Monday, April 8, 2013

In Bill's House

Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life, is a fun--though be it wide-ranging--read.  At the onset I deemed the book to be about the developmental-history of the house (and the various rooms), but quickly realized that Bryson was taking me on a tour-de-force through everything from the invention of silverware to the telephone.  For this historical and wide-sweeping range of facts Bryson offers his own house in England as a prop, a house built by an Anglican priest during the Victorian era of self-indulgence.

Other than this . . . like most of Bryson's books (A Walk in the Woods; In a Sunburned Country; I'm a Stranger Here Myself, et al.) the author walks a fine line between history and tongue-in-cheek.  There's ample humor here, but one discovers it under a thick layer of information about bedbugs and surgical procedures as performed in the age before anaesthesia.

There's a great deal of clothing to be worn from reading this book, but no place to hang the hat . . . the subject matter is, indeed, so diverse and incredibly dense that one can easily be reading about life in the 1750's in one paragraph and then, suddenly, leap to the late 1800's and across continents without so much as a lead-in.  

I liked the book . . . but unlike classic Bryson titles (I think I've read his entire corpus) this one doesn't deal with a specific time, place, or people.  It's not so much travel as it is travel through the ages.  Time is the centerpiece here--not geography.

Okay, but thanks, Bill.  I feel like I've lived in your house. I feel like I know you.  Now I'll shelve this book alongside your others, a space I've carved out specifically for your books in my personal library--which is one of the rooms you explore so ably--and I'll make myself a ham sandwich in the kitchen (another of your favorite rooms).  

But then I'll get back to writing my own books.  Enjoyed reading your title in the meantime.  But my head still hurts from exploring your architecture.   

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