Wednesday, November 10, 2010

At Home - A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

At Home is an encyclopedic compendium of all things domestic - and then some. I wish all my teachers in school had been like Bill Bryson; he can make the most mundane things seem fun and interesting. I mean, really, a tour of his house with an historical explanation of everything therein? No one else could have pulled that off and kept me reading 452 pages until the very end. He is a genius at combining masterful english, thoroughly researched content, and truly clever humour.

"Wyatt was an architect of talent and distinction - under George III he was appointed Surveyor of the Office of Works, in effect official architect to the nation - but a perennial shambles as a human being. He was disorganized, forgetful, perpetually dissolute, and famous for his tremendous benders. One year he missed fifty straight weekly meetings at the Office of Works. His supervision of the office was so poor that one man was discovered to have been on holiday for three years." pg 149

And on the subject of uptight Victorians in regards to dressing . . .

"Inevitably, a sexual dimension became attached to corset wearing. The tone of anticorset literature for women was strikingly similar to the tone of antimasturbation literature for men. By restricting blood flow and compressing organs in the vicinity of the reproductive zone, corsets, it was feared, could lead to a tragic increase in 'amative desires' and possibly even induce involuntary 'voluptuous spasms.' Gradually, clothing fears extended to every part of the body where clothes were worn snugly. Even tight-fitting shoes, it was suggested, could engender some dangerous tingling, if not full-throttled, table rattling spasm. In the worst cases, women could actually be unhinged by their clothing" pg 401

"The one place where there actually was danger from tight corsets was in the development of babies. Many women wore corsets perilously deep into pregnancy, even pulling them tighter to hide for as long as possible the indelicate evidence that they had been party to an unseemly burst of voluptuous spasms." pg 402

Oh my word.


Bill Bryson, you never fail to tickle my funny bone.

I also read and loved A Walk in the Woods and The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid.


Anonymous said...

Imagine I stop by for a visit after....well, far, far too long...and here I find a review of a book that I have a post-it note on my bedside table to pick up sometime soon! So save your copy for next time I see you....pretty please??

By the what you've done to your website...looks awesome!! sis....:)

Trish said...

Yes but of course! My books are your books hon.

Kerry said...

Oh! I've been itching to read this. Of course, I'm itching to read half the books I hear about, but I love Bryson.

food for thought said...

i have this on my kindle, i better get to it quick when i need a good laugh~

Trish said...

Kerry - Bryson is good isn't he? I have some more of his titles waiting on my bookshelf.

Food for thought - yes, this is the kind of book that you could start and stop as the mood hits.

Anonymous said... to get me some Bill...