Monday, September 03, 2007

What's She Reading, Now?

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I don't read much fiction, but I never pass up a book by Bill Bryson. I'm never disappointed, and "The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid" is no exception.

For many people, this book will be a shapshot of history, depicting what life was like back in the 1950's, and 1960's. For me, it was a warm and fuzzy trip down memory lane. At the same time, when I think about how vividly I remembered those years, I could almost weep.

Bryson and his mother, father, brother and sister lived in Des Moines, Iowa. But as I read, I was struck by the thought that it could easily have been Little Rock. I suspect it could have been any town of similar size in those days.

He talks about their first television set, where he became a big fan of Roy Rogers. I remember our first tv, too, where I fell in love for the first time - with Roy Rogers. I really hated Dale Evans, the bitch. Both sets of our parents sent away for the piece of plastic that was supposed to turn the black and white tv into glorious color. It was blue (for the sky) on the top third, kind of yellowish in the middle (for skin color, etc.) and green on the bottom third, (for grass). It was truly dreadful, and, of course, didn't catch on. What a relief when color tv was finally developed!

Another topic was devoted to fear of the bomb. In schools all over the country, we had bomb drills, during which we were supposed to crawl under our desks and cover our heads with our hands. I never did understand that, and scoffed at it even at my tender age. The theory behind this was, I suppose, that we were to survive the blast so we could die horrible, lingering deaths from radiation. But, I went along, whereas Bill Bryson looked around the room and realized that nobody knew whether he was under the desk or not, so he took that opportunity to sit and read comic books while the drill was going on.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say this is the funniestbook I've read in a long time. He paints such a perfect picture of the times, and leaves you asking yourself if people were really that clueless back then.

It is faintly reminiscent of "The Christmas Story", if only because it is about a young boy growing up in a simpler time.

No wonder he preferred living in England in his adult years. Things changed so much so fast in this country, it is hard to imagine the 1950-60's. That era was like the final appearance of Brigadoon.

And, nothing has been the same since then.

22 comments:

Annie said...

"the final appearance of Brigadoon" - ah, that's cultural information right there. It's nice to know exactly what you mean by this; so many younger ones will be left clueless.

I have some of Bryson's books but not this one. Perhaps I should pick it up, it will bring back a rush of memories for me as well, I think.

How funny that you were so jealous of Dale Evans. I liked Roy Rogers but liked her even better. What does that say about me?

Kell said...

I'm behind in my Bryson reading and this one sounds great, like the rest of his books.

It's hard to imagine anyone believing you'd be OK from a bomb if you sit under your desk. Kind of like sitting in a hallway with huge glass doors in elementary school.

Peggy said...

I wrote a review of this very book in December when I got it for Christmas. I just loved his most recent book.

The scary thing is Betty, I drove across Brigadoon today. The river Doon in Ayrshire with the auld brig across it (brig being the Scots word for bridge). Coincidence or something more sinister?

Betty said...

annie: Dale Evans was just so prissy! Now, when I see film clips of their show I think, "Boy, was HE prissy!" Tastes change.

kell: You'll love this book. It made me and Jay laugh out loud.

peggy: More sinister, definitely. I loved Brigadoon. But, I never knew what the name meant. Thanks for the info.

Newt said...

**Scribble scribble**
Adds book to reading list.

At this rate, I can never die! Too many books to read.....

Thanks!

Jay said...

The book was great. Actually all of his books are great. He's hilarious. And a really interesting guy.

wordgirl said...

I love Bill Bryson but I've yet to hear about this book. Also...love your banner.

Melissa said...

Betty, I love you! A new author for me, I can't wait. The way you write about the books makes me want to rush out and pick them up, but I'll have to wait until tomorrow.

From what you've written, thank you thank you thank you!

Betty said...

newt: So many books, so little time.

jay: I'm glad you thought to get this one at the library.

wordgirl: Thanks. My son helped me with the banner.

melissa: You're welcome. I hope you enjoy them.

Cazzie!!! said...

I like funny, I need that funny book :)

Sister--Three said...

Think I will go to the library after school ...you inspired me to.

Lena said...

Well I'd never heard of BB until I read this blog, but I will think of giving him a go now.

Brigadoon - eh? Every time I hear that word, I have recollections of my twin and I at some waterside when we were small. Don't know why but the memory connects for some reason.

Tink said...

What a great review! You've made me want to read it. I know so little about any time before I was born, unless it was in a history book in school. And really, how truthful are those stories anyway?

Betty said...

cazzie: I like funny, too.

sister-three: If you like a good laugh, you'll like the book.

lena: All of his books are interesting and funny.

tink: History? Ouch! Before you were born? Ouch! But, you're right. A lot of dry old history books won't always tell you the truth.

patsy said...

i remember the bomb scare. we lived in terror!

Betty said...

patsy: I wasn't particularly afraid of the bomb. But, the Cuban Missile Crisis scared the waddin' out of me.

her indoors said...

might have to give this one a look thanks

Arkansas Songbird said...

I'm getting this book for Mom. Sounds as though she will really like it. I love hearing her memories from the 50's and 60's.

Anonymous said...

Betty, reckon you slept through that earthquake because of all that wine you drank! teehee
Sister 3

John said...

Being British I could relate to Bill Bryson's 'Notes from a Small Island'. I loved it, and look forward to reading this one.

Betty said...

her indoors: I've enjoyed all of his books. I'm getting ready to read "Mother Tongue", which should be just as good.

arkansas songbird: Your mother will enjoy her trip down memory lane, I hope.

sister 3: I don't need wine to make me sleep. I do that very well.

John: Bryson also wrote "I'm a Stranger Here, Myself", about his return to the states and getting reacquainted with his home country. He must have found it to be lacking, though, because he moved back to England.

Kay Dennison said...

I gotta read this! Thanks!