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Writer Bill Bryson humors crowd at New York State museum

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Bill Bryson, best selling author, visited the Capital Region on Saturday, Oct. 5. 


By Janie Frank 

Contributing Writer 


As part of the Visiting Writers Series at University at Albany, on Oct. 5, bestselling author Bill Bryson came to Albany to read some passages from his books and talk about his newest novel, “One Summer: America, 1927.” 

The event was held in the packed Clark Auditorium at the New York State Museum. “It really wasn’t that long ago that I did a reading to five people in a Barnes and Noble in Scranton, Pa.” Bryson said.

He went on to explain that of those five, one was the store manager, two were friends of his parents, and the final two guests were a man also named Bill Bryson and his wife. Bryson’s quirky sense of humor shined as he told stories about his life growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, mentioning that his mother was a very forgetful woman who often burned their dinner in the oven.

“We called the kitchen the burns unit,” he said. “It took me years to realize that Saran Wrap was not a chewy glaze that goes on top of all your food.”

Being a man who travels a lot, Bryson is very excited to be in the United States until November. “I will be here for the whole World Series. You have no idea how much that means to me,”

However, he chooses to stay in England for the majority of his time. “I fell for [my wife] and England simultaneously. That was 40 years ago and I’m still with both of them,” he said. He says it is nothing against the United States but that he tends to stay in England out of convenience.

“We come back both to visit and to eat cheeseburgers… and also to write about it,” he said. Bryson read from three different books – Life and TImes of the Thunderbolt Kid, a novel about his childhood, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, about his time hiking with his good friend, Katz, and In a Sunburned Country, about the various interesting and odd facts Bryson learned about Australia.

Although Bryson has been told people are surprised he enjoys doing research for his books, Bryson said, “All I do is the same thing we all do every day of our lives. I find something interesting and tell people… The stuff I want to tell you is what ends up in the book. It’s just accumulating information and sharing it.”

Before leaving, Bryson expressed that he’s not done travelling yet. “There are millions of places I’d love to go… There’s also lots of places I’d love to go but wouldn’t feel comfortable writing about. I very much tease every country I’m writing about. But countries like Kenya, India… There’s a real danger of looking racist, heartless, all those kinds of things,” he said.

For that reason, the author tends to stick with countries that almost everyone is okay with mocking. There is only one country that Bryson won’t write about for a completely different reason. “Nobody will buy a book on Canada. Even Canadians won’t buy a book on Canada,” he said.

The Visiting Writers Series is sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute. For more information about the series and to find out who else will be visitng Albany, call the Writers Institute at (518) 442-5620 or visit www.albany.edu/writers-inst

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