Acclaimed author Bill Bryson discusses power of humor in semester's fourth DLS talk

Renowned author Bill Bryson (left) shares comedic life experiences and advice with students at UW-Madison.

Image By: Alayna Truttmann

Best-selling author Bill Bryson visited UW-Madison Monday as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series to promote his work, read select passages from his books and tell stories about his life as an author.

Bryson began his lecture by discussing his childhood growing up in the ’50s, which he chronicled in his book “The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid.”

“The ’50s was a great time to be a kid,” Bryson said. “It was just a really happy, unusually euphoric time, I think particularly for children.”

Bryson explained the euphoria he experienced while growing up was also seen in his hometown’s appreciation for humor.

“Making jokes, good jokes, was something that was appreciated,” Bryson said.

He conveyed that humor during his lecture, which, like most of his writing, was filled with stories and anecdotes from his life.

UW-Madison history assistant professor Elizabeth Hennessy, who introduced Bryson prior to his lecture, praised the interactive approach he uses with his audience.

“What I find so inspirational about Bill’s writing is his ability to take readers along with him as travelers in a way that opens up the richness and humor of the world,” Hennessy said.

Bryson also discussed his career as an author and the writing process involved.

“[Being an author] is hard work, but when you get it right and it feels right to you it is very, very satisfying,” he said.

The writer used his visit to Madison to give advice for UW students interested in becoming authors. He urged students to remember that perseverance is “really the key thing.”

“If you really want to do something just keep at it,” Bryson said in an interview with The Daily Cardinal.

He also addressed the general student body, warning them not to waste the opportunities college provides.

“It is the best opportunity you’re ever going to have to just indulge yourself in the process of learning and absorbing information and figuring things out and deciding what you might do with your life,” Bryson said. “Once you leave college, you’re not going to have those opportunities anymore.”

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