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In a Sunburned Country
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Individual Book Discussions > Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country

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message 1: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) In a Sunburned Country So, before I ask specific questions, have any of you read this? What did you think?


message 2: by Kurt (new)

Kurt I absolutely love this book :D Nothing I've read before sums us up better as a people. Sure it's glowing (it's essentially a love letter), but it strikes at many of our cores of life, not just the broad, vain stereotype we're often lumped with. Flips between funny and serious very easily (cricket for the former and that heartbreaking sentence on Indigenous Australian's "I did what every other Australian does. I finished my coffee, rolled up my newspaper and didn't see them anymore".


Murray Gunn (murraygunn) | 211 comments When I write about my travels, I try very hard to not write like Bill Bryson. I generally find his writing condescending and spiteful. This book was my first and I loved it. He genuinely seemed to like Australia and took time to enjoy it. The only downside was that it inspired me to try 3 more of his books before giving up on him.


message 4: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) His books are definitely more about him and his own interpretations of the peoples & places than they are objective. I'm pretty sure I'm done reading him after this. I'd like to discover a different travel writer.

I am glad to hear that his interpretations of Australia were plausible & relevant - it probably is indeed a reflection that he likes y'all.

My first question is easy - he talks about the jargon of ordering coffee - a 'long short black' vs a 'flat white' for example. Translate please!


message 5: by Mandapanda (last edited Jan 14, 2011 03:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mandapanda Cheryl wrote: "His books are definitely more about him and his own interpretations of the peoples & places than they are objective. I'm pretty sure I'm done reading him after this. I'd like to discover a differ..."

Short Black: This is a single shot of espresso.

Long Black: Espresso with water (1/3 espresso 2/3 water). If you want a close approximation of a regular cup ‘o joe, order a long black. It’s equivalent to a Cafe Americano ordered in your local coffeehouse.

Flat White: A flat white is an espresso with steamed milk (about 1/3 espresso, 2/3 milk). The closest approximation in America would be a no foam latte.

So, what if you want a regular cup o’ joe with milk? You order a Long Black with Milk on the Side. This gives you cold milk to add to your long black. Thankfully a latte is a latte and a cappaccino is a cappucino!;)


message 6: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) Oh now I like those choices!

Ok, now at the beginning of Chapter 7 Bryson mocks the early white explorers for not having the sense to tie up their horses at night. But, didn't they have to let them have enough freedom to forage? In the American West I've been given to understand they hobbled the horses, just as Robyn Davidson hobbled her camels in Tracks.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Is this in relation to brumbies that run wild? I don't know the answer. I was just curious as to where the statement came from.


message 8: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) Um, no - he was just saying the horses would wander away and the explorers would waste time and energy getting them back. He didn't mention permanent escapees. (Brumbies is the Aust. equiv. of Mustangs, for any American readers.)


message 9: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) I do have one quote to share, from p 53 of my edition:

"Personally I think Australians ought to be extremely proud that from the most awkwardly unpropitious beginnings, in a remote and challenging place, they created a prosperous and dynamic society.... So what if dear old Gramps was a bit of a sticky-fingered felon in his youth?"


Mandapanda Cheryl wrote: "So what if dear old Gramps was a bit of a sticky-fingered felon in his youth?"..."

In fact Cheryl, Australians suffer from a bit of 'reverse snobbery'. Anyone who has a convict among their ancestors is very proud of it and would not hesitate to boast.;)


message 11: by Velvetink (new) - added it

Velvetink | 136 comments Mandy wrote: "Cheryl wrote: "So what if dear old Gramps was a bit of a sticky-fingered felon in his youth?"..."

In fact Cheryl, Australians suffer from a bit of 'reverse snobbery'. Anyone who has a convict am..."


When I was knee-high having a convict ancestor wasn't spoken about, but these days yes everyone wants one!.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Very true Velvetink, things have changed a lot.

I'm not sure about the proud part though. I'm currently reading That Deadman Dance and feeling pretty humbled by our treatment of Aboriginals through the early settlement period. It's probably better to associate with the convicts who had no choice, rather than the pompous arse settlers who did.


Mandapanda Gail "cyborg" wrote: "I'm not sure about the proud part though. I'm currently reading That Deadman Dance and feeling pretty humbled by our treatment of A..."

I'd be really interested to hear what you think when you finish That Deadman Dance Gail. If you do a review can you post a link in one of our threads?


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I am including it in the Aussie Author challenge. I'll post my review there (or at least a link). I'm almost finished.


message 15: by Cheryl (last edited Jan 19, 2011 10:41AM) (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) Velvetink wrote: "Mandy wrote: "Cheryl wrote: "So what if dear old Gramps was a bit of a sticky-fingered felon in his youth?"..."

In fact Cheryl, Australians suffer from a bit of 'reverse snobbery'. Anyone who has ..."


Yes, Bryson said that in his experience y'all didn't like the convict connection, hence the bit I quoted. Interesting how attitudes change!


message 16: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) Another thing that Bryson talks about is the 'big problem' with the aboriginal people. I hope he was only seeing parts of the picture, and that progress has been made since he visited. What do y'all know about what's happening now?


message 17: by Mandapanda (last edited Jan 19, 2011 02:09PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mandapanda Cheryl wrote: "Another thing that Bryson talks about is the 'big problem' with the aboriginal people. I hope he was only seeing parts of the picture, and that progress has been made since he visited. What do y'..."

Cheryl that is not a question that is easily answered in a few lines. Nor am I the best person to answer it, not being an aboriginal person myself. Aboriginal people are as diverse a group as the rest of Australia's population combined and it is impossible to generalise about their lives today. I would suggest checking out this website which has many useful links. Another resource that I strongly recommend to those wanting to learn about Indigenous history and culture in Australia is the magnificent SBS TV series, First Australians . There are also some book recommendations in the Aboriginal Australia shelf in our group bookshelf.

