Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Thunderbolt Kid

What a lovely, delightful story…as read by the author
by Charlie Leck

It says on the box: “From one of the most beloved and bestselling authors in the English language,…”

Really? Bill Bryson? Never heard of him! My son in law was a bit surprised because he knows I read a great deal. He, however, is a librarian by training and trade and he’s more in contact with the broad range of authors.

So, I’m sorry. I should have known about him and I certainly should have read him sooner than this – if I may be permitted to call it reading. Jim, the son-in-law in question here, loaned me the unabridged audio book version of The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, to take a long on the drive from Chicago to Buffalo, New York.

What a delightful drive! It was over before I knew it and, when I pulled into the parking lot of the Fairfield Inn, just outside of Buffalo, I still felt fresh and vigorous. Other than two stops for gasoline, I had driven straight through. The last of the six CDs was in the player just as I arrived at the spot where I would sojourn for an evening. Before going into the lobby to collect my room key and some instructions to my room, I sat in the car and listened to the author read the last chapter. His strong, very eloquent voice was crackling with nostalgia. He was summing up and relating, as best he knew, where each of the real-life characters in his book had gone. I was thoroughly interested in knowing. I had enjoyed meeting them and wished I could hear more about their lives. Bryson had lost track with many of them, but it was astonishing that one of them, quite by accident and coincidence, ended being his literary agent. I like Bryson parents, too, as he described them. His late father was an outstanding, award-winning sports writer for the Des Moines Register – a truly first rate newspaper (at least it was back in the 1950s). I’m going to dig up some of the things he wrote, so that I can get to know him better. Bryson’s mom gets some serious ‘jerking around’ in this book, but I still found her an “award winning” kind of person and I’d like to know her too.

Who would have thought that a tale about growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, could have been so interesting? So “vivid, nostalgic, and utterly hilarious…” – this “memoir of growing up in the 1950s…” as it says on the box.

Well, Bryson is no longer unknown to me. I’ll start searching for some of his other books. I think I’ll with his third book, I’m a Stranger Here Myself,” and work my way along chronologically with his others. His first two books were travel related and I think I’ll let those go until later. I guess I don’t have to tell you that I like his work. I think he’s terrific and I’ll hear his voice in my mind as I read those other books of his. That will be nice because it is a very pleasant and happy voice. This is one very humorous man – in a dry, sly sense and not in a back-slapping, knee-banging sort of way. It’s the kind of humor I enjoy most. There’s kind of a dare in it. Go ahead! See if you can get the joke. The teller doesn’t give it away with laughter – maybe just with a lifted eye-brow, which is pretty difficult to see on an audio CD or in a book. And, Bryson’s essayist form of writing is my favorite also. He appears to be a master of essay and one can tell that each sentence was considered and crafted carefully so another could be built up it. Indeed! I do like his work. I like the way he writes. I like his style of humor. I like him as a person.

Bryson’s life is a bit of a silly joke, really. He couldn’t handle high school very well. He tried collegiate life at Drake University and couldn’t really hack it. Yet, in 2006, Bryson was named “an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” in recognition of his significant literary contributions. Really! No joke!

I recommend Bill Bryson to you. If you haven’t read him before, I urge you to start by listening to him read this memoir. I think you’ll also enjoy his voice and the passion in it as he remembers his young, wonderful friends and their days together in Iowa.

1 comment:

  1. Darrell Holmquist, New Lenox (Il)

    Last night I finished reading Mr. Bryson's "Mother Tongue". It's a joyous history of the English language with all sorts of solid information as well as quirky information.

    As a result of my satisfaction with MT, I ordered the TK today. Can't wait for it to arrive!