Bill Bryson (1998) Notes from a Big Country.

In the introduction, Bill Bryson explains to the editor of the Mail on Sunday, who is an old friend, the reasons he can’t write a weekly column for the magazine Night & Day. Notes from a Big Country are a collection of these columns published in the Mail on Sunday, 1996-1998.  It would be the equivalent of me publishing my blog column.

The Big Country Bryson refers to is America. He is a returning citizen taking with him an English wife, Yorkshire, I presume, and English children. He reminds us that America is so insular, nothing really exists outside it. New Hampshire, where he lives, has so little crime, people go on holiday and leave their house unlocked.

We did this too when I was younger. Didn’t bother locking the back or front door. We were only burgled twice. After the first time, we locked the front door. Obviously, we left the back door open in case the burglar never had a key. Then we got gallus and left the front door open too. It’s that old joke, we had nothing much to steal.

In ‘Wide Open Spaces,’ Bryson reminds us about the ‘awfulness of American television’. Expect an advert every six minutes or more drama per advert than drama, and the sheer size of America.

‘Here is another arresting fact not to do with scale. In the past twenty years…the population of the United States, increased by almost exactly the equivalent of a Great Britain.

A remarkable thing about America if you have been living in a smug little place like the UK, is how big and so very empty so much of it is. Consider this: Montana, Wyoming and North and South Dakota have an area twice the size of France, but a population less than that of South London…You can drive for very long periods in New Hampshire and never see anything but trees and mountains—not a house or a hamlet, or quite often, another car.

‘… The curious thing is that nearly all Americans as far as I can tell…think the country is way too crowded.

Even more ominously, there is a growing belief the best way of dealing with this supposed crisis is by expelling most of those not born here. There is an organization whose name escapes me (it may be Dangerously Small-Minded Reactionaries for a Better America).

Bryson was, of course, writing before the rise and fall of the moron’s moron, Trump. I guess that would be another book for American Anglophile. I’m not sure his droll humour would work here. An American President who was helped get elected by Russian bot factories, whose election was greeted with cheers in the Russian White House led by Vladimir Putin. A perennial liar. A rapist. A crook. A coward that feigned injury so he wouldn’t be called to fight in Vietnam. A bankrupt businessman, who mounted an insurrection. A narcissistic psychopath.  This is big Country with a very small mind, ripe for subversion. That worried me and should worry most others. The moron’s moron and his so-called achievements are beyond satire of even a Bryson.

Notes from a Big Country is dated by ‘Events, dear boy, events,’ (as Prime Minister Harold MacMillan answered to a journalist’s question about his greatest challenge). Read on.