The Lost Continent

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Bill Bryson is an expatriate American from Iowa who has been living in England for more than a decade. Bryson’s account is a combination of reliving the backseat travels of his youth (only now he is behind the steering wheel) and a general look at average life forms in America.

THE LOST CONTINENT is divided into two sections. In the first, Bryson explores the eastern, northeastern, and southern states. In the second, he covers the western and southwestern states. The purpose underlying Bryson’s quest is to find “Amalgam"-- the perfect small town. Though this goal seems to fade after a while (at first he highlights people, buildings, and places that would be suitable inhabitants, structures, and sites for Amalgam), Bryson remains an adventurous seeker after the truth. His appetite for experience is limited only by prudence, as represented by his six steadfastly maintained rules for dining, including “Never eat in a restaurant attached to a bowling alley.” THE LOST CONTINENT is a warmly humorous book; Bryson always (well, almost always) manages to stay on the right side of nasty. Though perhaps not a travelogue in the style of Paul Theroux or Bruce Chatwin, Bryson’s narrative illuminates the most important side of traveling: the strange people met along the way, the weird souvenirs acquired, the unpredictable pleasures of the road.