The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain

The hilarious and loving sequel to a hilarious and loving classic of travel writing: Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson’s valentine to his adopted country of EnglandIn 1995 Bill Bryson got into his car and took a weeks-long farewell motoring trip about England before moving his family back to the United States. The book about that trip, Notes from a Small Island, is up...

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Title:The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain
Author:Bill Bryson
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Edition Language:English

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain Reviews

  • BlackOxford

    Bill Bryson is the stand-up comedian of travel writing. The Road to Little Dribbling is an update on his first act, Notes From a Small Island, of 20 years before. The style of loving sarcasm is the same. With the narrative sense of David Sedaris and the one-liner punch of Jackie Mason, he renews one's faith yet again in the raw wit and humour available in Britain and most importantly the British willingness to apply that wit and humour to themselves. It is impossible t

    Bill Bryson is the stand-up comedian of travel writing. The Road to Little Dribbling is an update on his first act, Notes From a Small Island, of 20 years before. The style of loving sarcasm is the same. With the narrative sense of David Sedaris and the one-liner punch of Jackie Mason, he renews one's faith yet again in the raw wit and humour available in Britain and most importantly the British willingness to apply that wit and humour to themselves. It is impossible to read his explanation of things like the British road numbering system or post code designations without falling in a heap. The throw away lines like "The [ancient humanoid] Happisburgh people were not like modern humans. They weren’t even like John Prescott." demand to be read aloud to one's spouse or any sentient being you happen to be sitting next to on the bus. And make no mistake: Bryson is a Brit writing for the British.

    Bryson and I have been channeling each other since we both fetched up in pre-Thatcherite Britain from America in the early 1970's when houses were cheap, plumbers were bolshie, post offices were in every village and the M25 was yet a distant dream. We share the overly sentimental opinion that Britain reached its peak of societal perfection sometime in 1975 because of these very things. Neither of us could bear to be separated from this island haven. So we found ourselves a couple of NHS nurses in anticipation of old age and settled into a routine of blissful exceptionality that was then afforded to Americans who were forgiven almost any social ineptitude simply because there weren't all that many of them around and they were moderately quaint in a colonial sort of way. Both of us also delayed applying for British citizenship for about 40 years - I suspect because when we first arrived no one was particularly interested in how long we might stay or if we were employed or not. In my case a lovely woman knocked on my door my first week in the country to ask if I would like to be inscribed in the electoral roll. So never having been made to feel like an 'alien' as the Americans say, there didn't seem to be much point in formal citizenship. This was of course before the rise of terrorism...or Donald Trump.

    And our appreciation of Britain follows a similar script: there may be decrepitude in Britain but this is somehow quaint, or at least limited in scope compared with the US. Britain's bucolic beauty is incomparable - never overwhelming but always profound. Britain, unlike the USA, layers its history rather than levelling everything to new foundations, a fact which is apparent whether one is roaming London streets or gazing over a Cotswolds vista. Nothing seems to entirely disappear: the Roman road has become a farm track; the 16th C toll road is now a quiet lane outside one's house, the 18th C post road is the a largely unused A road which has now been superseded by the motorway. Indeed it is a place wherein the centuries blent and blurred as Rupert Brooke claimed. And it is this physical continuity, which is a consequence of what Bryson calls ‘happy accidents’, that is most appreciated by Americans (well at least two of them) and least noticed by cradle-Brits.

    Britain, like its former empire, is an largely unintentional place. It is this apparent un-intentionality that perhaps makes Britain British (or England English if the Scots, Welsh, Cornish, and Irish object). As Bryson knows "The first principle of a British system is that it should only appear systematic." From common law to the common land parks of London, the entire culture is the result of fortuitous muddle rather than programme. Britons take this entirely for granted, but it continues to fascinate Bryson (and me).

    The physical continuity available in Britain certainly fills a cultural lacuna of mine, having grown up in the New York City of Robert Moses, the primary characteristic of which was its periodic mass destruction throughout the 20th c. What worries Bryson is that the very unawareness by the British of this historical treasure is the most significant threat to its continued existence. Britain is, unintentionally but fortunately, a theme park of not just Western but Anglo-Asian, Anglo-African, Anglo-Caribbean and, perhaps disturbingly, Anglo-American culture.

    Disturbing because it is a culture that is vulnerable to the kind of financial power that exists in the hands of modern day moguls who have the resources to destroy it systematically. In a sense it was only the lack of a Donald Trump (or a Robert Moses) which prevented the London Redevelopment Plan of the early 1970’s from destroying the history, as well as most of the charm, of the city. If anything this vulnerability is even more acute in small towns and in the countryside whose aesthetic ecology is always on a knife edge of development by Big Money which is behind the (now post-Brexit questionable) High Speed Rail Line between London and Birmingham and additional runways at either Gatwick or Heathrow. These are properly national not local issues in Britain. This is the serious point of Bryson's wonderfully entertaining book: Britain, especially physical Britain, is too precious to lose accidentally.

