threemonkeys: (Waxlion)
Childhood was a time of wonder and joy and the present sucks. The notion that you could write a book about childhood where being young was simple and carefree in the American midwest is just too clich├ęd to believe. Really, I mean who would want to write such a thing. It would appear that Bill Bryson would and so has produced The Life and Times of the Thunderbold Kid. Has he done this just to provide a contrast to the overly materialistic consumer-driven fear-driven world of today? Perhaps a little bit as he does make such comparisons from time to time but that does not seem to be the main thrust of the book. Mostly it is just about growing up in Des Moines.

Most of Bryson's writing is a mix of his observations and research enlivened by bits and pieces of whimsical meta-truth. At its best, this results in writing that is illuminating, easy to read and laugh out loud funny. This book is very much "at his best". This style of writing does seem to work best when Bryson turns his attention to himself and his own experience as in books like Notes from a Small Island and The Lost Continent. Clive James subtitled his versions of this type of writing "an unreliable memoir" - it fits well. The pieces that are not literal truth still provide an impression of the reality of life. I don't think this works quite as well when Bryson moves into other areas. I really wasn't all that impressed by A Short History of Nearly Everything and so I'm glad he is back to his strength.

On a final note, the title of the book relates to the secret super power that the young Billy Bryson had to zap people who annoyed him with a thunderbolt so they were vaporised where they stood. Personally I always preferred the benefits of technology to achieve the same results. I wonder if that is a useful indicator of future inclination.

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threemonkeys

June 2015

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