Sunday, March 23, 2008

The paradox of Alice Springs.

3C Review finds Bill Bryson on Alice Springs:

Because it is so bang in the middle of nowhere, Alice Springs ought to seem a miracle—an actual town with department stores and schools and streets with names—and for a long time it was sort of an antipodean Timbuktu, a place tantalizing in its inaccessibility. In 1954, when Alan Moorehead passed through, Alice’s only regular connection to the outside world was a weekly train from Adelaide. Its arrival on Saturday evening was the biggest event in the life of the town. It brough mail, newspapers, new pictures for the cinema, long-awaited spare parts, and whatever else couldn’t be acquired locally. Nearly the whole town turned out to see who got off and what was unloaded.

In those days Alice had a population of 4,000 and hardly any visitors. Today it’s a thriving little city with a population of 25,000 and it is full of visitors—350,000 of them a year—which is of course the whole problem.These days you can jet in from Adelaide in two hours, from Melbourne to Sydney in less than three. You can have a latte and buy some opals and then climb on a tour bus and travel down the highway to Ayers Rock. It has not only become accessible, it’s become a destination. It’s so full of hotels, motels, conference centers, campgrounds, and desert resorts that you can’t pretend even for a moment that you have achieved something exceptional by getting yourself there. It’s crazy really. A community that was once famous for being remote now attracts thousands of visitors who come to see how remote it no longer is.

That's from In a Sunburned Country.

I really liked that book quite a bit. I ended up giving it to an uncle who has a place in Australia.
I have to say that I really don't care for his stuff, and as a result haven't read very much of it. I read the piece of that book that described a part of the country I'd been to, and it seemed just too stilted -- I think Bryson had invented a purported traveling partner so that he could do his schtick as a dialogue with a straight man rather than as a dialogue, just to mix it up.

At any rate, I seem to be farther from the mean on my view of him than I am with most authors.
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