Explore the Stylistic Conventions of Both - Notes from a Small Island -

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Explore the Stylistic Conventions of Both - Notes from a Small Island -
and - In Patagonia - and account for their different audiences.

Bill Bryson and Bruce Chatwin both participate in the ability to
Travel write. Travel writing is were one would travel and then list
in chronological order what they have experienced. Bill Bryson is
able to do this in an entirely different fashion, to Bruce Chatwin.

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. Bryson settled in
England in 1977, and lived for numerous years with his British wife
and children in Yorkshire. Bryson then went back to America, but has
now returned to England. As well as writing ‘Notes from a small
Island’ Bryson has also written ‘down Under’ ‘Notes from a big
Country’ ‘A walk in the Woods’ ‘Made in America’ ‘Neither here nor
there’ and ‘The lost Continent’.[1]

Bruce Chatwin was born in Sheffield in 1940. After attending
Marborough School he began work as a Porter at Sotheby’s, which is an
auctioneer. Chatwin became one of the youngest directors at Sotheby’s
and then Chatwin abandoned his job to explore the world, as his
dedication was travel writing. During 1972 and 1975 Chatwin worked
for the Sunday Times and quickly announced his departure for in a
telegram; ‘Gone to Patagonia for six months’. This journey motivated
to write the first of his books which was simply named, In Patagonia.
In Patagonia won The Hawthornden Prize and the E.M. Forster award and
launched his writing profession. Two of Chatwins films have been made
into feature films, The Viceroy Oiudah (retitled Cobra Verde)
directed by Werner Herzog and the British film. Bruce Chatwin has
also written ‘On the Black Hill’, ‘The Song Lines’ ‘The Viceroy of

Before Bryson’s begins his story, he writes a prologue of his first
encounter with Britain and how inviting it was for him. Bryson
elaborates on why he returned to England in 1995. Bill Bryson gives
an interpretation of his first time in England which was more
exclusively Dover in 1973. In the front of Bill Bryson’s book is an
image of Britain surrounded by small sketches. Once I had read I
became conscious that this map mirrored the style of writing used in
the book, light-hearted.

Chatwin developed an interest for Patagonia at a young age. Chatwin
tells us about his earliest memories of his grandmother, and being at
her house;

‘In my grandmother’s dining room was a glass-fronted cabinet…’[3]

Chatwin is talking about his personal experience directly, although he
doesn’t begin with his journey in Patagonia. Chatwin is unfolding
this tale to his audience in great detail; this story helps the reader

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understand a bit better why Chatwin fell in love with Patagonia.
Chatwin took an interest in a particular piece of ‘brontosaurus’,
believing for a great length of time that this piece of red leathery
skin was from a ‘brontosaurus’ until discovering that it was that of a
Siberian mammoth;

‘The science master said I’d mixed it up with the Siberian mammoth…’[4]

The map in the front of the book is detailed and that this also
reflects upon the tone for the rest of the book.

Bryson’s style of delivery is easily accessible to the reader, Bryson
is modern and has a popular approach to travel write. He has a dry,
witty sense of humour and this is appealing to his audience;

“Excuse me, I can’t help but notice the exceptional size of your

Bryson makes his writing relevant to his audience by illustrating a
sequence of events. Bryson is to a great extent well recognized and
likeable house hold name.

Bryson’s sharpness and dry wit is continued throughout the book, and
frequently Bryson uses sexual implications;

“I once read that in Elizabethan times there was a Gropecunt Lane
somewhere in the city…”[6]

Bryson takes it upon himself to reach meticulously before writing
about place’s, BECAUSE OF THIS Bryson is able to narrate minuscule,
but attention-grabbing pieces of information to his reader,
accumulating description.

I as the reader was unable to distinguish whether Bryson was at times
flattering or being contemptuous toward the British. This lets the
reader become in control of their own thoughts. Bryson voices his
opinions about how he perceives the British public before giving us an
account of how he feels about the political status at that present
time. Bryson proclaims his own pertinent and political observations
of Britain;

‘…as Mrs Thatcher proved, tolerant of dictatorships.’

Even though Bryson touches on what was/is a sensitive political
matter, he in spite of everything is capable to ridicule the

Bryson gives his audience a foreigner’s perspective of England;

‘There are certain idiosyncratic notions that you quietly come to
accept when you live for a long time in Britain…’

Bryson talks personally to the reader and his humour helps the reader
feel at ease and less reserved whilst reading.

Bryson shows us that he is able to take poke fun at the more fragile
and serious issues that were happening at that time in Britain, he
remarks upon Margaret Thatcher.

The anecdotes that are related to the audience are well-structured and
explained in immense detail. Bryson enlightens the booklover and
encapsulates the mind.

