Top 7 Bill Bryson Quotations

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.'”

photo credit: Bath & North East Somerset Council UK

photo credit: Bath & North East Somerset Council UK

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!


  • julianndimare321

    my Aunty Sienna recently got a year old Jaguar only from working off a home computer… Recommended Reading J­a­m­2­0­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Judy Harders

    The United States is an imperialist nation whose foreign policy is governed by a thirst for oil and the profit seeking of our corporations. That is the most xenophobic and banal statement I have read about this country in years. We destroyed Iraq. There is still damage from Agent Orange in Vietnam (an illegal and monstrous war). We encouraged Iraq to use gas on the Iranians during the Iran/Iraq war. I have no idea how many duly elected leaders we have overthrown in the name of communism during a time when there was no Right Wing dictatorship was torturing its opponents or people who though they were (Chile, Iran, Argentina…). We are far from the best country in the world. His quote makes him sound amazingly ignorant. I could go on, but I just encourage anyone who believes him to read a book about the history of the United States and include slavery and the slaughter of out Native Americans. Really.

    • borrowedladder28

      Actually, Judy, there was no all out ‘slaughter’ of Native Americans. Native American populations died from disease for which they had no immunities. That’s an unfortunate outcome when cultures encounter each other again after being apart for 20,000 years or more. There was no systematic genocide committed by the Europeans no matter how much you want to twist historical facts.

      As for slavery, it was practiced on the African continent long before Africa was being visited by some of the first European traders. The slave trade was also strong in East Africa for both Arab and Indian traders. In fact, the first Spanish and Portuguese traders were initially only searching for gold and spices. They bought slaves from present day states of Togo and Benin and traded them for gold in modern day Ghana.

      • MelMott

        Borrow, are you kidding???

        • borrowedladder28

          Mel, Is the United States a perfect nation? Hell no…still it’s also not the ‘evil empire’. Were some Native Americans forcibly removed from their home territories? Yes, but that’s a far cry from systematic genocide. If you follow archeology then you would know that many Native American people contracted diseases such small pox and cholera that were not present before the arrival of the first European explorers. In fact, it is widely believed that either Cortez or Francisco Pizarro would not have had much success in defeating the Aztec confederation in Southern Mexico or the Incan empire in Peru without the help of disease severely weakening the number of the natives. Also, the Spanish did not particular have a large army. They had to ally themselves with the enemy tribes of these groups in order to win dominance.

          Try reading the following by Charles Mann:

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