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from nashville public radio this is the fine print and exploration and celebration of the written word alright when bill bryson was out his front door well watch out is likely to be on the prowl for his next book bryson break barriers and borders on the appalachian trail a few years ago he turned that experience into the bestselling a walk in the woods now he's going to walk about down on tour with his latest in a sunburned country bill bryson takes us on a tour of kangaroos wallabies doing those deadly seashells sacred rocks glorious sunsets cold beer and immensely likable people are all of course part of the australian experience to get ready to travel in your armchair for the next half hour as bill bryson takes us to the world's largest island in fact the only island this continent and the only
continent but it's also a country a sunburned country i'd like to begin by quoting you know very personable in this interview and something that you wrote about australia's you said it is a layman obvious conclusion to draw but australia truly does it busiest on the unique scale it's not just a question of brute distance though goodness knows there is plenty enough of that one of the incredible emptiness that lies within all that distance five hundred miles in australia is not like five hundred miles elsewhere and the only way to appreciate that is to cross the country at ground level which you did and what you've read in a sunburned country they're really really understands what you mean by that paragraph but for people who have not yet read it could you explain i thought having grown up in the very middle of a very large country right now that i understood big spaces most
americans do seem to think they have a grasp of big spaces and australia has said is almost exactly the same size as the lower forty eight us states must uncannily similar in size but because austria so incredibly and it takes on an order of magnitude altogether different from what we're used to in most places in america if you drive fifty miles and haven't encountered another town that's been pretty empty part of the landscape in australia in you can be an places with thousand miles the next time you can stop on a highway and looked to north or south in either direction if you set off on foot it would be a thousand miles twelve hundred miles fifteen hundred was absentee came to another house or page surface or anything that's really empty you've got a country that is as i say the size of the united states my most alaska where the population is about the same as much cotton york so relatively few people a very very large very forbidding land mass there was something else i had not realized until i read your book and that was not only how old australia is but how in many ways
did australia is that was fascinating your show is very strange plays wonderfully strange it's unlike other countries and does the flutist driest harvest those desiccated landscape on earth and it's also the most georgia klee inert or has been for the longest time there's been almost no activity there compared with other nations what that means is whatever's happened in austria has happened a long time ago and then just kind of sat there so you get these things incredibly ancient river beds the sort of things that get blown oil washed away in other countries we get the very oldest rocks on earth because there hasn't been all those subsequent folding in things that go on to logically elsewhere so the very ancient rocks absolute over three billion years will stay on the surface that they don't get sued rebate the way they have ever whilst it means that it's scientifically a very very interesting country but even for the layman like me visually it's quite stunning because it has this real sense this very powerful sense of being just ancient in a way that you'd never seen before i mean it's a really
palpable feeling of huge antiquity about the landscape think this is a wonderful place to segue to the aborigine because again i was astounded to learn the best guest estimate now for the aborigines coming to australia is between forty five and sixty thousand years ago and that they obviously had to arrive by c a forty five sixty thousand years doesn't so all that ancient that in terms of human activities extremely ancient as you say the only way that abolitionists could've got to australia was to arrive by sea which is one of the great mysteries of human dispersal on planet earth is people presumably were standing on the shore in tunisia when for some reason they decided to take to the ocean to sail to a continent that they couldn't know it was there it was you know way beyond the horizon and they did it on boats of some sort in rafts presumably but says thirty thousand years before anyone else on earth is known to ever have
gone sailing on the open oceans somehow for some reason that cost from indonesia to australia without any certainty that there would be in australia there to receive them and they did have a large enough numbers to begin populating a cobbler this wasn't just a couple of fishermen who are blown off course this was enough people to begin starting a diversified society where there wouldn't be such a small population base that had been filled with inbreeding says a great mystery how they did that an even greater mystery as having done this image is epic voyage why they then abandon the sea altogether because essentially aborigines never paid any attention to the ocean going again after that i did do a little bit of in shore fishery very flimsy read boats and that sort of thing but nothing across a body of open water so how they got there and why are two of the greatest mysteries of anthropology and yet as i say in the book until very very recently last fifteen or twenty years was almost totally ignored and paul just didn't pay any attention to a sunny lately the people began to think these are interesting people aren't just a lot of very intriguing
