Thursday, January 18, 2007

What I'm Listening To

An open letter to Mr. Bill Bryson:


I am a devoted re-reader of your books, travel and linguistic alike, and was gifted for Christmas with several of your audiobooks. I am currently enjoying, for the first time, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.

I must admit to being a bit thrown by some of the more visceral moments in the memoir. The description of a bully's pendulous loogie was particularly awe-inspiring, as was your discussion of masticated food spraying from your Uncle Dee's trach hole, and your consequent dislike of cottage cheese.

But the topper, for me (to date, I'm only on Disc Three), was your evocation of the detritus left in your water-glass by the old man on the next stool at a diner counter.

I was in rush-hour traffic, and the instant you started in I knew what was coming, having gotten a good case of the gags from the Budder kid and Uncle Dee. I rushed my finger to the fast-forward button, but I was transfixed. I could not press it. I got the gags, and still my finger would not hit that button. The gags grew progressively more convulsive, and still I could not stop listening to this ghastly recital. I even threw up in my mouth, just a little bit. In the middle lane of Independence Boulevard.

The point of my mentioning this (oh, please God, let there be a point) is that, when the whole ordeal was over and I was madly chewing Altoids and reflecting, I had to admit: it's a powerful piece of prose that can make you barf in traffic and yet be unable to stop listening.

My hat is off to you sir.

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