Bill Bryson’s first travel book opened with the immortal line, ‘I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.’ In this deeply funny and personal memoir, he travels back in time to explore the ordinary kid he once was, in the curious world of 1950s Middle America. It was a happy time, when almost everything was good for you, including DDT, cigarettes and nuclear fallout. This is a book about one boy’s growing up. But in Bryson’s hands, it becomes everyone’s story, one that will speak volumes – especially to anyone who has ever been young.
From one of the world's most beloved writers and New York Times bestselling author of One Summer, a vivid, nostalgic, and utterly hilarious memoir of growing up in the 1950s Bill Bryson was born in the middle of the American century—1951—in the middle of the United States—Des Moines, Iowa—in the middle of the largest generation in American history—the baby boomers. As one of the best and funniest writers alive, he is perfectly positioned to mine his memories of a totally all-American childhood for 24-carat memoir gold. Like millions of his generational peers, Bill Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around his house and neighborhood with an old football jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel about his neck that served as his cape, leaping tall buildings in a single bound and vanquishing awful evildoers (and morons)—in his head—as "The Thunderbolt Kid." Using this persona as a springboard, Bill Bryson re-creates the life of his family and his native city in the 1950s in all its transcendent normality—a life at once completely familiar to us all and as far away and unreachable as another galaxy. It was, he reminds us, a happy time, when automobiles and televisions and appliances (not to mention nuclear weapons) grew larger and more numerous with each passing year, and DDT, cigarettes, and the fallout from atmospheric testing were considered harmless or even good for you. He brings us into the life of his loving but eccentric family, including affectionate portraits of his father, a gifted sportswriter for the local paper and dedicated practitioner of isometric exercises, and OF his mother, whose job as the home furnishing editor for the same paper left her little time for practicing the domestic arts at home. The many readers of Bill Bryson’s earlier classic, A Walk in the Woods, will greet the reappearance in these pages of the immortal Stephen Katz, seen hijacking literally boxcar loads of beer. He is joined in the Bryson gallery of immortal characters by the demonically clever Willoughby brothers, who apply their scientific skills and can-do attitude to gleefully destructive ends. Warm and laugh-out-loud funny, and full of his inimitable, pitch-perfect observations, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is as wondrous a book as Bill Bryson has ever written. It will enchant anyone who has ever been young.
There are many theories as to how the Thunderbolt Kid came to attain his fantastic powers, and turned the world into a dangerous place for morons. Some say that the first hints that Bill Bryson was not of Planet Earth came from 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 this hilarious new memoir, he travels back to explore the kid he once was and the weird and wonderful world of 1950s America. He modestly claims that this is a book about not very much: about being small and getting much larger slowly. But, for the rest of us, it is a laugh-out-loud book that will speak volumes - especially to anyone who has ever been young. Praise for Bill Bryson: * 'Hugely funny (not snigger-snigger funny, but great-big-belly-laugh-till-you-cry funny).' - Daily Telegraph.
From one of the most beloved and bestselling authors in the English language, a vivid, nostalgic and utterly hilarious memoir of growing up in the middle of the United States in the middle of the last century. A book that delivers on the promise that it is “laugh-out-loud funny.” Some say that the first hints that Bill Bryson was not of Planet Earth came from 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 this hilarious new memoir, he travels back to explore the kid he once was and the weird and wonderful world of 1950s America. He modestly claims that this is a book about not very much: about being small and getting much larger slowly. But for the rest of us, it is a laugh-out-loud book that will speak volumes – especially to anyone who has ever been young. From the Hardcover edition.
ABOUT THE BOOK “Growing up was easy. It required no thought or effort on my part. It was going to happen anyway. So what follows isn’t terribly eventful, I’m afraid. And yet it was by a very large margin the most fearful, thrilling, interesting, instructive, eye-popping, lustful, eager, troubled, untroubled, confused, serene, and unnerving time of my life.” So begins “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid,” which was published in 2006. It was a departure from Bill Bryson’s earlier books. His previous work, “A Short History of Nearly Everything,” a book about science written for the average Joe, had taken a lot out of him and he wanted to work on something easier. Bryson told the Guardian: “I promised my wife I would do a book I could stay at home to do ... and I promised my publisher that I would do something more amusing that would corral back the core of my readership, some of whom doubtless were slightly appalled and alienated by A Short History. And also, purely in a selfish way, I wanted to do a book that I wouldn't have to do a lot of hard thinking and research about. I did miss writing humorous things.” MEET THE AUTHOR Becki Chiasson is a Baltimore-based writer who received her BS in Mass Communications from Towson University. Although she spent some time in New York as a crossword puzzle editor, she returned to her hometown in Maryland in 2010 to focus on writing. Her favorite topics include video games and women's issues. When she's not busy writing up a storm, she crochets, plays video games, and bakes. EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” centers on Bryson’s life as a young child in Des Moines, Iowa during the 1950s and follows Bryson through puberty. The plot is less of a structured narrative and more of a series of loosely related, humorous anecdotes about growing up during happier, simpler times. A central conceit to the book is the idea that Bryson was the Thunderbolt Kid, a superhero who could make his enemies (usually people Bryson deemed to be morons) disappear in a flash of light by casting a withering stare at them. This superpower is presented in all seriousness, although it is rather doubtful that it ever happened. The first time Bryson used his superpower, he was six years old. He was at a diner with his mother and discovered to his great chagrin that the ancient-looking man next to him had been drinking out of Bryson’s water glass. Worse still, the man had been eating poached eggs, which Bryson positively despised. Bryson freaked out, gagging, and the man only laughed, having no remorse at all. When he turned to leave, “as he reached out to open the door, bolts of electricity flew from my wildly dilated eyes and played over his body. He shimmered for an instant, contorted in a brief, silent rictus of agony, and was gone. It was the birth of ThunderVision. The world had just become a dangerous place for morons.” Buy a copy to keep reading!