possibilities here is truly is fascinating to me to think about you call them the world's invisible people and you say they're still the worlds the invisible and says that nobody paid any attention to them scientifically for a very very long time and now they're invisible in the sense that most white australians just tend not to see them get into cinemas this is a mystery you don't see them at all because they're not their average is only constitute about one and half percent of the austrian population and they tend to live in very remote places reservations out in the middle of the out there and it's only when you go to outback towns like alice springs places that are more remote from the main australian cities that you begin to see average meets on the street there's a striking to the visitor's the average citizen and the white australia seems existence two separate universes it's almost as if they don't see clinical walking down the street that says if the averages are invisible to the white australia the reason for that is
not because they're completely indifferent is because they're just so used to it as an outsider you know struck by these very visible people but of course originated from its quite natural you wouldn't look at things as a curiosity is something that's worth taking out now it's certainly true that in australia as i suppose anywhere in the world you can come across the most unexpected racism on the whole though i have to say i think castro was a pretty big hearted they know they have this terrible problem is no question that the averages and the great social failing an australian every indicator of social wellbeing that you care to look at the infant mortality alcoholism rates in prison poverty and so on average has always come out right on the bottom of every measure and the average white australians is acutely aware of that and very sensitive to that and they feel terrible loss lots of things have been done to try to solve recent ameliorate this palm that everything a sense it has failed this has been one of the great intractable social palm and us astray feel this recessive of
regret and kind of despair that things are just not happen that there hasn't been the success stories that we've had say in america with a grouping of all because we have still in america with racism and at least you know you can point to a lot of success stories to see what black people become doctors or educators of song there's been a lot of success along side a lot of failure and adjacent gulf and there's a sense of helplessness what can we do what we do next week on all these things and just haven't managed to bring these people into mainstream society in any but while there's a very poignant quote from captain cook that you include in the book where he is talking about his ship coming into the harbor the aborigines or fishing and he said they just sort of looked up and looked at us and then went back to what they were doing is if so what ended the poignant thing is he said they really just look like they wish we would go away that was the hole was they have this country to themselves and show
that american indian summers the same way some of these people come in arms i mean it has to be said that all of this recall most countries in the past week a room we saw these places that were good for us and never mind the people that was there in the history of australia's very very like the history of america the nineteenth century where the native peoples were just driven increasingly and more more marginal areas and sometimes two with measures of compassion that but they often gotten very often betrayed unleashing treaties were made in the end dick norton and song there's an awful lot of similarities between treatment of family jason eight hundreds and treatment of native americans and same period and i'll go back to the beginning of the book where you were first thinking about doing this book on australia you began researching how many times australia was covered a story about australia was covered in the new york times and discovered they have certainly it's a very fascinating figure for
everyone the new york times wrote more stories about ice cream in any given year than they did about australia we tend to ignore this country was near tears is probably not our most outward looking newspaper so we can presume that other newspapers was of that and even fewer articles just doesn't attract much attention and that is a very good reason for that and that's because it is stable and peaceful and good and reliable we don't need to keep our tendency is to pay attention to those foreign countries that had trouble sports you'd need a war or some sort of insurrection or some sort of problem for us to really start paying attention to us trade ever requires that we know that it's down there on the bottom the afflicted good people and that they're not causing any kind are options we can safely ignore them so we do in the book is that we pay a price for because australia know isn't inducing lively civil war is the main good news images all kinds of things are going on a continuum of human activity particularly in terms of natural history and science
