A Walk in the Woods (Unabridged edition)
|A Walk in the Woods|
|Publisher||Chivers Audio Books|
|Publication||November 1, 2001|
|Dimensions||7.2 x 7.1 x 1.5 inches|
|Formats||School & Library Binding, Paperback, Mass Market Paperback, Audio, CD, Audiobook, Unabridged, Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged|
The longest continuous footpath in the world, the Appalachian Trail, stretches along the East Coast of the United States through some of the most arresting landscapes in America. In the company of a friend, Bill Bryson sets off to hike 2,200 miles of remote mountain wilderness filled with bears, rattle-snakes and poisonous plants. Facing savage weather and unreliable maps, Bryson gamely struggles through the wilderness to achieve a lifetime's ambition -- not to die outdoors.
Your initial reaction to Bill Bryson's reading of A Walk in the Woods may well be "Egads! What a bore!" But by sentence three or four, his clearly articulated, slightly adenoidal, British/American-accented speech pattern begins to grow on you and becomes quite engaging. You immediately get a hint of the humor that lies ahead, such as one of the innumerable reasons he longed to walk as many of the 2,100 miles of the Appalachian Trail as he could. "It would get me fit after years of waddlesome sloth" is delivered with glorious deadpan flair. By the time our storyteller recounts his trip to the Dartmouth Co-op, suffering serious sticker shock over equipment prices, you'll be hooked. When Bryson speaks for the many Americans he encounters along the way--in various shops, restaurants, airports, and along the trail--he launches into his American accent, which is whiny and full of hard r's. And his southern intonations are a hoot. He's even got a special voice used exclusively when speaking for his somewhat surprising trail partner, Katz. In the 25 years since their school days together, Katz has put on quite a bit of weight. In fact, "he brought to mind Orson Welles after a very bad night. He was limping a little and breathing harder than one ought to after a walk of 20 yards." Katz often speaks in monosyllables, and Bryson brings his limited vocabulary humorously to life. One of Katz's more memorable utterings is "flung," as in flung most of his provisions over the cliff because they were too heavy to carry any farther. The author has thoroughly researched the history and the making of the Appalachian Trail. Bryson describes the destruction of many parts of the forest and warns of the continuing perils (both natural and man-made) the Trail faces. He speaks of the natural beauty and splendor as he and Katz pass through, and he recalls clearly the serious dangers the two face during their time together on the trail. So, A Walk in the Woods is not simply an out-of-shape, middle-aged man's desire to prove that he can still accomplish a major physical task; it's also a plea for the conservation of America's last wilderness. Bryson's telling is a knee-slapping, laugh-out-loud funny trek through the woods, with a touch of science and history thrown in for good measure. (Running time: 360 minutes, four cassettes) --Colleen Preston --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Returning to the U.S. after 20 years in England, Iowa native Bryson decided to reconnect with his mother country by hiking the length of the 2100-mile Appalachian Trail. Awed by merely the camping section of his local sporting goods store, he nevertheless plunges into the wilderness and emerges with a consistently comical account of a neophyte woodsman learning hard lessons about self-reliance. Bryson (The Lost Continent) carries himself in an irresistibly bewildered manner, accepting each new calamity with wonder and hilarity. He reviews the characters of the AT (as the trail is called), from a pack of incompetent Boy Scouts to a perpetually lost geezer named Chicken John. Most amusing is his cranky, crude and inestimable companion, Katz, a reformed substance abuser who once had single-handedly "become, in effect, Iowa's drug culture." The uneasy but always entertaining relationship between Bryson and Katz keeps their walk interesting, even during the flat stretches. Bryson completes the trail as planned, and he records the misadventure with insight and elegance. He is a popular author in Britain and his impeccably graceful and witty style deserves a large American audience as well. Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. From School Library Journal YA-Leisurely walks in the Cotswolds during a 20-year sojourn in England hardly prepared Bryson for the rigors of the Appalachian Trail. Nevertheless, he and his friend Katz, both 40-something couch potatoes, set out on a cold March morning to walk the 2000-mile trail from Georgia to Maine. Overweight and out of shape, Katz jettisoned many of his provisions on the first day out. The men were adopted by Mary Ellen, a know-it-all hiker eager to share her opinions about everything. They finally eluded her, encountered some congenial hikers, and after eight days of stumbling up and down mountains in the rain and mud, came to Gatlinburg, TN. Acknowledging they would never make it the whole way, they decided to skip the rest of the Smokies and head for the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia-by car. Late that summer, for their last hike, the pair attempted to hike the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine, near the trail's end. They got separated and Bryson spent a day and night searching for his friend. When they finally were reunited, "...we decided to leave the endless trail and stop pretending we were mountain men because we weren't." This often hilarious account of the foibles of two inept adventurers is sprinkled with fascinating details of the history of the AT, its wildlife, and tales of famous and not-so-famous hikers. In his more serious moments, Bryson argues for the protection of this fragile strip of wilderness. YAs who enjoy the outdoors, and especially those familiar with the AT, will find this travelogue both entertaining and insightful. Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. From Library Journal This funny book has been well represented on radio and television talk shows, with Bryson presenting humorous and often poignant observations about his overweight, ex-alcoholic hiking partner Stephen Katz and their experiences along the Appalachian Trail (AT). Bryson had moved to England and gained most of his hiking experience along that country's friendly trails from village to village and pub to pub. An experienced travel writer (The Lost Continent, Audio Reviews, LJ 9/1/93), he decided to tackle the 2200-mile trail from Georgia to Maine?and then discovered that wilderness hiking and British hiking are two very different things. Ultimately, Bryson and Katz struggle along a part of the southern trail and then abandon the whole idea. Bryson drives down and samples parts of the remaining AT, such as the Pennsylvania coal country, and finally he and Katz decide to give it another chance and set out into the 100-mile wilderness of Maine?and quickly drop out again. The book's value lies in its humor and its trenchant observations on the environmental damage along selected portions of the trail and on the history both of the trail itself and the areas of the eastern mountains through which it winds. The author is often hilarious, his companion Katz is an entirely sympathetic character, and one learns a lot about those subjects Bryson touches upon. Fortunately, William Roberts is an excellent reader; his voice is alternately sardonic and matter-of-fact, just like Bryson writes. This will be popular in public library collections especially.?Don Wismer, Cary Memorial Lib., Wayne, ME Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. From Booklist After living abroad, Bryson decides to reacquaint himself with America by walking the famed Appalachian Trail, which traverses 14 states and stretches 2,100 miles. He recruits his ne'er-do-well chum Stephen Katz, his traveling companion in Neither Here nor There (1991). They hadn't gotten along on that European trip, and this time Katz shows up extremely overweight, toting 75 pounds of Snickers bars. He is hardly a good choice for a hiking partner, but Bryson is happy just to have someone along to share the often difficult experience (and Katz does prove to be a very funny man). They set out from Amicalola Falls State (GA) Park carrying the official Appalachian Trail guides consisting of 11 books and 59 maps, which proved "monumentally useless." Although they fail to walk the entire trail (indeed, Katz falls behind almost immediately), Bryson's book is a marvelous description and history of the trail and the mountains, providing an informal record of the trail's founding and many of its hikers. Bryson's great good humor makes this a journey worth taking. Ron Antonucci --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. From Kirkus Reviews The Appalachian Trailfrom Springer Mountain, Ga., to Mount Katahdin, Me.consists of some five million steps, and Bryson (Notes from a Small Island, 1996, etc.) seems to coax a laugh, and often an unexpectedly startling insight, out of each one he traverses. It's not all yuksthough it is hard not to grin idiotically through all 288 pagesfor Bryson is a talented portraitist of place. He did his natural-history homework, which is to say he knows a jack-o-lantern mushroom from a hellbender salamander from a purple wartyback mussel, and can also write seriously about the devastation of chestnut blight. He laces his narrative with gobbets of trail history and local trivia, and he makes real the ``strange and palpable menace of the dark deep woods in which he sojourns, the rough-hewn trailscape ``mostly high up on the hills, over lonely ridges and forgotten hollows that no one has ever used or coveted, celebrating as well the ``low-level ecstasy of finding a book left thoughtfully at a trail shelter, or a broom with which to sweep out the shelter's dross. Yet humor is where the book finds its cues--from Bryson's frequent trail companion, the obese and slothful Katz, a spacious target for Bryson's sly wit, to moments of cruel and infantile laughs, as when he picks mercilessly on the witless woman who, admittedly, ruined a couple of their days. But for the most part the humor is bright sarcasm, flashing with drollery and intelligence, even when its a far yodel from political sensitivity. Then Bryson will take your breath away with a trenchant critique of the irredeemably vulgar vernacular strip that characterizes many American downtowns, or of other signs of decay he encounters off the trail (though the trail itself he comes to love). ``Walking is what we did, Bryson states: 800-plus out of the 2,100-plus miles, and that good sliver is sheer comic travel entertainment. ($150,000 ad/promo; author tour) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. Review "Choke-on-your-coffee funny." --The Washington Post Book World
"Bryson is . . . great company right from the start--a lumbering, droll, neatnik intellectual who comes off as equal parts Garrison Keillor, Michael Kinsley, and . . . Dave Barry." --The New York Times Book Review
"A Walk in the Woods is an almost perfect travel book." --The Boston Globe From the Publisher
--This text refers to an alternate Audio CD edition. From the Inside Flap "Not long after I moved with my family to a small town in New Hampshire, I happened upon a path that vanished into a wood on the edge of town."
