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I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away (Anglais) Broché – 6 juin 2000

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Descriptions du produit


Mail Call

One of the pleasures of living in a small, old-fashioned New England town is that it generally includes a small, old-fashioned post office. Ours is particularly agreeable. It's in an attractive Federal-style brick building, confident but not flashy, that looks like a post office ought to. It even smells nice--a combination of gum adhesive and old central heating turned up a little too high.

The counter employees are always cheerful, helpful and efficient, and pleased to give you an extra piece of tape if it looks as if your envelope flap might peel open. Moreover, post offices here by and large deal only with postal matters. They don't concern themselves with pension payments, car tax, TV licenses, lottery tickets, savings accounts, or any of the hundred and one other things that make a visit to any British post office such a popular, all-day event and provide a fulfilling and reliable diversion for chatty people who enjoy nothing so much as a good long hunt in their purses and handbags for exact change. Here there are never any long lines and you are in and out in minutes.

Best of all, once a year every American post office has a Customer Appreciation Day. Ours was yesterday. I had never heard of this engaging custom, but I was taken with it immediately. The employees had hung up banners, put out a long table with a nice checkered cloth, and laid on a generous spread of doughnuts, pastries, and hot coffee--all of it free.

After twenty years in Britain, this seemed a delightfully improbable notion, the idea of a faceless government bureaucracy thanking me and my fellow townspeople for our patronage, but I was impressed and grateful--and, I must say, it was good to be reminded that postal employees are not just mindless automatons who spend their days mangling letters and whimsically sending my royalty checks to a guy in Vermont named Bill Bubba but rather are dedicated, highly trained individuals who spend their days mangling letters and sending my royalty checks to a guy in Vermont named Bill Bubba.

Anyway, I was won over utterly. Now I would hate for you to think that my loyalty with respect to postal delivery systems can be cheaply bought with a chocolate twirl doughnut and a Styrofoam cup of coffee, but in fact it can. Much as I admire Britain's Royal Mail, it has never once offered me a morning snack, so I have to tell you that as I strolled home from my errand, wiping crumbs from my face, my thoughts toward American life in general and the U.S. Postal Service in particular were pretty incomparably favorable.

But, as nearly always with government services, it couldn't last. When I got home, the day's mail was on the mat. There among the usual copious invitations to acquire new credit cards, save a rain forest, become a life member of the National Incontinence Foundation, add my name (for a small fee) to the Who's Who of People Named Bill in New England, help the National Rifle Association with its Arm-a-Toddler campaign, and the scores of other unsought inducements, special offers, and solicitations that arrive each day at every American home--well, there among this mass was a forlorn and mangled letter that I had sent forty-one days earlier to a friend in California care of his place of employment and that was now being returned to me marked "Insufficient Address--Get Real and Try Again" or words to that effect.

At the sight of this I issued a small, despairing sigh, and not merely because I had just sold the U.S. Postal Service my soul for a doughnut. It happens that I had recently read an article on wordplay in the Smithsonian magazine in which the author asserted that some puckish soul had once sent a letter addressed, with playful ambiguity, to


and it had gotten there after the postal authorities had worked out that it was to be read as "John Underhill, Andover, Mass." (Get it?)

It's a nice story, and I would truly like to believe it, but the fate of my letter to California seemed to suggest a need for caution with regard to the postal service and its sleuthing abilities. The problem with my letter was that I had addressed it to my friend merely "c/o Black Oak Books, Berkeley, California," without a street name or number because I didn't know either. I appreciate that that is not a complete address, but it is a lot more explicit than "Hill John Mass" and anyway Black Oak Books is a Berkeley institution. Anyone who knows the city--and I had assumed in my quaintly naive way that that would include Berkeley postal authorities--would know Black Oak Books. But evidently not. (Goodness knows, incidentally, what my letter had been doing in California for nearly six weeks, though it came back with a nice tan and an urge to get in touch with its inner feelings.)

Now just to give this plaintive tale a little heartwarming perspective, let me tell you that not long before I departed from England, the Royal Mail had brought me, within forty-eight hours of its posting in London, a letter addressed to "Bill Bryson, Writer, Yorkshire Dales," which is a pretty impressive bit of sleuthing. (And never mind that the correspondent was a trifle off his head.)

So here I am, my affections torn between a postal service that never feeds me but can tackle a challenge and one that gives me free tape and prompt service but won't help me out when I can't remember a street name. The lesson to draw from this, of course, is that when you move from one country to another you have to accept that there are some things that are better and some things that are worse, and there is nothing you can do about it. That may not be the profoundest of insights to take away from a morning's outing, but I did get a free doughnut as well, so on balance I guess I'm happy.

Now if you will excuse me I have to drive to Vermont and collect some mail from a Mr. Bubba.

(Some months after this piece was written, I received a letter from England addressed to "Mr. Bill Bryson, Author of 'A Walk in the Woods,' Lives Somewhere in New Hampshire, America." It arrived without comment or emendation just five days after it was mailed. My congratulations to the U.S. Postal Service for an unassailable triumph.)