discovery serve about things a dispersal of humans across the earth that we pay almost no attention to our parents really would benefit from knowing that not only is it enlightening but it's also very very interested in we also mentioned tootsie incredible number of plant and animal life that is found only in australia as amused as we were you in as will be other readers at how much of it is so deadly and this is another quote from your book it just died laughing oh you said australians spend half of any conversation insisting that the country's dangers are vastly overrated and that there's nothing to worry about and the other half telling you how six months ago her uncle bob was driving commodity whether tiger snake's slither out from under the dashboard and the mama growing but that it's okay now because he's off life support machine and i discovered he can communicate with idling off over and over again you have those kinds of
conversations with people in this book it is amazing i mean the number of times he's talking to somebody who insist his possession of endangered semester and in a sense they're right because you know i mean i went to many many times for a spin in a tone of many months there and i've never been bitten attacked or her in any way there isn't time you know it's striking homes every person you talk to at some point a conversation just mentioned a cash with the uncle dave or whatever was out and it is wonderful when you've got bit by a brown snake was it come for three days or something and it's just part of the time and there are other i suppose that attitude too dangerous animals is a bit like our attitude to same tornadoes are something that most of us know the twenties are not going to strike and so i'm pretty careful when there's a tornado alert somewhere in the area or as visitors from europe suddenly going down in the basement because they think that it's going to get blown away instantly there's a kind of either the city used to have on his potential danger all around them that they don't really think
about that is that the country has the ten most poisonous pieces of snake on earth that has all kinds of insects spiders and insects that can hurt you sting you and a really severe way it has poisoned seashells the very most toxic creature of any kind in the box jellyfish kazan tackled the box jellyfish is serious pain and almost certain death so there's a lot of things after that can resist poisons and the guards crocodiles and benchmarks and two you name it without poisoning topping off pieces that you're visiting your friends the house and having as you say the kind of conversation that you have really haven't seen someone a while when suddenly obliviousness a sound it brings up her they were very nearly beaten by crocodiles because her husband rent a cheap boat and i went out the crocodile infested lake there was certainly one was an attack small boat is disturbing the sound of an outboard engine motor underwater
sounds very like another half of them making a territorial challenge so does get very irate when they hear that sound come forward take our conversation with bill bryson author of in a sunburned country after this brief time and i hope you can continue creating podcast of the fine print is made possible in part by helen told her and jane smith of sharon entrusted to sell the most cherished homes in the nashville area three sixty six well you had your own encounter it has not been there very long and a reporter
from a bleat it was sydney took you are allegedly to their version of surfing and the body surfing <unk> morning am found was his own and i had never done before is history as the militias are for the united and stomach of them trying to stand up and if there is a lot of fun i just was completely out of the alamo totally when i go to the seaside to mean i grew up in a thousand miles of salt water and so the ocean to me has always been a hostile menacing environment hours and very comfortable trying to do this boogie board but as we were doing it the lady and that was teaching strouse from the sydney morning how to to look at has a blu ad the second until a cure for sharks and all kinds of other things and billy joe's etsy portuguese marijuana and those are quite common and coastal waters semester they won't kill you by large but unless you have some sort of toe reaction to that stage of her image or brush up against them stings streep income taxes car you say you don't really want one hit one knows anything and internet that they come in waves and that word his blue is also
an asset that is striking at the stage a very casual about all this was i was quite cruelly freaking out and surrounded this is a really good heart conservative votes invisible man blue and transplanting exactly where social scientists do hardly see them along to every talk to them you are a bit about the history of australian again as ignorant americans who hadn't paid enough attention to the land down under a lot of that i think people find very surprising that we all i think no the original white settlers to australia were british most of them prisoners most of them are convicted a very petty crime news some of which lists in the book i find interesting is the australian's don't like to acknowledge that part of their heritage you know i find it somewhat romantic i mean i'm quite proud of the season cattle rustlers and my background i didn't like that
