Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson was born in the middle of the American century—1951—in the middle of the United States—Des Moines, Iowa—in the middle of the largest generation in American history—the baby boomers. As one of the best and funniest writers alive, he is perfectly positioned to mine his memories of a totally all-American childhood for 24-carat memoir gold. Like millions of his generational peers, Bill Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around his house and neighborhood with an old football jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel about his neck that served as his cape, leaping tall buildings in a single bound and vanquishing awful evildoers (and morons)—in his head—as "The Thunderbolt Kid."

Using this persona as a springboard, Bill Bryson re-creates the life of his family and his native city in the 1950s in all its transcendent normality—a life at once completely familiar to us all and as far away and unreachable as another galaxy. Except from Product Description.

My Review:
I had just finished reading a book by David Sedaris that I found rather disappointing and wasn't in the mood to read another collection of funny anecdotes. But I needed something to read and this was sitting here so I started reading; intending to kill time till I found something better. What I'd forgotten was that Bill Bryson likes to teach his readers something, he just does it in a truly entertaining way.

So I learned all about the 1950s and I didn't even know I needed to know this stuff. That decade was the beginning and end of a distinct way of life and greatly shaped our current culture. It was interesting to find similarities between Bryson's childhood in Iowa in the 50s and mine in Utah in the 80s. It was even more interesting to see how my parent's childhood may have been and how that shaped how I was raised. He also pointed out the lost charms of the decade along with the bizarre idyosncracies.

This book was a faster read than A Walk in the Woods and is similar in terms of teaching the reader something. It was meatier than I Am a Stranger Here Myself, which is more along the lines of simply being (really) funny anecdotes. I have to say all three of these books are enjoyable and uplifting.

My rating: 4 stars (I actually hover at 3.75 but the teaching factor boosts it to four)

In one sentence: Relive the childhood everyone should have had.


Heather said...

Sometimes it's nice to read about a childhood that was pleasant. I think it gives us as parents some ideas on our own parenting style by reading about the parts of childhood that people remember most. Isn't funny how it can seem like the most mundane thing? I loved "A Girl Called Zippy" by Haven Kimmel for this exact reason.

Sweet Em said...

I thought the exact same thing about "A Girl Called Zippy."


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