NEITHER HERE NOR THERE is one of Bryson's earlier travel books, conceived somewhere around 1991. It is a tour of Europe, excluding Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Bryson's method of operation is to steer clear of tours and find lodging and food as needed; his planning is in maps and cultural background reading. He travels by foot, train and bus. This formula produces more winning museum visits and views than desirable rides,lodging and food, but he is not a glass half empty kind of guy. He voices his opinion about bad food and attitudes but he is generous with praise when it is deserved.
There is much to enjoy in this book: Bryson's style of humor, often bratty and tear-inducing in its hilarity, is full throttle. While it is not a muse or a sentimental journey, his travels coincide with the 1973 itinerary of his hitchhiking days with pal Steven Katz, the memorable sidekick from A WALK IN THE WOODS. Bryson sprinkles this book with memories and lessons learned from that first foray. The one thing NEITHER HERE NOR THERE lacks is the degree of information with which he packs his later books, particularly IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY. As he sets off in Paris, he visits a musty old bookstore called Shakespeare & Company and says nothing--c'mon, Bryson, think Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, Joyce! He does get better as he gets into the trip, though, and refuses to let Austria and Kurt Waldheim off the hook for their roles in World War II.
One last note: it is interesting to see Europe before the Euro and Sarajevo and Belgrade in that sliver of time between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the devastation of the 1990s. This book is at once very contemporary (American fast food chains everywhere) and yet historic.