attitudes are getting much better about attending and it isn't quite a mark of shame as it used to be but from montana was john pilger and australian writer i'm a quote in the book talked about well into the nineteen fifties in a way you know in a family just didn't ever occur to what was known as the stay which was the fact that your earliest orders in australia were transported convicts and never mind that as you say and the flood of these people were not hardened criminals terrible people are raped and pillaged murdered for the richest petty thieves were there was just a sort of shame about that by the nativity scene at least half of austrians have come not because there are comments that come over because the record russia's or they were perceived opportunities for farming and so and so nobody knew by looking at whether your ancestors had come and chains or whether they come voluntarily and you just didn't want to admit that there was this dark corner in the past though my mind about it now i'm in the not quite so
sensitive about this doesn't mean that you don't use about race is is all just having to say all the time working in australia's great country because its inhabitants were chosen by the finest judges in english they find that kind of quick little wearisome as as you said the air conditioning in the room it becomes instantly chili or anyone as an outsider that this is not something that everybody will respond to warmly few cities in the country that i was astounded to learn that until nineteen forty nine there was no such thing as australian citizens show that people born in australia were written you know that was a real surprise to me also part of the reason why they went off so faithfully and farts and european wars in world war one in particular a war that had actually nothing to do with russia and heiress james' had a higher proportion volunteers than just new zealanders issue to have a higher proportion of volunteers than any other nations including britain higher
proportion of casualties they lost more people proportionately population than any other country they would work and saw themselves as faithful british subjects and this is in twenty fourteen and that they couldn't even be otherwise wasn't until then that australians began to get their own passport and seven inches in situation going on ever since with austria has had to certify and work out where it stands at what extent is it a corneal relic and what extent is as an independent nation is now virtually no practical sense isn't an independent nation but as you probably recall only years ago they voted not to become republic to maintain their traditional constitutional linked to england was really does still in a technical sense to subject them to britain so they haven't quite recently ready to declare independence it's a long process as you know psychologically just with their been going through since really the underworld were true that was just amazing to me was also
interesting australia six colonies what federated and night you know one and prior to that i mean it's such things as the different sizes of train tracks for example if you're going across australia you might have to change trains five or six times because each air each colony had its own particular sized train track yes they did every citizen is what has now become the states of australia they were very very competitive i mean you have to raise at sydney melbourne sydney was a new self wilson albums and bit torrent and these two states was so competitive that they actually made things is difficult for each other as they possibly could so they put his grain duties on monday and introduce different standards for things i really courageous and whatever they could think it meant that the country didn't work very well at all instead of integrating and seeing that they have a common interest they fought each other for a long time again it wasn't until nineteen oh one that the country confederate that they finally started to dismantle big east a gonzo laminated had different times set the
clocks of the day you know when you cross a state line it was just like an hour's time difference because sometimes and it might be an hour and seventeen minutes to for somebody just because they just couldn't agree on standard times when they all kinds of competitions for things i send telegrams just normal everyday intercourse and commercial activity was accused more complicated than it needed today let's talk a little bit about practicalities and the books that you write books such as your latest in a sunburned country thing wildly popular a walk in the woods and i'm a stranger here myself do you approach a project and what sorts of things do you know to include and not include how you write your book sold a strange scene question and each one is is different they really are with australia for instance i knew nothing about a country that was kind of my starting point was that i went there without the intention of research writing a book about it and discovered they really liked it and it seemed to really really interesting place that was a lot more to this country than
just throwing another shrimp on the bargain the kind of crocodile dundee stars that this is a really interesting diversify country my person doing the stray was i just tried to learn as much as i could and i i read a great deal i was going to secondhand bookshop getting histories of the country and books about the natural history and wildlife ecology in saudi and just absorbing all this information so that was never saw a stray it was a like a walk in the woods was hiking the appalachian trail i did almost no preparation foolishly and in retrospect that i just kind of got this idea that i wanted to try to height this incredibly long long distance hiking trail the lamb lie to turn in new hampshire twitch i just moved kind of without too much reflection and daytime talk is old powell by name stephen kappes and coming along with me and danny training room mansion where it background reading women's have often tried to do it and discovered as most people do some awful lot harder than it seems on paper said you have written about so
