At Home

January 25, 2013

I’ve heard it said that writing books is for solitary people. If that’s true, then it is a great shame because I can’t imagine anything more fun than getting together with Bill Bryson every couple days for a half hour of story-telling. He would yak and I would just listen. Maybe I’d even take notes, because when I reached my next stop I would tell the first person I met, “hey, guess what Bill just told me …”.

But I guess this will never happen. As At Home: A Short History of Private Life makes clear from the outset, Bill lives halfway around the world in an old house in England. And … he writes books for a living so he is probably a solitary person, or so I’ve been told.

But still … if I could get a hold of him for just one beer, I’d like to know more about the archaeologist Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. According to At Home (p. 342), Rivers “not only desired cremation for himself but insisted upon it for his wife, despite her continued objections. ‘Damn it, woman, you shall burn‘,” he declared to her whenever she raised the matter.” But she didn’t burn, at least not on this Earth. He died first and was cremated in 1900, while she “was given the peaceful burial she had always longed for.” Amazing.


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