Bill Bryson

  • Aired:  10/14/10
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Bill Bryson tells the history of the world by questioning the common things we take for granted, in his book, "At Home." (5:52)

EVERYBODY.

MY GUEST TONIGHT HAS WRITTEN A

NEW BOOK ABOUT LIFE AT HOME.

GIVEN THE FORECLOSURE RATE, I

ASSUME IT'S FICTION.

PLEASE WELCOME BILL BRYSON.

( CHEERS AND APPLAUSE )

HEY, MR. BRYSON, THANKS SO MUCH

FOR COMING ON.

GOOD TO SEE YOU.

NOW, YOU ARE A VERY POPULAR

AUTHOR OF NON-FICTION, AND YOUR

LATEST BOOK IS CALLED "AT HOME:

A SHORT HISTORY OF PRIVATE LIFE.

" YOU DESCRIBE THIS AS SORT OF

LIKE A HISTORY OF THE WORLD TOLD

BY WALKING AROUND YOUR HOME,

CORRECT?

>> SORT OF.

SORT OF.

>> Stephen: YOUR WORDS, SIR.

>> THE BACK-UP TO IT IS WE

PROVED TO ENGLAND IN 2003.

I WAS SITTING AROUND OUR HOUSE,

WHICH IS AN OLD PARSONAGE IN

NORFOLK, AND I JUST DECIDED TO

DAWN ON ME.

I WAS LOOKING FOR AN IDEA FOR A

BOOK.

I REALIZED I DIDN'T KNOW

ANYTHING ABOUT EVERYDAY LIFE.

I HEARD A REFERENCE ON THE RADIO

TO ROOM AND BOARD.

AND I THOUGHT, I'VE BEEN HEARING

THAT EXPRESSION ALL MY LIFE,

WHAT IS BOARD?

>>

>> Stephen: BECAUSE LIFE IN

THE OLDEN DAYS WAS SO BORING.

>> THAT'S A GOOD ANSWER BUT NOT

THE RIGHT ONE.

>> Stephen: I'D RATHER HAVE A

GOOD ONE THAN THE RIGHT ONE.

>> AND I NOTICED THESE BUTTONS

OUR OUR JACKET.

THEY DON'T DO ANYTHING.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOURS ARE

LIKE.

>> Stephen: IF I GET FAT

ENOUGH, THESE BLOW OUT AND

EREPLACE IT.

I ASSUME THAT'S WHAT THAT'S FOR.

>> WHY DO WE HAVE POINTLESS

BUTTONS?

SO ANYWAY, THE IDEA WAS I JUST

THOUGHT, I MIGHT JUST WALK

AROUND THE HOUSE, GO FROM ROOM

TO ROOM IN MY OWN HOME AND TRY

AND WRITE A HISTORY OF THE WORLD

FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF EACH

ROOM.

>> Stephen: IT SOUNDS LIKE

YOU'RE QUESTIONING THE COMMON

THINGS YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT, THE

THINGS YOU TAKE FOR GRANTED

YOU'RE QUESTIONING.

>> EXACTLY.

>> Stephen: BUT IF YOU

QUESTION THE THINGS WE TAKE FOR

GRANTED, YOU MIGHT LEARN

SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR OWN LIFE

YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW.

>> WELL, EVERY TIME YOU QUESTION

ANYTHING, YOU MIGHT LEARN

SOMETHING YOU DON'T WANT TO

KNOW.

>> Stephen: THAT'S WHY I DON'T

QUESTION MY LIFE.

>> BECAUSE IT IS EVERYDAY LIFE,

BECAUSE WE DO TAKE IT FOR

GRANTEDDED, IT IS... IT SEEMS TO

BE ALMOST INDISTINCTIVELY,

INNATELY INTERESTING.

>> Stephen: SO WHAT DID I NOT

KNOW ABOUT MY HOUSE.

I OPEN THE DOOR AND I'M IN MY

HOPE.

>> FIRST ROOM YOU COME TO IS THE

HALL.

THE HALL IS A COMPLETELY

UNIMPORTANT ROOM.

IT'S A SORT OF ENTRYWAY INTO THE

HOUSE.

>> Stephen: THE MAIL IS ON THE

TABLE THERE.

>> ORIGINALLY THE HALL WAS VERY

IMPORTANT.

THERE WAS ONE ROOM WHEN ANGELO

SACKSONS CAME INTO ENGLAND, THEY

BROUGHT THE NEW HOUSE, HALL

HOUSE.

THE HOUSE WAS THE HALL.

AND THAT'S WHY WE HAVE ALL OF

THESE WORDS IN ENGLISH WITH HALL

IN THEM THAT MAKE HALL SOUND

LIKE A IMPORTANT PLACE, CARNEGIE

HALL, STUDY HALL, HALL OF FAME,

HALLS OF MONTEZUMA, ALL OF THAT.

SO HALL WAS A BIG SPACE.

