Texte de Bill Bryson

Énoncé

« Ten years ago this month I got a phone call from an American publisher telling me that they had just bought one of my books and were going to send me on a three-week, sixteen-city publicity tour. "We're going to make you a media star," he said brightly. "But I've never been on TV," I protested in mild panic. "Oh. it's easy. You'll love it," he said with the blithe assurance of someone who doesn't have to do it himself. "No, I'll be terrible," I insisted. "I have no personality." "Don't worry, we'll give you a personality. We're going to fly you to New York for a course of media training." My heart sank. All this had a bad feeling about it. For the first time since I accidentally set fire to a neighbour's garage in 1961,I began to think seriously about the possibility of plastic surgery and a new life in Central America. So I flew to New York and, as it turned out, the media training was less of an ordeal than I had feared. I was put in the hands of a kindly, patient man named Bill Parkhurst, who sat with me for two days in a windowless studio somewhere in Manhattan and put me through an endless series of mock interviews. He would say things like: "OK, now we're going to do a three-minute interview with a guy who hasn't looked at your book until 10 seconds ago and doesn't know whether it's a cookery book or a book on prison reform. Also, this guy is a tad stupid and will interrupt you frequently. OK, let's go." He would click his stopwatch and we would do a three-minute interview. Then we would do it again. And again. And so it went for two days. By the afternoon of the second day I was having to push my tongue back in my mouth with my fingers. "Now you know what you'll feel like by the second day of your tour," Parkhurst observed cheerfully. "What's it like after twenty-one days?" I asked. Parkhurst smiled. "You'll love it." Amazingly he was nearly right. Book tours are actually kind of fun. You get to stay in nice hotels, you are driven everywhere in big silver cars, you are treated as if you are much more important than you are, you can eat steak three times a day at someone else's expense, and you get to talk endlessly about yourself for weeks at a stretch. Is this a dream come true or what? It was an entirely new world for me. As you will recall if you have been committing these columns to memory, when I was growing up my father always took us to the cheapest motels imaginable – the sort of places that made the Bates Motel in Psycho look sophisticated and well-appointed – so this was a gratifyingly novel experience. I had never before stayed in a really fancy hotel, never ordered from room service, never called on the services of a concierge or valet, never tipped a doorman. (Still haven't, come to that!) […] In one five-day period, I flew from San Francisco to Atlanta to Chicago to Boston and back to San Francisco. I once flew from Denver to Colorado Springs in order to do a 30-second interview which – I swear – went like this: Interviewer: "Our guest today is Bill Bryson. So you've got a new book out, have you, Bill?" Me: "That's right." Interviewer: "Well, that's wonderful. Thanks so much for coming." […] In three weeks I gave over 250 interviews of one type or another and never once met anyone who had read my book or had the faintest idea who I was. At one radio station the interviewer covered the microphone with his hand just before we went on and said: "Now tell me, are you the guy who was abducted by aliens or are you the travel writer?" The whole point, as Bill Parkhurst taught me, is to sell yourself shamelessly and believe me, you soon learn to do it. I suppose all this is on my mind because by the time you read this I will be in the middle of a three-week promotional tour in Britain. Now I don't want you to think I am sucking up, but touring in Britain is a dream compared with America. Distances are shorter, which helps a lot, and you find on the whole that the interviewers have read the book, or at least read a book. Bookshop managers and staff are invariably dedicated and kindly, and the reading public are, without exception, intelligent, discerning, enormously good-looking and generous in their purchasing habits. Why, I have even known people to throw down a Sunday newspaper and say, "I think I'll go out and buy that book of old Bill's right now. I might even buy several copies as Christmas presents." It's a crazy way to make a living, but it's one of those things you've got to do. I just thank God it hasn't affected my sincerity. »
Bill Bryson, Notes from a Big Country, 1998, Black Swan edition, 1999

Compréhension
1. What literary genre does Notes from a Big Country belong to? Justify.
2. Who is the narrator? (name, job)
3. Who are the other five individuals mentioned in the text? Give their names and jobs when possible.
4. 
a) What did the narrator's job bring him to do?
b) How did he prepare for this experience?
5. 
a) How did he feel before this experience?
b) Were his feelings justified after all? Explain your answer.
6. "Ten years ago I had a phone call from an American publisher". Find three experiences illustrating that it was the beginning of a new life for him.
7. 
Who or what do the underlined words refer to?
a) "telling me that…"
b) "we would do it again"
c) "And so it went for two days."
d) "You'll love it."
e) "I don't want you…"
8. 
a) "Would" is used four times from "He would say…" to "…do it again". What does it indicate as far as the media training sessions are concerned?
b) In the sentence "you are driven everywhere in big silver cars, you are treated as if you are much more important than you are, …", what do the verbal forms indicate about the narrator's situation?
9. "I began to think seriously about the possibility of plastic surgery and a new life in Central America." What does the quotation reveal about the narrator's personality? Quote one more example of such a trait of character from "I suppose…" to "…right now."
10. Did he prefer his tour in America or in Britain? Justify by giving four examples from "In one five-day period…" to the end.
Expression
Vous traiterez les deux sujets suivants :
1. On his promotional tour in Britain the narrator keeps a diary. He relates one of his days. Write this page. (100 words)
2. Do you agree with the interviewer that the media can give you a personality? (200 words)
Traduction
Translate into French from "So I flew to New York…" to "OK, let's go."

