On Wednesday 29th January, we welcomed acclaimed author and former Chancellor Bill Bryson back to the Library that bears his name. Bill hosted a Q and A in Small Island Coffee which, fittingly, was named after one of his books, Notes from a Small Island. He has been quoted as saying,
“I couldn’t believe that not once in twenty years had anyone said to me: ‘You’ve never been to Durham? Good God, man, you must go at once! Please – take my car’.”
We were delighted to welcome Bill back to the town he so loves!
Needless to say, we were blown away by Bill’s captivating introductory talk about his new book, The Body: a Guide for Occupants. It’s remarkable quite how many unanswered questions we still have about the human body, but Bill has done his best to answer some for us. For example, ‘Why are blood types A, B and O – what happened to C, D, E and so on?’ Good question. And did you know that if you were to lay all of your cells out in a straight line there would be ‘enough of you to reach past Pluto and leave the Solar System’? We don’t want to spoil too much for you, but we highly recommend it – if you want to borrow it, you’ll find it here. We hope you’ll agree with Bill that ‘life – all life – is a miracle and we should never lose sight of that,’ and that ‘you are gloriously, internally, exquisitely you.’ [We think he should write a self-help book next – we were definitely a bit emotional by this point!].
Bill invited questions from the audience, who happily rose to the challenge. One person enquired about the grossest fact Bill had discovered whilst doing research for his book. Bill gleefully declared that ‘once you know the mechanics of the human body, it’s genuinely not gross anymore!’ Bill was asked for his opinion on Robert Redford’s portrayal of him in the film adaptation of A Walk in the Woods. Bill had a lot of praise for his pal, Rob. One daring student asked Bill how he could be so disparaging of cricket when he was such a big fan of baseball. Bill’s response – he doesn’t understand the strategy of a game in which a five-day match can still result in a draw. It’s the taking part that counts, Bill! However, he did choose this as his favourite question of the night and awarded the student with a signed copy of his new book.
Of course, what we most wanted to know is whether anyone calls him Billy Bee in real life. The answer was no, ‘not to my face, anyway,’ but he seemed quite taken with his new nickname. We know what to put on his invite the next time he visits!
Did you attend An Audience with Bill Bryson? Let us know what you thought in the comments. Remember that this is part of our Café Culture programme – a series of events aimed at promoting time out from study and wellbeing. We want you to look after yourselves, and so does Bill. After all, in his words:
“there shouldn’t be a single day of your life, during which you don’t rejoice in being alive.”
How’s that for inspiration?
Follow us on social media and look out for future events!