THEN AS HOUSES PROLIFERATED,

THEY WENT OUTWARDS AND UPWARDS,

THE HALL ITSELF SHRANK.

IT BECAME THE KIND OF ENTRYWAY

TO THE HOUSE.

>> Stephen: IT'S LIKE THE

NOTHING ROOM NOW.

>> IT IS THE NOTHING ROOM.

>> Stephen: IT'S THE ROOM

THAT'S NOT A ROOM.

IT'S THE ROOM THAT GETS YOU TO

THE ROOM YOU WANT TO GET.

TO

>> ABSOLUTELY.

>> Stephen: IF YOU'RE OUT IN

THE HALL, YOU'RE OUT NOWHERE.

YOU'RE LIKE EXILED.

BUT BEFORE THAT IS THE PLACE YOU

WANTED TO BE.

>> EXACTLY.

YOU'VE GOT IT COVERED.

>> Stephen: I'M CONFUSED, BUT

GO AHEAD.

YOU'RE TURNING MY HOUSE UPSIDE

DOWN.

SO ABOUT WHAT ABOUT BEDROOMS?

ARE THOSE NEW?

>> WELL, BEDROOMS... ORIGINALLY

IN THE HALL HOUSES IN THE MIDDLE

AGES, THERE WERE NO BEDROOMS.

EVERYBODY LIVED AND SLEPT

TOGETHER.

IT WAS ONE BIG...

>> Stephen: HOW DID YOU MAKE

MORE PEOPLE IN FRONT OF

EVERYBODY ELSE?

>> YOU MADE MORE PEOPLE IN FRONT

OF EVERYBODY ELSE.

>> Stephen: REALLY?

>> APPARENTLY.

THEY MADE MORE PEOPLE.

>> Stephen: SO THEY WEREN'T AS

BORING AS I THOUGHT.

THEY WERE YOUR ENTERTAINMENT.

PERHAPS YOU COULD WAGER WHILE IT

WAS GOING ON.

( LAUGHTER )

>> THERE WAS A GREAT... ALL OUR

IDEAS OF PRIVACY, A LOT OF THEM

ARE VERY, VERY RECENT.

RIGHT UP UNTIL ABOUT 1800, IT

WAS NOT AT ALL UNCOMMON FOR A

SERVANT TO SLEEP IN PEOPLE'S

BEDROOMS.

>> Stephen: LIKE AT THE FOOT

OF THE BED.

>> AT THE FOOT OF THE BED.

>> LIKE A SPANIEL.

>> ENGLISH DIARIES, IT WAS CLEAR

IN DIARIES THAT THEER IS VANTD

WAS AT THE FOOT OF HIS BED.

SO WHATEVER THEY WERE GETTING UP

TO IN THE BED, SHE WAS THERE TO

LISTEN TO IT.

( LAUGHTER )

>> Stephen: PERHAPS.

NOW, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.

YOU SAY THAT WE ARE USED TO

COMFORT NOW, AND COMFORT IS A

NEW THING.

>> WELL, UNTIL ABOUT THE TIME OF

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, COMFORT

WAS JUST SOMETHING YOU GAVE TO

WOUNDED PEOPLE, DISTRESSED

PEOPLE.

THE IDEA OF BEING COMFORTABLE IN

A HOUSE, JUST COMFORTABLE IN AN

ENVIRONMENT DIDN'T EXIST BECAUSE

IT WASN'T A CONCEPT THAT PEOPLE

RECOGNIZED.

>> Stephen: IS IT A BAD THING?

>> NO, NO, COMFORT IS A GREAT

THING.

THAT'S WHAT WE ALL WANT.

>> Stephen: OUR MODERN SENSE

OF COMFORT MIGHT NOT BE GOOD FOR

THE ENVIRONMENT.

WE INDULGE OURSELVES IN WAYS

THAT MIGHT HARM THE PLANET.

>> IT'S A COMPLICATED POINT, BUT

IT IS THAT ALL OF... WE'VE SPENT

HUGE AMOUNTS OF ENERGY TRYING TO

MAKE OURSELVES COMFORTABLE,

NATURAL IMPULSE.

IT'S THE MOST NATURAL THING IN

THE WORLD.

IN THE PROCESS OF DOING IT, WE

THIS USE UP A LOT OF STUFF,

RESOURCES.

OF ALL THE ENERGY THAT'S BEEN

PRODUCED INTO THE INDUSTRIAL

REVOLUTION, HALF OF IT HAS BEEN

CONSUMED IN THE LAST 20 YEARS,

BECAUSE WE USE STUFF SO

INTENSIVELY NOW.

>> WE'RE GETTING BETTER AT BEING

COMFORTABLE.

WHEN WE RUIN THE PLANET, WE'LL

COME UP WITH A WAY TO BE

COMFORTABLE IN THE AFTER SCAPE.

>> WE BETTER HOPE SO BECAUSE

THAT MAY BE THE POSITION WE'RE

IN.

>> Stephen: THE BOOK IS CALLED

"AT HOME."

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