As reassuring as it is to know that this is non-fiction, I have a hard time picturing many of the events in the book occurring in real life. Examples of this are when Stephen Katz was chased by a "600 pound" man, when he and Bill got a ride stuffed in the back of a drunk couple's car, and when Katz stayed completely calm and casual during the night when a bear was staring in their direction. Although all of these occurrences are certainly possible, the events create an atmosphere similar to Seinfeld.

Overall, A Walk in the Woods is a very balanced and interesting book, and I look forward to continue reading it! I think that it is about to get more interesting, as Bryson just spotted the staring bear eyes that had been waiting on the cover up until now.

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