Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe
Anyone who has been to Europe -- or just dreamed of going -- will be engaged by the blend of awe and bewilderment that Bill Bryson brings to this uproariously funny memoir of a trip around the Continent. Deciding to get a jump on a budding midlife crisis, he loads a bag with maps and old clothes and sets off to retrace the journey he took as a young backpacker in the 1970s.
Interweaving his comic misadventures from the first trip with the razor-sharp insights of his older self, Bryson wanders through Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Rome, Geneva, Vienna, and other great cities of Europe. With affection and wit he explains why the French are constitutionally incapable of "queuing", why Yugoslavian beer encourages your legs to "go in for a little involuntary moonwalking", and asks: Why didn't the armistice treaty require the Germans to lay down their accordions along with their arms?
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I had high expectations of Bill Bryson. I was expecting a witty and intelligent commentary loaded with depth, philosophy, and style. I was disappointed.
Although brief moments stood out in this book, I don't find him to be an intriguing person. He's a homebody from Iowa that seems to only enjoy himself when he is comfortable, when things are simple, and when there's CNN in every hotel room he goes to.
Most frustratingly, his broad generalizations of places and people in Europe based on a couple bad experiences lack any objectivity that an otherwise intelligent person might have. Everything sucked or everything was awesome.
His flashbacks to his time traveling with Katz were the fun parts, because they seemed the most real to me. But his traveling as a mature adult seemed to cater to a lowest common denominator of broad pop culture intelligence, reinforcing xenophobic stereotypes that the average American has of Europeans, most of which were dead wrong, but probably sell a lot of books.
Review: Neither Here Nor There: Travels in EuropeUser Review - Goodreads
Bill Bryson certainly phoned this one in. But hey, if I were being paid to travel around Europe and write about it, I wouldn't hesitate to do the same. It's not as if this book is terrible, just ...