  • Rebecca

    Bryson’s funniest book for many years. It meant a lot to me since I am also an American expat in England. I kept recognizing places I’d been and agreeing with the sentiments. Two points of criticism, though: although he moves roughly from southeast to northwest in the country, the stops he makes are pretty arbitrary, and his subjects of mockery are often what you’d call easy targets. Do we really need Bryson’s lead to scorn litterbugs and reality television celebrities? Still, I released m

    Bryson’s funniest book for many years. It meant a lot to me since I am also an American expat in England. I kept recognizing places I’d been and agreeing with the sentiments. Two points of criticism, though: although he moves roughly from southeast to northwest in the country, the stops he makes are pretty arbitrary, and his subjects of mockery are often what you’d call easy targets. Do we really need Bryson’s lead to scorn litterbugs and reality television celebrities? Still, I released many an audible snort of laughter while reading.

  • Diane S ☔

    3.5 What can I say? Bryson fans know exactly what they are getting when they pick up one of his books. A bit of history, information, Bryson's thoughts and feelings on said information and history. A good bit of humor, self-deprecating, ironic and at times laugh out loud funny. A good combination and that has worked well for him for many years. He shares the arcane, the personal and the irreverent. My one piece of advice: If one is ever fortunate to meet this man in person do not go with him to

    3.5 What can I say? Bryson fans know exactly what they are getting when they pick up one of his books. A bit of history, information, Bryson's thoughts and feelings on said information and history. A good bit of humor, self-deprecating, ironic and at times laugh out loud funny. A good combination and that has worked well for him for many years. He shares the arcane, the personal and the irreverent. My one piece of advice: If one is ever fortunate to meet this man in person do not go with him to a McDonald's.

  • Phrynne

    represents himself in this book as a grumpy old man and it is frequently hilarious although occasionally verging on the very edge of political correctness. He's does write incredibly well and I found myself reading passages out loud to anyone who would listen and share it with me. He wanders between laugh out loud funny and information packed passages with ease and maintained this readers interest nearly all the way through. Just a little loss of concentration towards the very end wh

    represents himself in this book as a grumpy old man and it is frequently hilarious although occasionally verging on the very edge of political correctness. He's does write incredibly well and I found myself reading passages out loud to anyone who would listen and share it with me. He wanders between laugh out loud funny and information packed passages with ease and maintained this readers interest nearly all the way through. Just a little loss of concentration towards the very end when the jokes thin out and the information becomes a bit dry and over whelming. As someone who grew up in England I love the way he pokes fun at the English and yet admires them at the same time. I also very much enjoyed the chapters about places I used to know well. Four stars because it is not quite as good as some of his others but it was still a great read!

  • Diane

    Hello, Mr. Bryson! It's been a while. Lovely to hear from you again. I must admit I got overly excited last year when I learned that you were writing your first travel memoir in years, and it was going to be about your adventures in England. I love England! I loved your earlier book about England,

    , and, now that we're chatting, I can honestly say that I've enjoyed all of your books. (Although my favorites are that charming one about Australia and that one on hiking the

    Hello, Mr. Bryson! It's been a while. Lovely to hear from you again. I must admit I got overly excited last year when I learned that you were writing your first travel memoir in years, and it was going to be about your adventures in England. I love England! I loved your earlier book about England,

    , and, now that we're chatting, I can honestly say that I've enjoyed all of your books. (Although my favorites are that charming one about Australia and that one on hiking the Appalachian Trail. Great stuff.)

    Anyhoo, I was so excited about

    that I pre-ordered it and I started reading it as soon as it arrived. It begins with an amusing story of you being hit on the head by a parking barrier (ouch!), and then meeting with your publisher to discuss ideas for your next book. He mentioned it had been 20 years since the publication of

    , and what a spanking good idea it would be to travel around Britain again!

    It was a good idea. You wrote some amusing anecdotes of your travels around England, which made me chuckle. And you tried to go to different places than you had been before, but you did revisit a few spots. I especially enjoyed your stories about the Seven Sisters and Runnymede, and you included interesting details about whatever region you were in and even some current events. Overall it was a delightful read.

    However, and I mean this as kindly as possible, this book was a bit disappointing. Now, please don't get upset, perhaps my expectations were too high, and it's good to remember how difficult it is to write a fantastic travel memoir. But this book just lacked...

    . I finished this weeks ago and since then I have been struggling to put into words why I found it wanting. I wasn't one of those readers who found you too grumpy (although you do seem a little less charitable than in your previous books, but I understand how difficult it is to get older). No, I think my quibbling comes from the content itself. There just wasn't as much

    in this book, the stories weren't as rich. This book was superficial in a way your previous travel memoirs weren't.

