On the very day I finished listening to an excellently read audio version of The Road to Little Dribbling, I heard that Bill Bryson had announced his retirement as an author. Evidently, he has enjoyed having more time during Covid to read, see his grandchildren, and to relax from the pressures of book deadlines. I felt very saddened by this news, as I have loved Bryson’s books.
Bryson’s style is quirky and often laugh-out-loud funny, his books are packed with information (sometimes it’s information you wonder if you’ll ever actually need in life, but that’s part of the fun of it) and I love the way he meanders off on his famous digressions.
But I must admit that the news of his retirement also left me feeling slightly cheated. Somewhere in my mind is the firm belief that authors should just keep writing until they die. When their eager readers want more of their books, writers should just knuckle down and provide more. Bill Bryson is only in his 60s – he could have another 20 years of writing ahead of him. Just think what the world lost when Shakespeare retired from the London stage and stopped writing plays! I think when we love the works of an author, we come to develop a slight sense of ‘ownership’ of that author. How dare Bill Bryson decide to stop writing!
I know this is grossly unfair of me! Writers, like those in any other profession, do have the right to retire. I know I’m being selfish. I’m sure that Bill has more than earned his right to sit and read purely for pleasure rather than for research, and I’m equally sure that he has no financial need to keep churning out books. But I do still feel cheated, and very sad that there will be no more delightful Bryson books to bring me pleasure. I loved The Mother Tongue, Notes from a Small Island, Walk in the Woods, At Home and Down Under. I have his latest, The Body: A Guide for Occupants in my ‘to read’ pile.
So, while I do wish dear Bill Bryson all the best for his retirement, and thank him for the hours of reading enjoyment he has given me, I do hope he’ll change his mind and pick up his pen once again.