I’m currently listening to an audio version of A Walk in the Woods. It’s my favorite memoir and has been a staple of my reading life since the first time I cracked it open in the late ’90’s.
About a year ago, I heard that Robert Redford was thinking of producing and starring in a film adaptation of the book (costarring Paul Newman, awww), but I haven’t heard anything lately.
I wrote this post in the summer of 2005 and published it on my first blog, which, for inexplicable reasons, was extremely unpopular. The blog only got about 900 hits in the first year (and about 850 of those were mine), so my entries became more and more sporadic until I quit posting altogether. This is one of my better pieces of writing from that unfortunate blog:
I have never been a non-fiction fan, although I do occasionally pick up a memoir and attempt to read it. Memoirs are not totally factual, (otherwise readers would die of boredom) so I enjoy them every once in awhile. I usually read purely for entertainment, and this is why I appreciate Bill Bryson so much. Bryson started out as a travel writer and now he’s branched off into A Short History of Nearly Everything. Quite a leap forward!
Bryson’s travel books ARE memoirs, and they are filled with hilarious anecdotes of his adventures and misadventures as he journeys through America or Britain or wherever he happens to be at the time. I have learned quite a bit from his travel/humor books, especially A Walk in the Woods, which is my personal favorite.
I have a few anecdotes of my own concerning A Walk in the Woods. I purchased a used hardcover copy of it in Wayne’s World (Waynesboro) Pennsylvania at one of the local flea markets in 1998. The flea market’s book selections were abysmal; there were several bodice-rippers, a couple of sorry looking sci-fi books and A Walk in the Woods. Desperate for something to read, and not having much choice in the matter, I purchased the Bryson book with a heavy heart. My reluctance to tackle A Walk in the Woods only lasted about 5 seconds. I was hooked as soon as I read the first couple of pages.
I finished the book in one sitting and was overcome by romantic notions about nature, hiking and especially the Appalachian Trail. Suffused with joyous enthusiasm, I completely forgot Mr. Bryson’s numerous descriptions of how difficult and painful the trail could be. It didn’t matter because the great outdoors was right there, practically at my doorstep. I knew where the trail was! I could be like Mr. Bryson and have my own Appalachian adventure! My (then) husband didn’t need much convincing because he enjoys almost any athletic endeavor, and the kids had to come along because they were kids, so they had no choice in the matter.
All went well for around the first 3 minutes of our first hike, which was close to Wayne’s World. It was beautiful, it was quiet, and the air smelled good. All of that changed when we reached THE MOUNTAIN. It was precipitous and rocky and a complete killer. The trail seemed to be about 2 inches wide. By the time we got to the top, I was feeling less enthusiastic about Mr. Bryson. After a short rest, we scrambled down the other side, and, lo and behold, there was THE BIGGER MOUNTAIN. By the time we reached the top of that, I was starting to think I was a total moron to idealize Mr. Bryson and his silly book. There were several more of these mountain climbing incidents, at the end of which, near total collapse, I swore to myself that I would track down Bill Bryson and pelt him to death with acorns or pinecones or squirrel skeletons some other woodsy material.
Over the next couple of months, we went on several more Appalachian trail expeditions, most of them originating in southern Pennsylvania. For some inexplicable reason, my ex and the girls seemed to enjoy them. I, being the spoiled baby of our little group, became more whiny and out-of-sorts with each successive hike. Eventually, we quit hiking altogether, and I’m pretty sure it was because of my attitude. A couple of months later, my already lame marriage really began to fizzle. Could the Appalachian Trail trips have been partly to blame? If I hadn’t read A Walk in the Woods, I wouldn’t have come up with the brilliant idea of going on these jaunts. If we hadn’t gone, my ex wouldn’t have seen how horrible I really am. If my ex hadn’t seen how horrible I really am…well, you get the picture. This leads me to only one conclusion: Bill Bryson destroyed my marriage!
Here is anecdote #2: In the winter of 2005, my mother was being treated for pneumonia at a community hospital in suburban Denver. She had Alzheimer’s and was becoming progressively more confused. Knowing that she had a very short attention span, I brought my dog-eared copy of A Walk in the Woods to the hospital with me. Older daughter and I read aloud and it was a huge hit! We tried to find the amusing parts (of which there are many), and most of the time Mom paid attention and laughed along with us. I had forgotten how fun that little book really is. Thank you, Mr. Bryson. I forgive you.