|An "Adult" Novel|
Author: Bill Bryson
Publisher: Broadway Books
Release Date: October 17, 2006
Some say that the first hint that Bill Bryson was not of Planet Earth came when his mother sent him to school in lime-green Capri pants. Others think it all started with his discovery, at the age of six, of a woollen jersey of rare fineness. Across the moth-holed chest was a golden thunderbolt. It may have looked like an old college football sweater, but young Bryson knew better. It was obviously the Sacred Jersey of Zap, and proved that he had been placed with this innocuous family in the middle of America to fly, become invisible, shoot guns out of people's hands from a distance, and wear his underpants over his jeans in the manner of Superman. Bill Bryson's first travel book opened with the immortal line, 'I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.' In his deeply funny new memoir, he travels back in time to explore the ordinary kid he once was, and the curious world of 1950s America. It was a happy time, when almost everything was good for you, including DDT, cigarettes and nuclear fallout. This is a book about growing up in a specific time and place. But in Bryson's hands, it becomes everyone's story, one that will speak volumes - especially to anyone who has ever been young.
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (LTTK) was a hilarious and painstakingly honest memoir. If one was to briefly describe this memoir, it would sound as entertaining as staring at a gray wall all day long. Essentially, LTTK is about a boy growing up in the 50s in Des Moines, Iowa. I don't know how he did it, but Bill Bryson made a novel about a boy growing up in the 50s in Des Moines, Iowa one of the funniest, most intelligent books to grace the shelf of any book store or library. Just so you can catch a glimpse of how Mr. Bryson can turn something seemingly boring into a laugh-out-loud scenario, here is a passage about a school project made from Lincoln Logs:
" What Buddy Doberman and I discovered was that if you peed on Lincoln Logs you bleached them white. As a result we created, over a period of weeks, the world's first albino Lincoln Log cabin, which we took to school as part of a project on Abraham Lincoln's early years. Naturally we declined to say how we had made the logs white, prompting pupils and teachers alike to examine them keenly for clues.
'I bet you did it with lemon juice,' said Mr. Sipkowicz, who was youthful, brash, and odious, and had an unfortunate taste for flashy ties, and who for a single semester had the distinction of being Greenwood's only male teacher. Before we could stop him (not that we had any intention or desire to, of course) he shot out a long, reptilian tongue and ran it delicately and experimentally--lingeringly, eye flutteringly-- over the longest log in the back wall, which by chance we had prepared only that morning, so that it was still very slightly moist."
Not only was LTTK hilarious, but it taught me a lot about the 50s. Sadly, before I read LTTK, I didn't know anything about the 50s. For every decade I have at least a single word/event/image that defines the decade in my mind. Here is a timeline of my thoughts on each decade before I read LTTK:
'00s- Great grandma born
'10s- World War I
'20s- Flapper dresses
|20s Flapper Dress/girl (Source)|
'40s-World War II and Holocaust
'50s-Yep, really don't know
'60s- JFK was president, and first man on the moon
'80s-Bad make up and hair
Now, after reading LTTK I have a greater knowledge of life in the 50s. I know that people were feeling confident, and happy. The Great Depression was over, as was World War II, and life was good. After I read LTTK I was told that the 50s were described as America's golden era/age and I fully understand why.
This book was my first official memoir to read, and surprisingly enough, it was written by a somewhat normal (other than the fact that he is an incredibly talented author) middle aged man . This middle aged man (Bill Bryson--no offense to him) did not escape from Alkatraz, survive the Holocaust, climb Mt. Everest, backpack the Great Wall of China (although he did hike the Appalachian trails, but that story is in another one of his books, A Walk In The Woods), or go into outer space. He grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and wrote an amazing memoir that a teenage girl and a middle aged man (my dad LOVED it as well) could enjoy. Don't shy away from this book because it is a memoir written about somewhat normal happenings--it is amazing!