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What the Editors Are Reading

Having written the book on Bill Bryson (literally—for Marshall Cavendish’s Today’s Writers & Their Works series, 2010), I have been looking forward to the film version of A Walk in the Woods (1998) since I first read Bryson’s semifictionalized account of hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Robert Redford, who produced the movie and stars as a much-older Bill Bryson (he is 35 years older than the author was at the time Bryson hiked the trail), optioned the rights back in 2005, with the idea of casting Paul Newman in the role of Bryson’s childhood friend, Stephen Katz, who accompanied him on most of the hike.  Newman’s death in 2008 prevented the reunion, which is just as well, because the movie would have been very different, and not for the better.

A Walk in the Woods was the expatriate Bryson’s first book to garner a significant American audience.  His earlier book on the United States, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America (1989), was written for a British audience, and Bryson’s jabs at his native land were not so much biting as bitter.  (The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, published in 2006, covers much of the same material, but through the eyes of a more mature writer who has made peace with his roots.)  Both the book and the film versions of A Walk in the Woods have increased interest in the Appalachian Trail—a good thing...

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