Bill Bryson’s memoir on growing up in Des Moines, Iowa in the 1950s is a humorous account of a special time and place, where a kid wears an old football sweater displaying a thunderbolt and thinks himself a superhero.
The Abingdon Lite at Night group read Bill Bryson’s memoir and had mixed feelings about it. There are some very humorous parts to the book and the authors take on being a small boy is very funny. There were comments from the group regarding the accuracy of some of Bryson’s dates. One reader had checked on a couple of things and found that the author may have got his facts wrong. He also felt that the book was rather contrived. That Bryson may have needed to write a book but this wasn’t his best work. In fact those of us who had read previous books by this author were disappointed. It was not as funny and did not flow as well as previous works. Overall, however, if you give Bryson the benefit of the doubt and are not a stickler for facts, the book is entertaining and certainly shows how life has changed since the Fifties. In fact the best line in the book, and the saddest, is right at the end “What a wonderful world it was. We won’t see its like again, I’m afraid.”
We do recommend you read this author. His book, in a Sunburned Country, about Australia, is hysterical & just magical if you listen to the author reading it himself on CD. He is an excellent raconteur & you feel he is sitting right next to you telling you his stories. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, is also a good read. Two other titles featuring travels in America are, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America, & I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years. For any Anglophiles, Notes From a Small Island gives the reader wonderful insight into British culture and foibles and is another very funny book. Bryson is an excellent storyteller and gives the reader a real feel for the places he visits whether in the present or the past.
See Bill’s website at http://www.randomhouse.com/features/billbryson/ for a short biography and details of some of his books.
Some Praise for Bryson’s book from his website.
“Bill Bryson’s laugh-out-loud pilgrimage through his Fifties childhood in heartland America is a national treasure. It’s full of insights, wit, and wicked adolescent fantasies.”
“Bryson is unparalleled in his ability to cut a culture off at the knees in a way that is so humorous and so affectionate that those being ridiculed are laughing too hard to take offense.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“A cross between de Tocqueville and Dave Barry, Bryson writes about…America in a way that’s both trenchantly observant and pound-on-the-floor, snort-root-beer-out-of-your-nose funny.”
—San Franciso Examiner
“Bill Bryson could write an essay about dryer lint or fever reducers and still make us laugh out loud.”
“Bryson is…great company…a lumbering, droll, neatnik intellectual who comes off as equal parts Garrison Keillor, Michael Kinsley, and…Dave Barry.”
—New York Times Book Review
From Publishers Weekly
Though billed as memoir, Bryson’s follow-up to A Short History of Nearly Everything can only be considered one in the broadest sense. Sure, it’s filled with Bryson’s recollections of his Des Moines, Iowa, childhood. But it’s also a clear foray into Jean Shepherd territory, where nostalgia for one’s youth is suffused with comic hyperbole: “All sneakers in the 1950s had over seven dozen lace holes,” we’re told; though all the toys were crummy, it didn’t matter because boys had plenty of fun throwing lit matches at each other; and mimeograph paper smelled wonderful. The titular Thunderbolt Kid is little more than a recurring gag, a self-image Bryson invokes to lash out at the “morons” that plague every child’s existence. At other times, he offers a glib pop history of the decade, which works fine when discussing teen culture or the Cold War but falls flat when trying to rope in the Civil Rights movement. And sometimes he just wants to reminisce about his favorite TV shows or the Dick and Jane books. The book is held together by sheer force of personality—but when you’ve got a personality as big as Bryson’s, sometimes that’s enough. (Oct. 17)
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