I’m a Stranger Here Myself
The humorous contribution, I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson is a collection of his articles from newspapers. Bryson was born in America but shifted to England and lived there for twenty years. Upon returning to America with his family he found the country greatly changed. He has touched a variety of topics in this collection dealing specifically with the American way of life. Themes include, junk food, post offices, the dreaded tax forms, accidents, energy wasting, hiking, President Day and Christmas.
Bryson, in his book, has discussed in detail the American life that he had lived in his youth. He has made detailed comparisons between the American life with life in England. Bryson reminisces about his initial cultural shock upon discovering how much life in America has not only changed but also how totally different it was as compared to his life in Britain. By comparing the customs, culture, traditions, language, media, shopping and food of both countries, Bryson has painted the traditions of both countries in a delightfully humorous way and entertaining way. For instance, speaking of the differences between the postal systems of both the countries, Bryson comments on how the postal employees in America are courteous enough to lend you some extra tape to seal your envelopes and even offer you free doughnuts and coffee on Customer Appreciation Day. Commenting on the difference of ambience, Bryson writes, “It even smells nice–a combination of gum adhesive and old central heating turned up a little too high” (5).
Adopting a conversational tone, Bryson has highlighted serious issues plaguing the American society including environmental destruction and drug laws. Throughout the book there are passages that also inadvertently allow the reader a glimpse at his discomfort at trying to adjust to a differing lifestyle – and that too, one to which he once belonged. Bryson express his feeling by saying, “It is disconcerting to find yourself so simultaneously in your element and out of it” (2).
Bryson has successfully used the typical understating British humor to cheat many smiles from the reader. For instance, commenting on the writing style of Donald Culross Peattie, Bryson observes that he is “a man whose prose is so dry you could use it to mop spills” (139). Although in many places, the writer has expressed his discomfiture repeatedly, it simply highlighted his need to adjust to a society that had undergone total transformation in a short span of a few decades. He has given the full insight into the modern American culture and done so with a humorous grace and elegance of style.
Bryson, Bill. I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America after 20 Years Away. New York: Broadway, 1999.