Compared to his Australian excursions, Bill Bryson had it easy on the Appalachian Trail. Nonetheless, Bryson has on serveral occasions embarked on seemingly endless flights bound for a land where Little Debbies are scarce but insects are abundant (up to 220,000 species of them), not to mention the crodiles.
Taking readers on a rollicking ride far beyond packaged-tour routes, IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY introduces a country where interesting things happen all the time, from a Prime Minister who was lost at sea while swimming at a Victoria beach to Japanese cult members who managed to set off an atomic bomb unnoticed on their 500,000-acre property. Leaving no Vegemite unsavored, readers will accompany Bryson as he dodges jellyfish while learning to surf at Bondi Beach, discovers a fish that can climb trees, dehydrates in deserts where the temperatures leap to 140 degrees, and tells the true story of the rejected Danish architect who designed the Sydney Opera House.
Published just in time for the Olympics, IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY provides a singularly intriguing, wonderfully wacky take on a glorious, adventure-filled locale.
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Bill Bryson follows his Appalachian amble, A Walk in the Woods, with the story of his exploits in Australia, where A-bombs go off unnoticed, prime ministers disappear into the surf, and cheery citizens coexist with the world's deadliest creatures: toxic caterpillars, aggressive seashells, crocodiles, sharks, snakes, and the deadliest of them all, the dreaded box jellyfish. And that's just the beginning, as Bryson treks through sunbaked deserts and up endless coastlines, crisscrossing the "under-discovered" Down Under in search of all things interesting.
Bryson, who could make a pile of dirt compelling--and yes, Australia is mostly dirt--finds no shortage of curiosities. When he isn't dodging Portuguese man-of-wars or considering the virtues of the remarkable platypus, he visits southwest Gippsland, home of the world's largest earthworms (up to 12 feet in length). He discovers that Australia, which began nationhood as a prison, contains the longest straight stretch of railroad track in the world (297 miles), as well as the world's largest monolith (the majestic Uluru) and largest living thing (the Great Barrier Reef). He finds ridiculous place names: "Mullumbimby Ewylamartup, Jiggalong, and the supremely satisfying Tittybong," and manages to catch a cricket game on the radio, which is like
listening to two men sitting in a rowboat on a large, placid lake on a day when the fish aren't biting; it's like having a nap without losing consciousness. It actually helps not to know quite what's going on. In such a rarefied world of contentment and inactivity, comprehension would become a distraction.
"You see," Bryson observes, "Australia is an interesting place. It truly is. And that really is all I'm saying." Of course, Bryson--who is as much a travel writer here as a humorist, naturalist, and historian--says much more, and does so with generous amounts of wit and hilarity. Australia may be "mostly empty and a long way away," but it's a little closer now. --Rob McDonaldFrom the Back Cover:
"What the indefatigable, keenly observant Bryson did a few years back for the Applachian Trail with A Walk in the Woods... he does now for the generally undiscovered land Down Under."
— Chicago Tribune
"Vastly entertaining... If there is one book with which to get oriented before departure or en route to Australia, this is it."
— New York Times
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