many different people of people you encountered on your walk in australia where ever does everybody in our approach you as a potential subject for one of your books divide people at all self conscious about going out and doing something with bill bryson you know i mean i would be i wouldn't trust it as far as i could spit that these people just never become tiny people that are willing to help me out and i do try by and large to shows the sensitivity to but they do know that you know my books are based on an awful lot of distrust be funny and then based on making fun of anything myself included but also those people have turned gong with me mischievous into like that if they can see that as a real clear affection attached to it they're very very forgiving that certainly all did that i've written about and identified in my book stephen kappes in december continues my friends now and how in his wife and allen show and an english crime to troubled times before even though and empties you know making fun of them along with myself they love it because they know
that basically that's what it isn't easy and it's not an utterly contemptuous of them anyway an action very very grateful to the list that we can't really tricky was with stephen kappes the car hiked with an organ woods says he was so challenging a partner and so robust in his opinions in many ways and just such hard work at times that i couldn't always betray him as quiet the adorable and engaging character that i would have liked to come walking with my career that i really adore the government and he's a great friend and crazy about income hugely grateful to have gone with me and certainly he sees the book with that he thinks that i have teased him a little to mercilessly at times but also feels that the book is alternately as a kind of hero and perverse or the wire have you always been funny know i remember one of my very first book for scotland came around my brother he read it and said to me recently he's especially with me
because i'm not i mean i'm a novelist people who is just a barrel of laughs at a party or in the worst teller who always gets halfway through the joke and then they have to backtrack is in a way it was this was a you know it was a white rabbit meat was wasn't enough to coat it was important you know i just can tell a joke can do is write stuff that people see it's funny and i mean this is it's much slower process more effective one and that's the only time my i'm using my fingers on the keyboard and suddenly able to do this kind of thing that in real life i'm not very witty fellow soon i gave my wife a very solemn vows that i would not do another travel book next i've been away so much for the last four five years so that's for them to do is something where i can stay home and go to live what i'm working on so i didn't book about how the earth works to make a prediction in australia was wise austria very very old country in geologic literally and there was other
countries recognize as a much more active there's a lot more going on i don't understand quite how the earth opera it's nervous a little shame because in my whole existence is going to be on this planet that's only part of the universe and everything and physically you know and yet in this summit about that i just didn't understand i didn't really understand the weather and an instant wind i don't understand why the oceans are salty and the great lakes aren't that honest says just as a basic idiots current senator menendez is my approach and it's kind of planet earth well bill on the society there are plenty of ads out myself included elected pleasure and mind goes back to my reply that was backing off and they're leaving to run amuck you just mind that was that going in the maps eighties i'm scott simon bill bryson author
of the bestselling a walk in the woods and his latest book about his adventures in australia is titled in a sunburned country and that us conclude our program for this week and i hope you enjoyed it and i hope you'll join me next week as well when together we'll check out the fine print for national public radio i'm rebecca bain the fine print is produced by rebecca caine and scott smith for national public radio are copies are available for information call six one five seven six over to nineteen oh three or you can email us interest is rebecca at wpln thought oh archie
The Fine Print
Program 01 03 Guest Bill Bryson Book In A Sunburned Country
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An episode of WPLN's The Fine Print featuring host Rebecca Bain discussing an author's work with the author.
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Guest: Bryson, Bill
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Chicago: “The Fine Print; Program 01 03 Guest Bill Bryson Book In A Sunburned Country,” 2001-01-28, WPLN News/Nashville Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
MLA: “The Fine Print; Program 01 03 Guest Bill Bryson Book In A Sunburned Country.” 2001-01-28. WPLN News/Nashville Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2024. <>.
APA: The Fine Print; Program 01 03 Guest Bill Bryson Book In A Sunburned Country. Boston, MA: WPLN News/Nashville Public Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from