So begins Bill Bryson's hilarious book A Walk in the Woods. Following his return to America after twenty years in Britain, Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The AT, as it's affectionately known to thousands of hikers, offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes--and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to test his own powers of ineptitude, and to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.
For a start, there's the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa who accompanies the similarly unfit Bryson on the trail. Once Bryson and Katz settle into their stride, it's not long before they come across the fabulously annoying Mary Ellen, whose disappearance ruins a perfectly good slice of pie, a gang of Ralph Lauren-attired yuppies from whom Katz appropriates a key piece of equipment, and a security guard in Pennsylvania who, for no ascertainable reason, impounds Bryson's car. Mile by arduous mile these latter-day pioneers walk America, along the way surviving the threat of bear attacks, the loss of key provisions, and everything else this awe-inspiring country can throw at them.
But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson's acute eye is a wise witness to this fragile and beautiful trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America's last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, a lament, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods is destined to become a modern classic of travel literature. --This text refers to an alternate Audio CD edition. From the Back Cover "Choke-on-your-coffee funny." --The Washington Post Book World "Bryson is . . . great company right from the start--a lumbering, droll, neatnik intellectual who comes off as equal parts Garrison Keillor, Michael Kinsley, and . . . Dave Barry." --The New York Times Book Review "A Walk in the Woods is an almost perfect travel book." --The Boston Globe --This text refers to the Paperback edition. Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa.Â Â For twenty years he lived in England, where he worked for The Times and The Independent, and wrote for many major British and American publications.Â Â His books include the travel memoirs Neither Here nor There, The Lost Continent, and Notes from a Small Island, as well as The Mother Tongue and Made in America.Â Â He now lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, with his wife and four children. Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. We hiked till five and camped beside a tranquil spring in a small, grassy clearing in the trees just off the trail. Because it was our first day back on the trail, we were flush for food, including perishables like cheese and bread that had to be eaten before they went off or were shaken to bits in our packs, so we rather gorged ourselves, then sat around smoking and chatting idly until persistent and numerous midgelike creatures (no-see-ums, as they are universally known along the trail) drove us into our tents. It was perfect sleeping weather, cool enough to need a bag but warm enough that you could sleep in your underwear, and I was looking forward to a long night's snooze--indeed was enjoying a long night's snooze--when, at some indeterminate dark hour, there was a sound nearby that made my eyes fly open. Normally, I slept through everything--through thunderstorms, through Katz's snoring and noisy midnight pees--so something big enough or distinctive enough to wake me was unusual. There was a sound of undergrowth being disturbed--a click of breaking branches, a weighty pushing through low foliage--and then a kind of large, vaguely irritable snuffling noise.
I sat bolt upright. Instantly every neuron in my brain was awake and dashing around frantically, like ants when you disturb their nest. I reached instinctively for my knife, then realized I had left it in my pack, just outside the tent. Nocturnal defense had ceased to be a concern after many successive nights of tranquil woodland repose. There was another noise, quite near.
"Stephen, you awake?" I whispered.
"Yup," he replied in a weary but normal voice.
"What was that?"
"How the hell should I know."
"It sounded big."
"Everything sounds big in the woods."
This was true. Once a skunk had come plodding through our camp and it had sounded like a stegosaurus. There was another heavy rustle and then the sound of lapping at the spring. It was having a drink, whatever it was.
I shuffled on my knees to the foot of the tent, cautiously unzipped the mesh and peered out, but it was pitch black. As quietly as I could, I brought in my backpack and with the light of a small flashlight searched through it for my knife. When I found it and opened the blade I was appalled at how wimpy it looked. It was a perfectly respectable appliance for, say, buttering pancakes, but patently inadequate for defending oneself against 400 pounds of ravenous fur.
Carefully, very carefully, I climbed from the tent and put on the flashlight, which cast a distressingly feeble beam. Something about fifteen or twenty feet away looked up at me. I couldn't see anything at all of its shape or size--only two shining eyes. It went silent, whatever it was, and stared back at me.
