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Humor Writer Study: Bill Bryson

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Jennifer Wanburg

on 5 March 2014

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Transcript of Humor Writer Study: Bill Bryson

(cc) photo by Metro Centric on Flickr
(cc) photo by jimmyharris on Flickr
(cc) photo by Metro Centric on Flickr
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Precis
Rhetorical Analysis #1
Bill Bryson, in his chapter "Why Everyone is Worried," comically describes the American criminal justice system as completely and utterly incompetent. He supports his description by incorporating several anecdotes that were clear examples of the FBI's incompetence into his chapter. His purpose is to playfully, but subtly criticize the American criminal justice system and reveal the irony behind how awful the American criminal justice system actually performs. He establishes a playful and authoritative tone over the United States government with his use of slang, and also with his satire of one of the most powerful governments in the world to his audience of intelligent readers and criticizers of common American assumptions.

~http://historybooklet.com/bill-bryson-biography
Birth Name: William McGuire Bryson
Born in Des Moines Iowa December 8, 1951
Lived in North Yorkshire, England 1977 for two decades
Here, studied in journalism, becoming chief copy editor of The Times and later deputy national news editor of The Independent
Moved to Hanover, New Hampshire
Married to Cynthia Billen
Four Children
Currently has sold more non-fiction books in UK than anyone else
Now lives in England once again in Wymondham, Norfolk
Well known books include his adventure in A Walk in The Woods and I'm a Stranger Here Myself were written during his time in the United States
Other books contain information on the English Language as well as science fiction
Biography
William McGuire Bryson
Rhetorical Analysis #2
Humor Writer Study
BILL BRYSON

To further ignite the truth behind relatable conflicts within the average American family, narrator William Mcguire Bryson – giving his own point of view on his past family experiences through humorous devices of mockery, generalization, and surprise – comically ridicules his fellow Americans who perform similar series of absurd events. Bryson’s highly comedic articles incorporate much personal critique due to the first person perception, which thus generates an audience that laughs only at his mistakes, in the beginning. To add further description of such incidents, Bryson also involves several hyperbolic and metaphorical phrases like "coated in sugar", which emphasizes his imagery well beyond the actual instance. Moreover, during his family ventures, Bryson often asserts many parenthetical expressions to further specify his argument in his own insight on the picture. As a result, in common situations such as a day at the beach or grocery shopping, Bryson initializes each piece of writing as him always portraying what most general people may believe. Therefore, towards the end of each passage, the “right” people can dismay him such as his wife or he can still be in the right with circumstances such as the “Why Everyone is Worried”. Consequently, Bryson utilizes his humorous tone to produce an overall, relatable, mocked representation of the American thought process, which in the end, formulates an audience who realizes these parallel occasions of humor translates to their true self.
Bill Bryson's use of playful belittling and endless ridicule toward each of his topics greatly enhances his already descriptive and stylistic use of language in order to reveal common overlooked characteristics of American life. In many of his chapters, Bryson focusses on a topic and pokes fun at it until it is utterly humiliated. In Why Everyone is Worried, Bryson describes the FBI (one of the most respected and thought to be most competent government organizations) to be "screwing up everything it comes in contact with," (Bryson, Why Everyone is Worried, par. 7). Bryson belittles and exaggerates a powerful government organization in order to enlighten the reader that their government is not perfect and that Bryson considers himself to be above it by ridiculing it. A similar technique is seen in his personal anecdote, Rule Number 1: Follow All Rules. Again belittling government institutions, Bryson now attacks the airport security policy of requiring a photo ID to board a plane. By asking "'But why is it the rule? Do you honestly believe that you are going to thwart a terrorist by requiring him to show a laminated photograph of himself?'" (Bryson, Rule Number 1: Follow All Rules, par. 23) to the security officers, Bryson elevates himself above the regulations, belittling government institutions again along with their pointless rules. Describing a driver's license as no more than a laminated photograph, Bryson creates an image of pointless regulations, while using exaggeration to argue that many rules mean nothing more than their physical being. Bryson belittles and exposes flaws in government institutions, in order to enlighten the reader to a new sense of self-worth.