    Again, please understand I still enjoy your writing and will likely buy whatever book you write next, whether it's history or another memoir. Happy travels to you, and please be careful you don't bonk your head again.

    Warm wishes from a fellow native Iowan,

    Diane

    "What a joy walking is. All the cares of life, all the hopeless, inept fuckwits that God has strewn along the Bill Bryson Highway of Life, suddenly seem far away and harmless, and the world becomes tranquil and welcoming and good. And to walk with old friends multiplies the pleasure a hundredfold."

  • Louise Culmer

    Bill Bryson's rather peevish follow up to his hugely successful book 'Notes from a Small. Island'. here again he travels around britain (mostly England) visting a variety of places. Some places, he likes, some he has his knife into. For instance, he hasn't a good word to say for Dover, which is odd considering his alleged interest in history. You would think he might at least mention Dover's huge and spectacular castle, or the wonderful museum with its stunning Bronze Age boat, or even the Roman

    Bill Bryson's rather peevish follow up to his hugely successful book 'Notes from a Small. Island'. here again he travels around britain (mostly England) visting a variety of places. Some places, he likes, some he has his knife into. For instance, he hasn't a good word to say for Dover, which is odd considering his alleged interest in history. You would think he might at least mention Dover's huge and spectacular castle, or the wonderful museum with its stunning Bronze Age boat, or even the Roman painted house. But th entire section on Dover is taken up with complaining that some hotel he once had lunch in has closed. On the other hand, he raves about Selbourne in Hampshire (it's nice to know there are some places he likes). Inbetween some amusing observations about the various places he visists is an awful lot of grumbling about food (cost of and difficulty in obtaining). in fact, he generally seems to resent paying for anything (his books evidently haven't brought in as much money as you might think). he dislikes rudeness, but isn't above being rude himself from time to time(he particularly enjoys tormenting young men who work in macondalds). perhaps realising that 'island' implies more than just England, he gives fifteen pages to wales, and actually sixteen to Scotland (much of it taken up, naturally, with conplaints about food and paying for things). there are occasional asides about other countries, he likes sweden, apparently, but dislikes Switzerland (i daresay the Swiss will survive this crushing blow). it is a long time since i read 'Notes from a small. Island' but surely it must have been more amusing than this, to have been so hugely popular?

  • Scott Nicoll

    By far and away Bill Bryson's worst book. It should be called Notes from Southern England. It takes over half the book to get past Birmingham. Wales gets about a chapter, Scotland gets about 10 pages, most of them on a train. The whole thing reads like a half arsed cash in for the 20th anniversary of notes from a small island. Bryson grumbles his way around the South of England, moaning about prices and being as classist as possible. Throw in some casual transphobia and you've got yourself a rea

    By far and away Bill Bryson's worst book. It should be called Notes from Southern England. It takes over half the book to get past Birmingham. Wales gets about a chapter, Scotland gets about 10 pages, most of them on a train. The whole thing reads like a half arsed cash in for the 20th anniversary of notes from a small island. Bryson grumbles his way around the South of England, moaning about prices and being as classist as possible. Throw in some casual transphobia and you've got yourself a real mess of a book. The only reason I gave it two stars is there are a couple of factual diamonds in amongst all the shite. Avoid.

  • Melanie Baker

    Basically?

    But swap in the UK for "cloud".

    I've read all of Bryson's other stuff, far as I recall. I have greatly enjoyed it. I laughed so hard at parts of

    that I could scarcely breathe.

    But this? This is a rambling, crotchety old coot, and not in a good way. There are love poems to verdant landscapes and well-designed museum spaces. But then there are rants against stuff like stupidity that are pretty much complete non sequiturs. There are sections about a single museum lon

    Basically?

    But swap in the UK for "cloud".

    I've read all of Bryson's other stuff, far as I recall. I have greatly enjoyed it. I laughed so hard at parts of

    that I could scarcely breathe.

    But this? This is a rambling, crotchety old coot, and not in a good way. There are love poems to verdant landscapes and well-designed museum spaces. But then there are rants against stuff like stupidity that are pretty much complete non sequiturs. There are sections about a single museum longer than what's devoted to the entirety of Scotland. And I'm no expert on UK geography, but pretty sure the coverage is awfully lopsided. (And really, if you went somewhere where everything was closed or inaccessible, why not leave it out and go elsewhere?)

    Bryson basically hates cars and parking lots, urban development, any town that's not stuck in 1950, being denied a pre-dinner drink, ugly architecture, the public transit experience... There is also a number of uncomfortable and socially unacceptable comments that leave one feeling a lot like the moment after That Uncle just said something appalling at Thanksgiving dinner.

    I might have missed it, but I don't recall any mention of a Little Dribbling. But frankly, you couldn't pay me to go back and look.

  • beentsy

    This was not fun. It was like travelling 'round Great Britain with my rather grumpy father in law who only wants to talk about how good things used to be and how crappy things now are.

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