‘Little Dribbling’ values simpler times

Posted February 23, 2016

“The Road to Little Dribbling”
By Bill Bryson


If you’re looking for a chuckle at quirky jokes with every page you flip, look no further than “The Road to Little Dribbling.” As the sequel to the best-selling novel, “Notes from a Small Island”, Bill Bryson takes another attempt at traveling across Britain to see what has changed in the past two decades since he wrote his masterpiece.

Born as an American but hopelessly in love with Britain, Bryson roughly retraces his steps that he took in his initial trip, only to discover that the country he considers home is not at all familiar to him anymore.

With his clever, witty banter and his brutal honesty, Bryson paints an accurate picture of his adopted hometown through his lens.

If you were doubtful of his so-called brutal honesty, here’s an example: Bryson bluntly states in the beginning of the book that he goes on this journey purely for commercial reasons (mainly because his agent organized his trip for him). For those of you wondering why he even wrote the second book to a perfect novel, there’s your answer.

As the man who once wrote a novel that critics said; “best describes England,” Bryson realizes that his home has changed for the worse. The quaint pubs, the red telephone boxes and peaceful fishing villages he very much cherished had changed into what every other major city has turned into—- a hub of people with places to go and people to see. Rude people to be exact—- and this angers Bryson.

Calling these 20th Century power-walkers “the hopeless, inept f***wits that God has strewn along the Bill Bryson Highway of Life,” Bryson is not afraid to make it clear that he despises what the new British people have become. Among his hilarious list of things he passionately dislikes, you can find things that people would not regularly be opposed to, such as hair gel, Trip Advisor, lawyers and “those vibrating things restaurants give you to let you know your table is ready.”

From the perspective of a fairly old man who feels entitled to complain all he wants, Bryson and his “reflex loathings” are expressed through the most daring yet hysterical words imaginable. This is not to confuse Bryson with a grumpy old man, however.

Despite the many unexpected displeasing surprises for him, he eventually encounters all the things that made him fall in love with England in the first place. He looks for joy in the most trivial things — like finding a meadow in Heathrow’s shadow or enjoying a night in a pub regardless of terrible service.

Often referring to the “good old days,” Bryson shows us that he is not ready to move on with the changes that have been advancing in our world today. He prefers things the old way with face-to-face conversations, people opening doors for each other and asking simple things like “How are you?” In realizing his beloved second home has rapidly changed, Bryson reminisces on “what a wonderful world that was, and how remote it seems now.”

The author, homesick not for his home by birth but for a simpler time in the past, uses a nostalgic tone to emphasize the longing he feels for the days where everything was simpler, a time where things (and people) moved a little slower.

While expressing his personal discomfort with how much his home has changed, he reminds us all that none of us are content with the rapid changes that metropolitan cities go through. He makes that thought clear by writing: “In countless small ways the world around us grows gradually shittier … I don’t like it at all.” He suggests that we all need to take a break, slow down (especially the power-walkers, in Bryson’s opinion) and enjoy the little things.

Even through this grumpy commentary, Bryson keeps the mood uplifting with his humor. Instead of seeing him as a bad-tempered, negative man, it is more fitting to grasp him as a lost, classically old-fashioned man who’s unsure of what modern slang expressions and trends are, who prefers to sit in a quaint, family-owned cafe over the nearby Starbucks.

This sharply written, humorous tale is filled with new surprises with every page you flip. The unexpectedly amusing encounters that Bryson experiences and his unique, rather grouchy take on things is what makes the novel so entertaining.

Many have visited England and even more have explored the places that Bryson goes to in his novel. But only one book could have twisted this into the perfect combination of a comical journey of occasional sadness and constant comedy. And that is ”The Road to Little Dribbling.”

  • Title: “The Road to Little Dribbling”
  • Author: Bill Bryson
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385539289
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • Publication date: Jan. 19, 2016
  • Availability: Online and at any major bookstore
  • Price: $28.95
  • Formats: Kindle, Paper cover, hard cover