Bill Bryson, as I’ve said before, is possibly my favorite living author. He is the living embodiment of the Great American Humorist. He is the modern day Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, or Kurt Vonnegut, and his writings walk that line between absurdity and mundane, and we come to find that the only real absurd thing about him is that he writes the things we all think in our heads but don’t realize anybody else thinks them.
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is a fun glimpse into his upbringing in Iowa during the 50’s and 60’s. His family, which has been mentioned in his previous books, is here explored in wonderful, horrible detail, and you learn to love the boy that became the author, the friendships he garnered through his life, the town that cultivated him, and even the crazy but brilliant family. And throughout this heartwarming tale of childhood reflection and self-discovery Bryson weaves the tail of his superhero imaginary alter ego to explain how he handled the situations in his mind after they had in fact already taken place with horrible outcomes. I have my own superhero alter ego from my childhood: the Slob-o-Tron, the fighter of cleanliness and order everywhere.
Bryson is a master that should be held in the same regard as the likes of Heller, Vonnegut, and Barry. Well done, sir, and thank you for sharing.
I find most travel writing to be about as interesting as reading ingredient lists on highly processed foods. You can tell me all you want about a cool place that you’ve been to, but you will fail in every way to truly capture that place for me. I find that I often enjoy a travel book more if it is a place I’ve already been, that way I can relive my own experience, but even then the writer’s experiences are more times than not so different from my own that I am left feeling that the experience was faked. So with these grievances against travel writing, I would like someone to please explain to me how Bill Bryson, noted travel writer, has managed to work his way through my personal rankings to become my favorite living author. Really, you don’t need to explain it. I think I have it figured out.
Bill is a friend of mine. A good friend really. I mean, we have never actually met, yet he has brought me along with him on many of his journeys around the world. With this book, Bill took me around his adopted land of England, and what a trip we had. Bryson, on this trip shares with us the awkward conversations he has on the train or in the department store. He tells us about the flood of emotions that hit him while venturing into a McDonalds. He tells us about historical nuggets he scraped off the web. But he tells us this while on the journey, and you want to hear about it because Bill Bryson is your friend too. He is predictable and foolish and hotheaded the way every living person is from time to time, and Bill is also sweet and wise and sentimental the way every living person hopes to be.
I know this is a review of Bryon the author more than a review of The Road to Little Dribbling, but a book like this, like all of his books, needs to be experienced for one’s self, much like traveling.