If I over-praised what I found, it was not out of undue deference to my congenial hosts but to point a better way forward for France. However, I was not uncritical of the anti-intellectual and materialistic tendencies of American populism, warning of a likely descent into political mediocrity. Nor was I mindless of the difficulties that lay ahead in assimilating the black population. My prescience affords me no pleasure.
Bill Bryson takes more pleasure from what he observes and how he describes it than I was able. Essentially, the pleasure in what he finds is what separates us more than history. I don't think Bill Bryson started out with a higher political purpose. He reports what he sees in order to entertain not to educate.
The British recognise themselves in Bryson's gently critical prose. He allows them to accept their eccentricities and enjoy them without guilt or embarrassment. Americans seek more than acceptance and feel a greater need to feed their sense of righteousness. Everywhere he looks in Britain Bill finds incongruity. The affection the British have for small pleasures like rock cakes. Their constipated view of distance. Their hosepipe bans in spite of a relative abundance of rain. Their acceptance that a single ticket can cost more than a return ticket. Strangely grateful that an articulate foreigner not only understands these foibles but warms to them, they have met irony with irony. They have made a man who shies away from becoming a British citizen a Commissioner for English Heritage and President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
This is remarkable since the British rarely let foreigners manage anything in their countries unless they have run out of Scots to manage their football clubs.