Bryson visits Liverpool, and is able to describe the city using his
dry wit. Bryson constructs scene very similar to what Liverpool is

‘They were having a festival of litter when I arrived’

Bryson helps the reader to capture the essence of Liverpool and
describes some of the places he has visited, Bryson is able to make
Liverpool sound like a stunning, and fascinating place to visit.
Bryson must evidently feel this about Liverpool as he has written
about it in favour of the city. Bryson visits one of Liverpool’s
sights and instead of mentioning how breath-taking The Philharmonic
Hall is he refers to it as ‘the Phil’ making it sound a lot less
exceptional than many would have thought. Bryson then goes on to talk
about the toilets in The Philharmonic and how decorative they are;

‘…the ornate gents’ room of the philharmonic…’[7]

Bryson then moves on to tell the audience about a pub not as equally
as well-known as the Philharmonic, this particular pub was called ‘The
Vines’ this public house obliviously left a mark in Bryson’s mind
apparent enough for him to talk of it;

‘So nice was The Vines that I drank two more pints…’[8]

Bryson’s book is well-researched, we see he has visited a number of

‘I can remember, after I had been living about a year in Bournemouth
and bought my first car…’

This shows us that Bryson has a dedicated infatuation for Britain and
is able to identify with it.

Bryson utilizes humour as a foundation for his literature. Bryson
still reminds the reader that he is a foreigner in Britain. I as a
reader lost track of that reality, and forgot he was infact American.
Whilst Bryson is in London he happens to come in contact with an A-Z
and begins to exaggerate on the names of streets which appear to be
similar to that of ‘medical complaints, or that of an ‘unsavoury’

‘…there was a gropecunt lane somewhere in the city…’[9]

Chatwin highlights such innovative endeavours such as Butch Cassidy,
he raises issues about the fable, which bring light to help us
understand how incidents can evolve into outsized problems, and
Chatwin shows that he as a thinker is able to separate logic from

Bryson also discus’s other places he has travelled to in the past such
as New York and Paris, he gives the reader a personal outlook by
drawing a distinction between the three cities London, Paris and New

‘I can never understand why Londoners fail to see that they live in
the most wonderful city in the world’[10]

Chatwin’s book, In Patagonia was written because of an inspiration
from when he was young. Chatwins style of delivery is exceptionally
different weighed against Bill Bryson’s’ Notes from a Small Island.
Chatwins use of language is not as easily accessible and has a modest
attempt of astuteness.

Chatwin’s book consists of a series of small Chapters which are
initially descriptions. Each chapter resembles a short-story. Bryson
however, has larger chapters which in places up to six pages long.

Chatwin uses a mixture of both fact and fiction and is sometimes
difficult for chapters are often day to day descriptions and character
comparisons. Describes a vignette into the place he is visiting;

‘I took the train to La Plata to see the best National history Museum
in South America…’

Chatwin recounts historic origins associated with Patagonia, such
things to do with culture, people and the location itself;

‘Three hundred and five years before Charley failed to weather Cape
Pilar, Captain John Davis squeezed past it in the desire…’

Chatwin keeps us interested by relating appealing specifics throughout
the book, this book is aimed at a more diligent reader.

Chatwins book consists of a series of small chapters, which are
initially descriptions. I think maybe to keep the reader interested
and to possibly pace the reader as Chatwins literary content is of an
academic standard.

Bryson’s book is composed of long-winded chapters as his accounts are
easily-reached by an eclectic range of audiences. Bryson’s chapters
are also lengthy because it is of an easier understanding.

Bryson’s book is well researched, he pin-points particular events that
have happened throughout his many visits to the British Isles, these
events may have been embellished upon to emphasize the emotion he felt
when witnessing these episodes.

Chatwin wrote ‘In Patagonia’ when he went to live there for six
months; he narrates the book as though it is a journal of his time
there. Chatwin also identifies individual episodes of which are to
some importance.

Chatwin has been accused of delivering his log of accounts incorrectly
by those who he has perhaps written about, this maybe because Chatwin
has either been too truthful an honest about what he has written and
these experiences with these specific people were private;

‘In Patagonia has been denounced as unreliable and deceptive, and
various residents of Patagonia have charged Chatwin with abusing their
hospitality and spreading untruths about them in his book.’[11]

Chatwin was actually a frequent traveller made his way to places such
as Italy, United States, Afghanistan and Benin, Chatwin has been
described as a ‘compulsive mover’.[12]

Chatwin confuses his reasons for going to Patagonia, in his book, In
Patagonia Chatwin relates a childhood story about a fascination with a
scrap skin ‘black and leathery, with strands of coarse, reddish hair’
and this was meant to of triggered his passion for Patagonia, Whilst
elsewhere he stated that he went to Patagonia to ‘free himself from
the strictures of life in London’[13] But many believe that he did not
want to discover a location but a theory.

Bill Bryson and Bruce Chatwin both have a very different style of
writing. From analysing both texts I have come to the conclusion that
Bill Bryson is a lot more accessible for the working class as there is
a lot of humorous and easily read anecdotes included in the accounts
of his travels. Bruce Chatwin is aimed at a more educated audience
looking for a challenging read.


· In Patagonia, Bruce Chatwin

· Notes from a Small Island

· WWW.Litencyc.com

· www.weecheng.com


[1] Notes from a Small Island, first page

[2] In Patagonia, First page

[3] In Patagonia, 1

[4] In Patagonia, 2

[5] Notes from a Small Island, Pg 244

[6] Notes from a Small Island, Pg 43

[7] Notes from a small island,p58

[8] Notes from a small island,p58

[9] Notes from a small island, p62

[10] Notes from a small island, p58

[11] quotation from www.litencyc.com

[12] Quotation from www.weecheng.com

[13] Quotation from www.weecheng.com

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