Monday, June 03, 2013

Through The Small Towns

If we bother to look, there're always books waiting to be read. I'd get stuck in a reading rut, yes, in that sad zone where no stories seem interesting. But there's no such thing as running out of books to read. Rummaged through the stack of 'unread' and picked up 'The Lost Continent' written by Bill Bryson more than a decade ago.

The story traces Bill Bryson's return from England to Des Moines, Iowa. He sets out on a classic roadtrip in search of a mythical town- Amalgam. The story is filled with lots of experiences Bill Bryson chalks up along the way, hilariously noted down in writing, recording bits of America everyone is familiar with in their own ways.

When you come from Des Moines you either accept the fact without question and settle down with a local girl named Bobbi and get a job at the Firestone Factory and live there for ever and ever, or you spend your adolescence moaning at length about what a dump it is and how you can't wait to get out, and then you settle down with a local girl named Bobbi and get a job at the Firestone factory and live there for ever and ever.

This isn't really a book to educate foreigners about America. I think television did a lot for that. Especially reality tv. Anyway, he wrote it way back in 1989 before reality tv and we only had...I dunno, Days of Our Lives and General Hospital...which are greatly inaccurate portrayals, unlike Scrubs and Grey's Anatomy, and oh CSI. *cue poker face This book touches on the eccentricities of small-town America, which is not unlike small-town everywhere else, and instead hopes to poke fun at Americans in a good-natured way, through his inner voice that is sarcastic and endearing all at once, and tries to portray America in another light. Not sure how I'll feel if I had read the book all those years ago. Probably wouldn't have appreciated the humor. Today, in light of every life experience, the stories in 1989, don't feel all that horrifying, or alien.

Here's an extract on his observation of the little town of Wall, in South Dakota.

It's an awful place, one of the world's biggest tourist traps, but I loved it and I won't have a word said against it. In 1931, a guy named Ted Hustead bought Wall Drug. Buying a drugstore in a town in South Dakota with a population of 300 people at the height of a great depression must be about as stupid a business decision as you can make. But Hustead realized that people driving across places like South Dakota were so delirious with boredom that they would stop and look at almost anything.
I was hugely disappointed to discover that Wall Drug wasn't just an overgrown drugstore as I had always imagined. It was more a mini shopping mall, with about forty little stores selling all kinds of different things - postcards, film, Western wear, jewellery, cowboy boots, food, paintings and endless souvenirs. I bought a very nice kerosene lamp in the shape of Mount Rushmore. The wick and the glass jar that encloses it sprout directly out of George Washington's head. It was made in Japan and the four Presidents have a distinctly oriental slant to their eyes. There were many other gifts and keepsakes of this type, though none quite as beautiful or charming. Sadly, there were no baseball caps with plastic turds on the brim. Wall Drug is a family store, so that sort of thing is right out. It was a pity because this was the last souvenir place I was likely to encounter on the trip. Another dream would have to go unfulfilled.

Non-stop laughter all the way through. Thoroughly enjoyable.


sinlady said...

i'd re-read BB's dictionary of troublesome words when i am in a reading rut. just to stop myself from sliding into st's version of good english :)

imp said...

Totally. The humor revives all sian-ness.

SingaporeMemoryProject said...

Dear Ms,

On behalf of the National Library Board (NLB), we would like to invite you to pledge your blog to the Singapore Memory Project as part of efforts to collect memories that are already manifested in existing online channels.

The Singapore Memory Project (SMP) is a national initiative to collect, preserve and provide access to Singapore’s knowledge materials. Spearheaded by NLB, the SMP aims to build a national collection of content in diverse formats (including print, audio and video), to preserve them in digital form, and make them available for discovery and research.

By pledging your blog to SMP, you are affirming that every memory matters. Whether your posts are an account of your daily life, or an expression of your thoughts, the SMP hopes to find a home for your memories so that it can help build towards an understanding of Singapore. You will also receive a badge that you can display on your blog in recognition of your contributions.

Contributors to this blog pledging initiative will be listed on Singapore Memory portal’s blog pledging webpage. All blogs pledged to SMP will archived using NLB’s web harvesting software, in addition to images of each blog’s landing page.

If you are keen to pledge your blog to SMP, simply fill up our response form at this following URL:

You may find out more about this initiative at

We are looking forward to your contribution.Do also let your fellow bloggers know about this initiative. They can pledge via the URL above.

Simulation Software & Technology (S2T) Pte Ltd
583 Orchard Road #14-02 Forum The Shopping Mall S(238884), Singapore

imp said...

All right, I'll take a look.