At times guiltily, I found Bill Bryson's The Lost Continent enjoyable. He is an irreverent white American straight man on a road trip across his home country in the 1980's after having lived in England for years. He is baffled by race and the book has plenty of sexist comments that, like the book, come straight from the 1980's. Thankfully he focuses his scrutiny mostly on other white American straight men; he is ruthless and it is funny. This is the first book I read for this project in the genre of White American Male Sets Out To Explore His Country.
"I got a room in the Heritage Motor Inn, then went out for a walk to try once more to find Carbondale. But there really was nothing there. I was perplexed and disillusioned. Before I had left on this trip I had lain awake at night in my bed in England and pictured myself stopping each evening at a motel in a little city, strolling into town along wide sidewalks, dining on the blue-plate special at Betty's Family Restaurant on the town square, then plugging a scented toothpick in my mouth and going for a stroll around the town, very probably stopping off at a Vern's Midnite Tavern for a couple of draws and a game of eight-ball with the boys or taking in a movie at the Regal... But here there was no square to stroll to, no Betty's, no blue-plate specials, no Vern's Midnite Tavern, no movie theater, no bowling alley. There was no town, just six-lane highways and shopping malls. There weren't even any sidewalks. Going for a walk, as I discovered, was a ridiculous and impossible undertaking. I had to cross parking lots and gas station foodcourts, and I kept coming up against little white-painted walls marking the boundaries between, say, Long John Silver's Seafood Shoppe and Kentucky Fried Chicken. To get form one to the other, it was necessary to clamber over the wall, scramble up a grassy embankment and pick your way through a thicket of parked cars. That is if you were on foot. But clearly from the looks people gave me as I lumbered breathlessly over the embankment, no one had ever tried to go from one of these places to another under his own motive power. What you were supposed to do was get in your car, drive twelve feet down the street to another parking lot, park the car and get out. Glumly I clambered my way to a Pizza Hut and went inside, where a waitress seated me at a table with a view of the parking lot.
All around me people were eating pizzas the size of bus wheels. Directly opposite, inescapably in my line of vision, an overweight man of about thirty was lowering wedges into his mouth whole, like a sword swallower."
- Bill Bryson, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America, 1989