Revue de presse

"Painfully funny and genuinely insightful...Bryson has never been wittier or more endearing."
--San Francisco Chronicle

"Wonderfully droll...Bryson is unparalleled in his ability to cut a culture off at the knees in a way that is so humorous and so affectionate that those being ridiculed are laughing too hard to take offense."
--The Wall Street Journal

"Bill Bryson makes writing look too easy."
--USA Today

"A cross between de Tocqueville and Dave Barry, Bryson writes about today's America in a way that's both trenchantly observant and pound-on-the-floor, snort-root-beer-out-of-your-nose funny."
--San Francisco Examiner

"Bill Bryson could write an essay about dryer lint or fever reducers and still make us laugh out loud."
--Chicago Sun-Times

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Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 304 pages
  • Editeur : Broadway Books; Édition : Reprint (6 juin 2000)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 076790382X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767903820
  • Dimensions du produit: 13,1 x 1,7 x 20,3 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 40.567 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par OBERTI le 5 octobre 2001
Format: Broché
Coup d'oeil humoristique sur la culture américaine contemporaine vue par un père de famille qui revient aux Etats Unis avec femme et enfants après avoir passé 20 ans en Grande Bretagne. Le choc des cultures à travers la vie quotidienne de celui qui n'a jamais été vraiment Anglais mais qui n'est plus tout à fait Américain. Bonne humeur garantie.
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Amazon.com: 441 commentaires
90 internautes sur 92 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
This Book is a Great Comfort to Foreigners 30 avril 2005
Par Yufen Liu "Taiwan" - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
About two years ago when my husband and I made up our minds to study abroad in the U.S., one of my friends, who have lived in Boston for many years recommended Bill Bryson's I am a Stranger Here Myself to me. She told me this book reflects American life and will help me learn American ways of living. I kept her words in mind, but didn't read this book until it was chosen as our assigned material in a reading class in the U.S. After reading through this book, I realized why my friend suggested me read it. This book is really a great comfort to foreigners, because what Bill Bryson told the readers mostly resonates with what we've encountered in our daily lives in the U.S.

As foreigners, we usually assume that lack of proficiency in the language is the cause of ineffective communication and it puts us in a very awkward situation. However, in the chapter, "What's Cooking," we know that though a native speaker, Bryson is also bewildered by the complicated terminology the server uses to introduce the special dishes in a fancy restaurant. And in "How to Rent a Car," Bryson has a difficult time figuring out the complexly tiered options in the contract just as I did when I rented a car in the U.S. for the first time. Sometime it makes foreigners feel secure and relieved when realizing that a native speaker is in the same boat.