Corrigé

Compréhension
1. Notes from a Big Country is an autobiography, first because it is a first person narrative and then because the narrator and the writer/ author are one and the same person: "Our guest today is Bill Bryson."
2. The narrator is the author Bill Bryson who is a writer.
3. The five other individuals mentioned in the text are:
  • an American publisher;
  • Bill Parkhurst, a media trainer;
  • Bill Bryson's father;
  • An interviewer who works in Colorado springs;
  • Another interviewer.
4. 
a) The narrator's job brought him to go on a promotional tour all over the USA.
b) To be prepared for this new experience, he spent two days with a media trainer in New York answering fake interviews so as to be ready to face all sorts of interviews.
5. 
a) Before this experience he felt totally frightened and he was panic-stricken.
b) After the book tour, he changed his mind and found that it was not as terrible as he had thought and that it was even amusing. He went to nice hotels, he was taken care of and travelled a lot.
"Book tours are actually kind of fun."
6. 
  • "We're going to fly you to New York for a course of media training."
  • "Book tours are actually kind of fun."
  • "It was an entirely new world for me."
  • "In three weeks I gave over 250 interviews of one type or another…"
7. 
a) "Me" refers to the narrator/ author, Bill Bryson.
b) "We" refers to the narrator/ Bill Bryson and Bill Parkhurst.
c) "It" refers to the media training/ mock interviews.
d) "It" refers to the promotional tour.
e) "You" refers to the readers.
8. 
a) The use of "would" which is repeated four times indicates that during the media training, Bill Bryson and Bill Parkhurst repeated the exercise of the interview again and again many times. Playing the interviewer and the interviewee was a habit in the two-day media training session.
b) The passive used clearly indicates that the narrator was taken care of during the tour, that he had nothing to do or to take care of because everything had been planned and arranged for him. The publisher took charge of him. The only thing he had to do was to take part in interviews.
9. The quotation reveals that the narrator is a very shy man who is not self-assured. He is afraid of people and the media. He knows he would feel uncomfortable if he had to do an interview on the radio and might even be panic-stricken if it were on a TV set. The prospect of notoriety frightens him. He feels comfortable only when he knows the people he meets or when he is with people who are nice and kind and pay attention to him.
"Bookshop managers and staff are invariably dedicated and kindly, and the reading public are, without exception, intelligent, discerning, enormously good-looking and generous…"
10. He clearly preferred his tour in Britain.
In America, "in one five-day period, I flew from San Francisco to Atlanta to Chicago to Boston and back to San Francisco. I once flew from Denver to Colorado Springs in order to do a 30-second interview…" whereas in Britain "distances are shorter, which helps a lot."
Moreover in America, "in three weeks I gave over 250 interviews of one type or another and never once met anyone who had read my book or had the faintest idea who I was." On the contrary in Britain, "you find on the whole that the interviewers have read the book, or at least read a book."
Expression
1. Il s'agit d'écrire une journée de la tournée promotionnelle du narrateur en Grande-Bretagne. Il faudra d'une part penser à présenter le travail en respectant bien la présentation qui est celle d'une page d'un journal personnel (indication de la date en tête de page). D'autre part, il ne faut pas oublier qu'il se trouve en Grande-Bretagne et non aux États-Unis. En effet, le texte nous apprend qu'il préfère largement effectuer ce « travail » en Grande-Bretagne, plus agréable à tous égards. Vous pourrez d'ailleurs penser à opposer cette journée à une autre passée aux États-Unis.
2. We can say that the media can give somebody a personality or build a character very different from reality for the needs of communication.
When someone meets a journalist for an interview the image the readers or spectators get depends on the kind of article or programme the interviewee takes part in and secondly, it also depends on the kind of questions that are asked.
When a press journalist interviews somebody, it is hard to know how the answers given will be exposed in the article and consequently what image they will give of the person. We all have heard people saying that what they answered when they were interviewed is not what can be read in the article. It shows that a journalist has to be very careful in his report of someone's words.
When somebody is interviewed on the radio, the personality is more accurate since the answers are not reported or interpreted by somebody else. The image the audience gets is more realistic.
When an interview takes place on a TV set, the image of the person is not only given by the answers but also by his appearance and his attitude. In this setting everything is a matter of perception. Moreover, an interview is only a snapshot of someone at a given time so that it can't be considered as a true and faithful image of somebody's personality. Finally, the interviewer's personality and the nature of his questions can influence the interviewee.
Traduction
Je me suis donc rendu à New York par avion et il s'est avéré que la formation à l'audiovisuel fut moins un supplice (ou une épreuve) que je ne le craignais. On m'a mis entre les mains d'un homme bienveillant (ou sympathique) et patient qui s'appelait Bill Parkhurst et qui, pendant deux jours, est resté assis avec moi dans un studio sans fenêtre quelque part dans Manhattan et m'a soumis à une série d'innombrables fausses interviews.
Il disait des choses comme : « Bon, maintenant on va faire une interview de trois minutes avec un type qui n'a jeté un œil sur votre livre qu'une dizaine de secondes auparavant et qui ne sait pas s'il s'agit d'un livre de cuisine ou bien d'un livre sur la réforme des prisons. En plus, ce type est un peu stupide et va vous interrompre sans cesse. Bon, on y va (ou allons-y) ».