‘…for a handful of coins’

What follows is a passage from Bill Bryson’s “In a Sunburned Country,” a travel narrative about Australia, published in 2000 and which I recently read. (The text below was all one paragraph and for ease of reading here I’ve taken the liberty to break it up.)

Bryson is writing about being an American in a foreign land, but his comments are applicable, I think, to anyone traveling anywhere:

“I bought a morning newspaper and found my way into a cafe. It always amazes me how seldom visitors bother with local papers. Personally I can think of nothing more exciting — certainly nothing you could do in a public place with a cup of coffee — than to read newspapers from a part of the world you know almost nothing about.

“What comfort it is to find a nation preoccupied by matters of no possible consequence to oneself. I love reading about scandals involving ministers of whom I have never heard, murder hunts in communities whose names sound dusty and remote, features on revered artists and thinkers whose achievements have never reached my ears, whose talents I must take on faith.

“I love above all to venture into the color supplements and see what’s fashionable for the beach in this part of the world, what’s new for the kitchen, what I might get for my money if I had A$400,000 and a reason to live in Dubbo or Woolloomooloo. There is something about all this that feels privileged, almost illicit, like going through a stranger’s drawers. Where else can you get this much pleasure for a handful of coins?”

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
  • Bob Terry

    What a plethora of scandals, intrigue and tomfoolery within the Inland Empire to which we can contribute on a DAILY basis to any poor soul that would happen upon our precious IVDB. From political scandals, senseless murders, eucalyptus trees being slaughtered, beer and wine served at library cafes….oh the humanity! But I will not give up my dirty, ink ridden newspaper until someone pries it from my cold, dead hand!

    [That’s the spirit, Bob. — DA]

  • James Rodriguez

    Last year when I visited my sister in Chino Valley, AZ, I took my local papers to read later. I bought their local paper to see what kind of stuff happens there. One thing is that they publish your name along with your picture for crimes such as shoplifting. Also I noted in their obits section a lot of people were 90s to the low 100s when they passed, my sister said its because of the lifestyle there and a lot of them are ranchers, good clean air, good farm raised food and lots of hard work. Also she enjoyed our Daily Bulletin news and shared the paper with her neighbor.

    [Nice that you could swap papers with your sister. Makes me wonder what oddities in the Inland Valley or in the choices in our newspaper she found intriguing or baffling. At least we don’t publish the photos of shoplifters. — DA]