I am so glad that I got the chance to read this book. Not only did I understand more about American customs and culture, but I also benefited greatly from the author's funny expression and vivid description in English. For foreigners, making ourselves acquainted with American ways of thinking and speaking is crucial to dealing with daily events in a foreign country. In my opinion, Bill Bryson plays the role of a spokesperson for Americans as well as foreigners. In his sarcastic but intriguing tone, Bryson candidly points out some ridiculous phenomena in American society. Some may regard him as a grumpy man complaining a lot in his book, but I was fascinated by his unique humor. I sincerely suggest anyone who would like to travel to the U.S. read this book beforehand. This book is of great help to getting a broad outline of the life style in America.
113 internautes sur 117 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Par A. Leung - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
So what's this then? A collection of columns written by Bill Bryson for the British Night & Day magazine, assembled into a book? I was sceptical when I first picked it due to the unfamiliarity here; I thought he was a travel writer. But then I started reading through the first few pages and am delighted to report that they were so entertaining and accessible that I ended up finishing the book very satified.
This book is about America, about consumerism, hypocracy, politics, culture and everything else in between, such as motels and boring interstate highways and the condition of AT&T service these days. Why should all this be so interesting? Because Bill Bryson's voice shines throughout, dissecting normally more complex subjects into bite-sized articles which are eminently readable to the extent that it is at times impossible to stop. Of course, his trademark humour is present too. If you read this in public, there is the risk of embarrassment by your involuntary snorts of laughter.
However, 'I'm a Stranger here Myself' isn't perfect. Much of the book is predictable, and 85% of the time, Bill appears to be complaining. Someone as talented as Bill Bryson should know not to engage in such indulgence because the end result is that the reader occassionally feels frustrated over the ostensible monotony. You also can't help but feel that an assemblage of brief columns is not enough to make a book.
Although this book is not standard Bill Bryson fare, it still manages to excel. It really is exceptionally enlightening, to read what he has to say subsequent to spending 20 years in England. He compares the contrasts between the two nations and questioning so many aspects of life that Americans take for granted, such as driving from shop to shop when they are merely footsteps apart, or the blatant excesses of junk food. Each article (in my edition, Black Swan) covers only five pages so they are very easy to get into.
If you are an American, perhaps you will enjoy this book more than anyone else as you will undoubtedly find it compelling to look into the views of an outsider in the process of 'assimilation'.
'I'm a Strange here Myself' doesn't feel like a book, more like a colelction of columns binded together. If you are willing to accept this, it is an extremely rewarding, insightful and refreshingly diverting read. This is enough to gain a hearty recommendation.
49 internautes sur 56 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Some parts of this book are classic Bryson, others not! 17 janvier 2000
Par Suzanne Amara - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This book, which consists of columns Bryson wrote for an English paper after moving to the US, is a mixed success, in my eyes. Bryson is one of my favorite authors, and some pieces were classic, classic Bryson---so funny you really do laugh out loud for a good long while! I liked best the pieces on pop culture---diners, motels, TV, dieting, etc. However, a few pieces were about subjects you can read about in almost any newspaper editorial any day of the week---government waste and stupidity, how hard tax returns are to prepare, and the overactive legal system, to name some. I found those pieces were not really done as well---they could have been written by any skilled writer and did not have the distinctive Bryson voice. Maybe this is because they were not written for an American audience originally, and maybe those topics are not as overdone in England. Overall I still did like this book a lot, although I think I would have liked better something that was less a collection of thoughts and more a real tale of coming back to America, from a more personal viewpoint.
17 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
No Stranger to Laughter 9 janvier 2002
Par Eric Wilson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
"Oh, what the heck? I liked 'A Walk in the Woods,' so let's see if this is any good."
That was my line of thinking as I checked out this book from my local library. On the way home, I opened the cover (akin to opening a bag of my favorite chips) and sampled a bite. And another. Soon, I was eight chapters into the thing, wiping tears from my eyes to the amusement of my wife and children. Then, the ultimate test: I read a page out loud to my wife. Now I'm not intimating that she has any laughter inhibitions--she'll laugh up a storm within the first minutes of a good comedy flick--but to subject her to oral readings is to watch her mood take a serious downswing. Must be the expectation levels I project. ("Come on, honey, don't you get it? Are you listening?")
Test results: A+
Next thing I knew, I was fighting my wife for moments to gobble down another chapter or two. No kidding. Bill Bryson, in his inimitable manner, adds punch and humor to subjects normally as tastless as...well, as week-old chips. He pinpoints the lunacies in our daily routine, the frustrations of red-tape, and the nostalgia of yesteryear. He makes me wonder why we Americans behave in such ways, then leaves me shaking my head at the idea of living anywhere else.
We're all strangers, in one way or another, in this diverse land of ours. And that's just it...it's our crazy kaleidoscope of ideas and customs that make us the colorful nation we are. I wouldn't trade it for the world. Thanks, Bill, for helping me let off some steam so that I can fall in love with this place all over again.
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Affectionate- he criticises because he cares! 25 décembre 1999
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I am a Bill Bryson reader in England and I would like to say I have read the UK edition of this book and several other Bill Bryson titles, and I think Bill Bryson has done a lot to enhance the image of the USA in Britain, not harm it, and has increased understanding between British and American people. I think Bryson is so popular in America because British people like America so much and so are interested in his commentary of it. I am glad to see most reviews by Americans here are positive, but I think the ones which aren't are missing the real point of what Bryson is trying to do. To begin with I feel that the criticism offered of the USA can constructive, rather than just complaining for the sake of it. Bryson obviously loves America but is saddened by some aspects of it and wants to offer an alternative view of how, in his opinion, the USA could be improved even further. I find that people rarely bother to suggest improvements for countries they don't like because they don't care about them. It's only because Bryson obviously loves America that he cares enough to try and suggest ideas to improve the areas in which he feels the country has lost its way. Also a lot of the criticism is not actually comparing America unfavourably to other countries, but to America as it was before he left it- he's suggesting that some things have improved but others used to be better in the past-there's nothing anti-American about suggesting that some older American ideas and values should have been preserved. I think criticising Bryson for a "phoney accent" is a little unfair- he did live in England for almost two decades and it is well-known that people tend to pick up the speech patterns of those around them, which explains why Bryson may have a sort of American/English hybrid accent. Bryson certainly can be said to love England and be an Anglophile, but that doesn't mean he can't love America too- being patriotic does not mean you have to love your own country so much that you can't be allowed to see anything good or even better in another country, or enjoy living in another country- and remember that much as Bryson loved England, he still moved back to America to live- not something he would have done if he disliked America. This book contains much praise for America as well as criticism and I think it is balanced and fair. Bryson certainly exaggerates some of his experiences but it is obvious when he is doing it and it is just for comic effect, not to be misleading. This book has made me want to visit the USA more, not less. I would suggest US readers try and obtain copies of his excellent book "Notes from a Small Island" about Britain- they will find Bryson offers exactly the same blend of praise- AND CRITICISM!- of Britain as he does of the USA. I found his book on my country to be inspiring- certainly it was nice to read the praise but instead of feeling upset by the criticism I found myself agreeing with most of it and thinking about how Britain might change for the better. It's only through balanced criticsm a country can keep constantly re-evaluating itself and so keep cutting-edge through constant improvements. Bill Bryson is offering the USA his own opinions on how America might be improved because he genuinely loves the country- whether you agree with him or not, I think that's a statement of his confidence in the USA, not his dislike of it! Whether you come from the USA, Britain or elsewhere, buy this book- and enjoy!
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