Sunday, May 16, 2010

Made in America - Not a review

Eons ago in the mad days of schooling I had learned about the "Perang Tiga Segi", loosely translated into the Three Angled War. Now the only reason why this particular war stands out among all others is because I happened to have three classmates who sat in a triangle while discussing the war while we had a teacherless class one day... Everyone, including the three of them thought it was funny and laughed for days on end each time anyone mentioned the irony of a discussion about the three angled war while sitting in a triangle. (It sounds so much funnier in Malay, though)

Our history books back then were dead boring, and some of our teachers even more so. My Form 1 history teacher would make us read paragraphs aloud and force us to underline the "ímportant" passages with a red pen. The only interesting thing about her was she wore a necklace of seashells every single day which we all imagined were the shells of the "Siput Cowrie", which was used as currency in one of the chapters in the book. Thankfully, none of these made me hate the subject.

About over a month ago, while I was looking for a book by Bill Bryson (I had no particular title in mind), I came across "Made in America", which I figured would be interesting enough because I don't know much about the history of the United States except for the names of a few of the presidents (some of the assassinated ones, and those who were a bit too popular for their own good) and the Klu Klux Klan because I did a research on them for one of my papers in school regarding extreme racism. And true enough, the book kept me entertained for hours while I found out how many places got their names or how the meanings of words got changed from the time they were used in Britain.

The book is like a little guide of all things American. You get to know how the first roads were built, and how the average wagon in the earliest roads flipped over a few times before the people got to their destinations, and even why Americans drive on the *opposite side of the road. You also find out that Americans loved to invent, and much to my surprise, I found out that I've been using much more of American English instead of British English (It works both ways I guess, naturally having the English people and schools around before Independance gives you the impression that it is British English that you're using - mostly spelling, though, but at the same time, most TV programmes and quite a number of books are from the United States, so that American English can't help but be part of the modern Malaysian's lexicon) There are bits about baseball, skyscrapers, McDonalds, Benjamin Franklin's thoughts on older women and many other things you never knew you wanted to know about!

Personally, I do think that this is one of the more interesting books I've read in recent times, and despite touching on history - after all it begins with something about the Mayflower, it didn't even feel like one of those thick history books that forced you to remember emperors and kings and dates of incidents. They really should get Mr. Bryson to author history books... I can bet it will be one of the more popular subjects that way.

*I find it hilarious that The Americans say that right hand drives are on the opposite side of the road as well, which you can sum up as all being a matter of perspective. The fight on who's on the correct side is one that no one will ever win, I guess.


  1. Actually the history books of today are still as dead boring as before!

    And my history teacher looked like she belonged in a museum ... LOL!

  2. I haven't gone near any since my sister left school... Some teachers really do scream out the subjects they teach, aye... I can just imagine your ancient looking history teacher!

  3. I absolutely adore Bill Bryson!!! The funniest and best travel writer ever!!! Have u read Down Under? That was the 1st book of his that i read and i was hooked from then on

  4. He's written another magnificent history book appropriately called A Short History of Nearly Everything.

    Highly recommended.

  5. Yes, he's a very funny writer, hid Notes From A Small Island is also excellent.

    Terra, just keep reading the Gimcrack, I'll give you all the history lessons you need. I bet your teacher didn't tell you about the French clergy and their penchant for prostitutes....

  6. Sabrina: Yes, he's awesome! Well, I've not had the opportunity to read that yet... am planning to, actually.

    King of Scurf: Absolutely love that book. It made me conclude that to win a Nobel prize, you must be an eccentric.

    Nursemyra: Yup, no teacher of mine spoke of any prostitutes.... so Gimcrack will be my treasure trove of interesting knowledge.

  7. Oh babe you really should my opinion it's his best! I kept laughing out loud in public so many times that i'm surprised they didn't put me in a white suit and have me committed!

  8. I'll definitely have to read that. I love Bill Bryson - he wrote a fabulous book on the Appalachian trail that had me laughing helplessly, and another good one about Australia.

  9. Sabrina: If that's the case, I'd be in a strait jacket too!

    SAW: That's the part I love about his books. They make us laugh!

  10. Good to know that you know how messed up our country is yet fascinating all at the same time.

  11. LOL... Glad I read the book!


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