Thursday, September 22, 2011

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE THUNDERBOLT KID – Bill Bryson


Tuesday the Adams Central Adult Literati met at the Brick House Restaurant in Monroe to discuss this humorous memoir by Bryson. We had in the past read A Walk in the Woods as a group and then several of us had tackled some of his others. Bryson has a definate appeal to people over 40 and anyone who enjoys laughing at people's foibles and ironic situations. He did not disappoint. I have liked some of this other titles better such as the above mentioned and I'm a Stranger Here Myself but none-the-less I/we had a great time with Thunderbolt.

How could you not like a book interspersed with family photos and each chapter starting with a bit of an article from the Des Moines Register which were very funny. For instance chapter one begins with this February 6, 1955 entry;
“The State Senate of Illinois yesterday disbanded the Committee on Efficiency and Economy “for reasons of efficiency and economy.””

More than just a narrative of his childhood Bryson gives us a kind of tongue-in-cheek commentary of life in the 50s and early 60s. What I for one really liked about it was his portrayal of the times as glowing and innocent, kind of quirky and clean. Which is how I remember a lot of life in the 50s. Fifteen cent comic books, roller skates, 45 records, bomb shelters in back yards, Sky King, Red Ball Jets and engineer boots, and wax lips. Ahhhh those were the days. When he covers the not-so-good and even dangerous things like X-raying children's feet in the shoe stores, watching nuclear explosions in the West, and smoking he is not mean about it or judgmental.

Apparently growing up in Des Moines, Iowa wasn't much different from Van Wert, Ohio or Monroe, Indiana. Bryson's parents were writers for the newspaper. His mother wrote a women's column and his father was a sports writer, and apparently a very good one who won awards. Other than his mother not being a housewife and being a bit "unaware" to boot, his formative years seemed to be pretty typical of middle-class America but much more fun and funny than my middle-class upbringing. In a witty way he covers social issues too like the demise of small farms, shrinking pockets of people who adhere to their “old country” cultures, disappearing local movie theaters or as he puts it on page 186, “...I saw the last of something really special. It's something I seem to say a lot these days.” And to that I must say, “Me too.”

Remember Dick and Jane books, the teacher handing you warm papers with purple ink that smelled wonderful, and paste that you could eat and not die?

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