Bill Bryson said a hundred fascinating things in a wide-ranging conversation at BEA. If you don’t have time to read the entire interview (or if, as I’m assuming, you’re planning to savor every word of it on your commute this evening), please enjoy this quick pleasure: Bryson’s seven most interesting/insightful/funny remarks.
1. On the scary future of print journalism: “These papers in Cleveland and New Orleans going to three-day-a-week productions, it’s just so tragic.”
2. On America’s greatness: “The world is very lucky to have America. It’s got to be the first time in the whole history of the planet that a country has been the dominant force in the world and it has actually been a force for good. . . . America really deserves more credit. It kind of runs the planet but it does it in a really benign and open-minded way. And I think that’s something that we never quite give ourselves enough credit for. And you really see it when you go over and live abroad—you realize that most of what America does is for the good. Very little of what America does is actually bad, and I don’t think it ever does anything anywhere that is intentionally bad. I mean, sometimes we make mistakes and bad judgments and kind of back the wrong regimes and things, but by and large what America does is really good. It kind of defends democracy and capitalism and free trade and all of those things and I think the world is a much better place because of that.”
3. On the appalling 1920s-era racism he uncovered in the course of researching his book: “I knew that blacks were treated poorly in the South, but I didn’t realize that, for instance, the New Yorker would use the word ‘n*gger’ in cartoon captions.”
4. On his British accent: “I wish I could adjust my voice, but it’s just what’s happened to me. It’s because I’ve lived abroad for a long time, and my wife is English and my kids all have English accents and every voice I hear is English. I’ve never intentionally changed my accent at all.”
5. On Britishisms: “I feel kind of fraudulent if I use British expressions. I mean, I never say ‘blimey.’”
6. On baseball: “I can wear a baseball cap, I am entitled to wear a baseball cap, I am genetically pre-disposed to wear a baseball cap, whereas most English people look wrong in a baseball cap.”
7. On items of clothing he feels he shouldn’t wear, as an American: “A kilt, for one thing.”
To read the complete interview, click here!