A few weeks ago, I started A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and a just yesterday I decided to pick up Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. The obvious similarity between the works — documenting the writer’s journey along the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, respectively — but the difference in purpose and gender of the writer made me think reading Strayed would be a great companion to Bryson.
While both writers are completely unprepared for their journey, the differences in the books couldn’t be more startling. I look forward to relaxing as I read A Walk in the Woods. Bryson’s poetic, friendly style allows me to drift smoothly into his sentences; I’m swept up into his elegant prose; I feel as though I’m right there with him. He’s funny, critical, witty, and keenly observant. In comparison, Strayed’s words clang together, some details fail to add depth to the narrative, and her observations fall flat. I notice errors in word choice, syntax, wordiness, organization, clarity, and context. My critical eye — intensified by the hours I spend grading essays — can’t close when I read Strayed.
I’ll keep plugging through Strayed, but I’m not sure if I’ll make it to the end.