Two Bill Bryson books
Continued from page 1
Neither Here nor There:
"When I told friends in London that I was going to travel around Europe and
write a book about it, they said, 'Oh, you must speak a lot of languages.'
"'Why, no,' I would reply with a certain pride, 'only English,' and they
would look at me as if I were foolish or crazy. But that's the glory of foreign travel, as
far as I am concerned. I don't want to know what people are talking about. I
can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a
country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old
again. You can't read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things
work, you can't even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole
existence becomes a series of interesting guesses."
"When I was twenty I liked Amsterdam--indeed, admired it passionately--for
its openness, its tolerance, its relaxed attitude to dope and sex, and all the other sins
that one can't get enough of at twenty. But I found it oddly wearisome now. The people of
Amsterdam were rather struck with their tradition of tolerance, like people who take up a
political stance and then have to defend it no matter how untenable it gets.
"Because the Dutch have been congratulating themselves on their intelligent
tolerance for all these centuries, it is now impossible for them not to be nobly
accommodating to graffiti and burned-out hippies and dog shit and litter. They may like
dog shit and litter. I hope so, because they've certainly got a lot of it."
"Everything seemed wonderful to me [in Rome], even the monumentally
impassive waiters, even the cab drivers, even the particular cab driver who bilked me out
of the better part of thirty thousand lire--the price he quoted to take me from the
Stazione Termini to my hotel, without bothering to inform me that it was two and a half
blocks away and could be walked in thirty seconds--because he did it with such simplicity
and charm, forgiving my stupidity for letting him do this to me. I was so touched that I
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