Needless to say the impact white settlement had on Indigenous Australians was and continues to be profound and often tragic and we as a nation are still struggling to come to terms with what was done and how to fix it.


Murray Gunn (murraygunn) | 211 comments Cheryl wrote: "Yes, Bryson said that in his experience y'all didn't like the convict connection, hence the bit I quoted. Interesting how attitudes change!"

Attitudes to our convict heritage have certainly changed but I think the attitude had changed long before he wrote about it. I remember going to Port Arthur, 30 years, looking for records of my convict ancestor.


message 19: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) Mandy, that evasiveness is what Bryson noted. I don't blame you at all - I'd probably answer similarly if asked about our American attitude toward our indigenous people. I just wonder if any of you, as individuals, encounter Aboriginal people in your school, travels, whatever, or if any of you read any of those books....

I've taught, for example, in schools with a significant percentage of our 'Indians' and one thing I though interesting is that the children didn't even care to note what nation (tribe) they were from. I was as much as told that only a very few children, when they got older, cared to learn anything about their heritage - This attitude contradicted what expected going in, as it prevailed despite all sorts of mandatory 'diversity training' for student teachers and all sorts of books & films, the battles to rename sports' teams to be more 'respectful', etc..... This example is from northwest Wisconsin, btw.


message 20: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) So Murray, did you find anything?


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

This is really too hard to answer Cheryl. There are a lot of good people here that desperately want to help them. There are a lot of good people within their communities that desperatley want to help them. If there was an easy solution to the problems faced by the aboriginal communities they would have been found a long time ago. I walk past aboriginals every day. They sit in a little park out side of the train station I get off at to get to work. If they ask me for money I give it to them, I don't think that helps though. Alcohol, loss of pride, the inability for Europeans and Asians to understand their culture what little there is left of it... I would like to think things have gotten better for them but I don't really know.

I grew up a 5 minute walk away from an aboriginal community. The children went to my school. My parents were amongst the worst racist people I know (and still are). This was typical of the community. The kids got on fine. I'm depressed now.


message 22: by Mandapanda (last edited Jan 20, 2011 05:30PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mandapanda Cheryl wrote: "Mandy, that evasiveness is what Bryson noted. I don't blame you at all - I'd probably answer similarly if asked about our American attitude toward our indigenous people. I just wonder if any of y..."

Actually I don't appreciate that word "evasive". And if Bill Bryson used it I'm sure it was because he was asking intrusive questions to the wrong people. So many foreign travel authors come to Australia and spend their (brief) time interviewing the urban white population about the Aboriginal community which is a cop-out because they're not prepared to go to the Aboriginal people/commumities and ask them. Did he go to any remote communities? There are lots of them. Did he interview a cross section of the Aboriginal population. I doubt it. It's not evasive to say that Aboriginal people are best placed to have an opinion on where they see themselves in the 21st century. It's realistic and respectful.


Murray Gunn (murraygunn) | 211 comments I agree with Mandy that it's not really appropriate for us to discuss indigenous issues without strong representation from that community. I spent a semester studying 'Indigenous Identity and Interests' under an American who had years of experience living in Aboriginal communities, but it always felt wrong that we were discussing the issues amongst white Australians, Americans, Canadians, Fijians, Nepalis and Iranians without ever getting a direct perspective from someone who considered themselves to be indigenous to Australia.


message 24: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 20, 2011 06:54PM) (new)

Cheryl wrote: "Mandy, that evasiveness is what Bryson noted."

I'm with Mandy - I don't think it's evasiveness at all but it's not like there is "an Aboriginal problem" with "a solution". But most people I know have opinions and are willing to discuss the issue if asked intelligent questions - not that any of us necessarily has the right answers. As Mandy said earlier there isn't a single entity that is The Aboriginal Community in which all members think and act the same.

As for your other question - yes I work with Aboriginal people, play sport with Aboriginal people and encounter them in all manner of other ways too and I am in a city. Even among the ones that I know personally they dont'll all feel and act the same about their Aboriginality and what could or should be done to improve the health and welfare of Aboriginal people. Some appluaded the apology that our Prime Minister gave to Aboriginal people a few years ago, some couldn't have cared less. Some supported what is known as 'the intervention' which the previous government introduced in some remote communities to protect & support Aboriginal women and children and some are vehemently opposed to the intervention.

The reality is that with respect to the Aboriginal people here there are social, economic, cultural and political issues that require addressing and a page and a half in a light-hearted travel book hasn't got a hope in heck of scratching the surface.


message 25: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) Thank you all. I hope you understand I didn't mean to be rude. And of course it would be wonderful if we could interview people of Aboriginal heritage directly. I definitely get the impression that Bryson (and I) don't know how to ask the questions - I guess I managed somehow to stimulate y'all into sharing ideas and I really do appreciate it. While it's a bad thing that there such problems with the contrasts of cultures, esp. indigenous vs European, both in America and Australia, in a way it's comforting to know that we're not alone in our struggles to be both more respectful and more compassionate. Imo.


message 26: by gail_nadezna (new)

gail_nadezna (tillieflossie) Is this a new book?


message 27: by Brenda, Aussie Authors Queen (new)

Brenda | 71676 comments Mod
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson published in 2001 Giz.


message 28: by Phrynne, Series Queen! (last edited Aug 29, 2012 02:51AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Phrynne | 12052 comments Mod
I think the best book Bill Bryson wrote was Notes from a Small Island. I grew up in England and he got lots of things spot on! I always find myself laughing out loud with all his books. He has a wicked sense of humour and I don't think I would take most of what he says seriously.


message 29: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I thoroughly enjoyed In a Sunburned country and must look out Notes from a Small Island.


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