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Paperback Neither Here Nor There:: Travels in Europe Book

ISBN: 0380713802

ISBN13: 9780380713806

Neither Here Nor There:: Travels in Europe

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Book Overview

In the early seventies, Bill Bryson backpacked across Europe--in search of enlightenment, beer, and women. He was accompanied by an unforgettable sidekick named Stephen Katz (who will be gloriously familiar to readers of Bryson's A Walk in the Woods). Twenty years later, he decided to retrace his journey. The result is the affectionate and riotously funny Neither Here Nor There.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

with dry/goofball/neurotic humor, this democratically makes fun of all cultures

While Bryson does offer some historical context for the places he travels (especially in relation to WW II), whether you like this book or not depends far more on your sense of humor. There's very little dialogue and almost no social interaction outside of Bryson dealing with travel logistics- getting bus tickets, checking into hotels, ordering dinner. Personally, though, his dry/goofball/neurotic sense of humor made me laugh out loud time after time, and I found myself more surprised during short passages where he was relatively serious than the relentless humor. Only if you're obsessed with political correctness, he may offend you, but he is democratic in his targets, and even pokes fun at himself (for example, describing his temper tantrum in Sweden after having to pay for a failed phone call). Some specific examples include him describing the cow as the perfect pet, a slapstick scene involving the meatballs rolling out of his sandwich ("like sailors abandoning a burning ship"), a woman on the train who "looked as if she hadn't smiled since 1937 and who spent the entire journey watching me as if she had seen my face on a wanted poster", and another train ride when he was "spreading out the map on my knees in its full crinkly glory, to the undisguised irritation of the old lady next to me, who hoomphed her bosom and made exasperated noises every time a corner of paper waggled in her direction."

Almost unbearably funny

Someone once said that you can fake intelligence, but you can't fake wit. Maybe that's why there are so many books...but so few funny ones. I for one think the world needs a lot more funny books. I sometimes get sick of reading analytical nonfiction, sick of reading serious descriptive prose, sick of the things I read always demanding something from me, whether its my earnest attention or my logic and reasoning. Sometimes, I just want to read something that will make me laugh. That's when I'm grateful for Bill Bryson. This guy is hilarious. Forget how cranky and irritable his writing makes him seem, forget his biases, forget that the subjects of his books sometimes seem like little more than loose structures built solely to be ornamented by jokes, forget that his book jackets always mention that he's one of Newsweek's celebrated "boomers," forget all that. Instead, just read his work, and take careful note at the number of times you have trouble breathing due to how hard you're laughing, at the number of times someone asks you if you're okay because they're not quite sure if you--you with the book over there--are laughing or sobbing, at the number of times you almost wake up the sleeping person next to you with your uncontrollable guffawing. This book has little more going in the way of plot than the loose story of Bill Bryson traveling aimlessly around Europe, but it is funny. Hilarious. If you have any sense of humor at all, you will laugh at it, I can almost guarantee it.

No need to get in a fuss-this truly is a hilarious read!

I believe there are more than enough reviews here to decifer whether or not you plan to read this charming, witty and candid book. However, as an Australian raised in both Europe and America, I must heed a warning to those of you who read the negative reviews by Europeans and Asians. DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM!! They obviously lack a sense of humour and the ability to laugh at themselves (unlike Bryson). Bryson can be provincial at times, but he is so charming indeed! One who has traveled for days in a foreign land can understand his exhaustion and frustration and will howl with laughter.Yes, Bryson at times can be brutally honest with his opinion of foreign countries and their inhabitants and culture, but they are HIS OPINIONS and they are frankly FUNNY and quite observant. I suppose those who take offense to his opinions neglected to understand that Bryson is a brazen self critic and will unabashedly admit to his lack of sophistication due to his stereotypical midwestern American upbringing. Please take no notice to the malevolence of the quazi-sensitive and humourless French and Germans who negatively reviewed this charming and engaging work. Give the man a break and give this book a READ...Unless you possess absolutely no sense of humour, you will find it quite enjoyable!

Bill Bryson has an incredible sense of humor

Bill Bryson really made it big in England after the release of 'Notes from a Small Island', which, however isn't his best book. His best would be either 'The Lost Continent' or this book 'Neither Here Nor There'. I very rarely laugh out loud at TV shows or books. Only 'Frasier' on TV and Bill Bryson in books have this capacity to make me laugh relentlessly. 'Neither here Nor There' is Bryson's story of the reenactment of his student-day travels through Europe some twenty years later. He tries to visit all the places that he visited with Katz (yup, he appears in 'Walk in the Woods' too) in the seventies, as well as Norway to see the northern lights. Bryson's descriptions of situations are hilarious, primarily because he is just a normal guy and you can imagine yourself in the same situation, especially if you have visited any of the countries he visits, but even if you haven't, it is still a delight to read. Another great thing about Bill Bryson is that he is not afraid to be politically incorrect, calling France's population 'Insufferably French' to give just one example. He is also happy to insult a place if he feels it deserves it, something which other travel writers can seem reluctant to do. He of course balances out these criticisms with his entusiasm for so many places and you also learn many interesting facts from his stories such as Liechtenstein is the world's largest producer of sausage skins and dentures. Hands up who knew that!!! I can't even begin to do this book justice in my review, all I can say is buy Bill Bryson's books and I promise you will not be dissppointed, they are all a joy to read. Bill seems a lovely guy and, in his words, not mine, 'If he wishes to acknowledge this unsolicited endorsement with a set of luggage or a skiing holiday in the Rockies, let the record show that I am ready to accept it'!!!

I guess you had to be there . . . .

It's interesting to read through the reviews for this book: most of those praising the book either come from Europeans, or else mention "Neither Here Nor There" resonating with their memories of travelling in Europe. The negative reviews all chastise Bryson for being too superficial, or shallow, or racist, or for not 'interacting' properly with the people he meets. What's particularly strange is the number of reviews that praise Bryson's other books, then say this one is not up to his standard. Well, to those who fail to catch the humor here: book a flight to Europe, and see for yourselves. Europeans aren't somehow beyond the possibility of being unintentionally funny, and Bryson is not being an 'ugly American' for pointing out their foibles in very funny ways--witness, for example, his devastatingly funny transliteration of Dutch conversation, or his adventures getting travellers' checks replaced after they've been stolen by a Gypsy girl in Italy.Bryson is also honest. He tells you what he likes, and what he doesn't, and, far from being xenophobic or parochial, he's perfectly willing to change his mind when a place he visits either exceeds or falls short of his expectations. He lavishes praise on the most unlikely of destinations, and avoids the fawning tones of many travel writers who feel somehow obligated to adore every place they visit, especially the most famous ones. All real travellers are familiar with this phenomenon: the most intense joys of travel are most likely to be experienced in the least obvious places, and often at the most inopportune times. Finally, Bryson is simply funny, and this book is too. I hope he comes to Asia next.
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