I was up late one night, bored stiff after flipping through the average late night channels that are only on so late to help me fall asleep, and eventually came across the dreaded dark side of midnight television; infomercials. Ranging from 2,000-watt multipurpose blenders to easy to use FDA approved lasers for unwanted hair, the typical workout DVD that guaranteed your dream body and a desirable T-shirt with a cheaply printed marketing device as a result popped up (since this was one of the many workout products that was already playing at least four times on our network). Laughing hysterically at the fake sweat, crazy moves, and hilarious consumer reviews, I was well motivated to immediately run out my front door for a nice FREE jog around my neighborhood in the peaceful dark. Yet, since there was a foot of snow on the ground, I couldn’t bare to just put on a jacket and gloves for that quick calorie slicing run. So I made the promise to myself that I would simply go to the gym tomorrow first thing in the morning.
Of course it was already mid afternoon the following evening, me inhaling my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with Cola on the side. (At that time I believed this was a well-balanced meal according to the food pyramid, with the white bread as the healthy starch, butter for protein, jelly for my fruit, and the coke for that dessert slot) Surprisingly after undoing my belt, I had enough will power to put on some sweat pants, (mostly due to the comfort they bring after that healthy lunch) a plain old T-shirt, and walk out the door, cobwebs on my gym membership card.
Once there, I undoubtedly looked like the pink elephant in a crowd of ants. Memories came flooding to my mind of the C’s and D’s I earned in each and every one of my middle school gym classes. To add, the smell of the sanitation wipes mixed with the sweat of bodybuilders was truly priceless.
Drooping my head down, I quickly walked towards the locker room to claim a locker for my coat and wallet. Soon I was off for my very first work out in months, maybe years. Prancing toward the treadmill, I realized I had forgotten my water bottle in my locker. And of course the key. Next thing I knew, I was asking the check in lady for a pair of tree trimmers.
Finally reunited with my water bottle, now with no lock and a dimmed ego, I set off once again towards the treadmill. Pushing the “Quick Start” button, the machine launched at a very slow pace. As a gym newbie. I decided to put this treadmill on steroids and amp the speed up to seven miles per hour. Lasted thirty-one seconds. New record.
After the forty-five second warm up (I additionally walked up the stairs to the weight room), the well-known squat rack was calling my name. Feeling all high and mighty, I placed seventy pounds total on the bar, thirty-five each side. Completing one perfect set of ten, I was beat. Heart racing, sweat dripping, asthma prolonging. (I say exercise-induced asthma instead of just out of shape.) I quickly washed the sweat off my face, which left a nice shine, to take my very first “at the gym” photo for Facebook, I was sure I would get countless likes. Who wouldn’t care about this usual expedition?
At home on my calendar, I happily labeled this day leg day. Thus I would wait two days for rest, and then arm day. These two rest days turned to one week (which was just to prepare my body for it’s next shock). Besides, who has the time to go to the gym for 4% of their day? Therefore this rest week turned into a rest month.
As I laid in bed the following month, the same at home gym workout caught my attention. This time, I grabbed my phone and dialed the number.

Lying Our Way Out of Shape

Every winter in Colorado, thousands of men, women, and children make the decision to drive to the mountains at precisely 7:30am every Saturday morning. The roughly 65 mile stretch of Interstate 70 between Denver and the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel is one of the most frustrating, infuriating, yet somehow serene pieces of asphalt each week.
Folks from the Denver metro area, work up the courage each Saturday morning to sit patiently in several hours of traffic week after week, but do nothing about it. Leaving by 7:30, the common man and his family all compacted into their SUV like tuna in a can, journey up to Summit County for a weekend of relaxation and good snow. However, at least for the first fourth of their vacation, they are greeted with exhaust fumes, sibling rivalry, and tranquil

Early Risers
mountain views seen out of the mud splattered windshield. Once the family arrives at the overpriced motel promptly two and a half hours after their departure, wasting five gallons of overpriced gasoline, they realize they had forgotten little Jimmy’s overpriced ski boots back home and compile a scheme of sharing and borrowing until finally resolving to rent some at the overpriced ski shop.
The next day—Sunday if you were counting—the family awakes at 8:00 sharp only to be on the mountain at 10:00 due to wardrobe malfunctions, ticket lines, and of course getting little Jimmy’s used, athlete’s-foot-infected ski boots to fit just right. Sadly, however, Jimmy takes a nasty spell down the Rabbit’s Rear run and is done for the day at 1:00. The family, now
consoling Jimmy, spends an hour of their relaxing weekend getaway going over their options for the rest of the day, but finally head back to the motel to pack everything up.
After double checking that the kids remembered their toothpaste and triple checking they remembered their phone chargers, the family gets back on the interstate by 4:00 and is now surprised that according to Google Maps, the drive home will take five hours due to congestion, a chance for snow showers, and a 100 yard avalanche. Finally arriving back to their suburban home six hours later, the family eagerly anticipates the next family outing. Maybe next time they’ll leave by 7:15.
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