I came to Bryson’s work quite late, wondering what all the fuss was about, now having read almost all of his published work, I can say that I certainly am a fan. I like the way he combines humour, insight, facts and figures and observation into a joyful ensemble. He is one of only two authors who can make me laugh out loud (Terry Pratchett is the other).
Most of Bryson’s books are about his travels in various locations, although there is usually some biographical data to be found too. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is about his childhood in 50s and 60s Des Moines. Bryson has visited the area before, albeit briefly, and here he provides an interesting look and insight, not just to his upbringing, but also to what it was like living in America during that time, a time immortalised on film so many times.
I find 50s America fascinating, from the extreme over-indulgence to the naive, insular outlook and lack of any fear (no worries about radiation, which foods you shouldn’t feed your kids, what went into your food or just how bad for everything that insecticide is). Bryson interleaves big issues that affected the country with the little issues that concerned only him with ease and introduces some truly memorable characters. Strangely, not long after I finished reading it, I spotted a story about shoe fitters using x-ray machines. They truly thought they were indestructible back then.
Having said that, I’m don’t think it’s his best book, but it’s still a fantastic read and beats any other autobiography I’ve ever read.
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Reviewed: 23rd March 2007