25 October 2007

"The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid", by Bill Bryson

On my first night with Bill Bryson's The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, my wife, trying to fall asleep betwixt my bedside lamp, the dachshund and the fat cat, asked why the bed was vibrating. It's his fault, I said, motioning to this book. This is a fun, grin-out-loud journey through Bryson's Des Moines childhood. It generates the chuckle that starts low in the belly and builds with each sentence 'til you can't help but laugh out loud or jiggle the bed as you vainly try to hold it in.

Thunderbolt Kid recreates, through his admittedly biased and favorable memories, the bucolic happy days 1950s America. Though I follow Bryson on the planet by exactly a decade (my parents were teens in the 50s and parents in the 60-70s, mostly missing the youthful upheaval of those turbulent times) there is much here that feels familiar: The joys of patrolling downtown without parents and without fear. Being dropped at the local summers-only amusement park, and told not to return 'til dinner time. Of parents who worked at some vaguely known task during the day to return to us sometime in the late afternoons. Of the fascination with seeing your first naked female.

I suspect Bryson's memory will ring truer for guys than for girls. The joys of blowing things up, of hanging louies in enclosed spaces, of seeking and usually just missing out on your first peak of a real live girl's boobs. But everyone will enjoy Bryson's lively and fun writing in this quick and easy book. It will leave you smiling, and wondering why life can't be as simply happy now as it was when we were 10.

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