"Stephen," I whispered at his tent, "did you pack a knife?"
"Have you get anything sharp at all?"
He thought for a moment. "Nail clippers."
I made a despairing face. "Anything a little more vicious than that? Because, you see, there is definitely something out here."
"It's probably just a skunk."
"Then it's one big skunk. Its eyes are three feet off the ground."
"A deer then."
I nervously threw a stick at the animal, and it didn't move, whatever it was. A deer would have bolted. This thing just blinked once and kept staring.
I reported this to Katz.
"Probably a buck. They're not so timid. Try shouting at it."
I cautiously shouted at it: "Hey! You there! Scat!" The creature blinked again, singularly unmoved. "You shout," I said.
"Oh, you brute, go away, do!" Katz shouted in merciless imitation. "Please withdraw at once, you horrid creature."
"Fuck you," I said and lugged my tent right over to his. I didn't know what this would achieve exactly, but it brought me a tiny measure of comfort to be nearer to him.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm moving my tent."
"Oh, good plan. That'll really confuse it."
I peered and peered, but I couldn't see anything but those two wide-set eyes staring from the near distance like eyes in a cartoon. I couldn't decide whether I wanted to be outside and dead or inside and waiting to be dead. I was barefoot and in my underwear and shivering. What I really wanted--really, really wanted--was for the animal to withdraw. I picked up a small stone and tossed it at it. I think it may have hit it because the animal made a sudden noisy start (which scared the bejesus out of me and brought a whimper to my lips) and then emitted a noise--not quite a growl, but near enough. It occurred to me that perhaps I oughtn't provoke it.
"What are you doing, Bryson? Just leave it alone and it will go away."
"How can you be so calm?"
"What do you want me to do? You're hysterical enough for both of us."
"I think I have a right to be a trifle alarmed, pardon me. I'm in the woods, in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, staring at a bear, with a guy who has nothing to defend himself with but a pair of nail clippers. Let me ask you this. If it is a bear and it comes for you, what are you going to do--give it a pedicure?"
"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it," Katz said implacably.
"What do you mean you'll cross that bridge? We're on the bridge, you moron. There's a bear out here, for Christ sake. He's looking at us. He smells noodles and Snickers and--oh, shit."
"There's two of them. I can see another pair of eyes." Just then, the flashlight battery started to go. The light flickered and then vanished. I scampered into my tent, stabbing myself lightly but hysterically in the thigh as I went, and began a quietly frantic search for spare batteries. If I were a bear, this would be the moment I would choose to lunge.
"Well, I'm going to sleep," Katz announced.
"What are you talking about? You can't go to sleep."
"Sure I can. I've done it lots of times." There was the sound of him rolling over and a series of snuffling noises, not unlike those of the creature outside.
"Stephen, you can't go to sleep," I ordered. But he could and he did, with amazing rapidity.
The creature--creatures, now--resumed drinking, with heavy lapping noises. I couldn't find any replacement batteries, so I flung the flashlight aside and put my miner's lamp on my head, made sure it worked, then switched it off to conserve the batteries. Then I sat for ages on my knees, facing the front of the tent, listening keenly, gripping my walking stick like a club, ready to beat back an attack, with my knife open and at hand as a last line of defense. The bears--animals, whatever they were--drank for perhaps twenty minutes more, then quietly departed the way they had come. It was a joyous moment, but I knew from my reading that they would be likely to return. I listened and listened, but the forest returned to silence and stayed there.
Eventually I loosened my grip on the walking stick and put on a sweater--pausing twice to examine the tiniest noises, dreading the sound of a revisit--and after a very long time got back into my sleeping bag for warmth. I lay there for a long time staring at total blackness and knew that never again would I sleep in the woods with a light heart.
And then, irresistibly and by degrees, I fell asleep.
From the Hardcover edition. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition. From AudioFile Here is a perfectly enjoyable book, mixing the author's wry reportorial style with William Roberts's expert reading. Roberts has a clear, easy, deep voice, which he uses to convey Bryson's words with confidence and clarity. He understands the author's meanings, alternating between being funny and starkly informative. Bryson helps by writing a book that is part hilarious misadventure and part serious message on the state of the Appalachian Trail. In essence, Bryson decides it would be fun to hike the entire trail with a buddy and, as with most romantic notions, walks headfirst into hell. His descriptions of hell are accompanied by history and botany lessons along the way. Roberts is with Bryson's every step, cracking the author's jokes and conveying the fear, apprehension and drop-dead tiredness of the serious hiker. R.I.G. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.