I am definitely getting old. I honestly could not tell you, if you put a revolver to my head and asked me politely, if I have ever read In A Sunburned Country before. I just couldn't. I remember several of the vignettes. I remember the general gist of his trip. I remembered that he came and went several times, and that I thought of the expensive airfare. But I marked it "to-read" on Goodreads, and couldn't remember much of the book, and don't remember being anyplace where I read it, don't currently own it, don't remember borrowing it...
I just don't know. It makes me think about the general efficacy of what it means to read a book. Is that what happens to many of the books we read? A decade later you might remember that you've read it? Some general sweeps of plot, an anecdote or two, whether or not you liked it? I remember more from other books. Most of them. Maybe? I'll have to think about this. Have you ever forgotten you've read a book?
Anyhow, it was great, just like whatever echo of my brain misremembers it. Bryson is an awesomely funny and informative writer, and following his trek through Australia is fun, informative, and absolutely makes you want to go there. Fortunately I am in a week, so that's nice for me. I think it's even nice if you're not going there - though he'll make you want to plan a trip. Even if the hoteliers in Darwin are horrible people. He informs you of fun local recent and ancient history - something I wished I found a bit more in The Fatal Shore.
He also, according to my mother-in-law, really gets the Australian people - a great mix of happy-go-lucky, optimistic, fearless, no-worrying relaxation, as well as the sometimes worrying effect this has on their local environment, natives, families, and prospective immigrants. He also talks about an assumption that no one's paying attention to them, of being overlooked. Not sure what I'll find, but it's an interesting thing to ponder. I wonder if someone could do the same for America, or if there isn't really a national identity in a country that large and divided.
"Australia is mostly empty and a long way away. Its population is small and its role in the world consequently peripheral. It doesn't have coups, recklessly overfish, arm disagreeable despots, grow coca in provocative quantities, or throw its weight around in a brash and unseemly manner. It is stable and peaceful and good. It doesn't need watching, and so we don't. But I will tell you this: the loss is entirely ours."