The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir by Bill Bryson
I loved this book. I cannot state that more strongly. I mean I really really loved it. Like, if it were a man, I would consider cheating on my husband for it. I loved it that much. (Just kidding, Mikey! You know I love you!)
Bill Bryson is a funny, funny man. Not at all in a silly way. He takes observational humor to its apex. In his hands, hyperbole is a serious art form. He is his generation’s Mark Twain. This book is a memoir, describing his youth in middle-America in the 1950s and early 60s. But it is also a historical document, well researched, giving you perspective on those times like nothing else could.
Bryson has definitely channeled his eleven year old self. His memories are vivid (or made up, but really, who cares?) and show the skewed way children see the world. He believes himself to be the Thunderbolt Kid when he finds a sweater with a thunderbolt on it in his basement. He invents a back story for himself and superpowers, and he goes about his life as a secret superhero, never letting on what his Thundervision can do. He takes us to the Iowa state fair, through puberty and sexual awakening, through the Cuban missle crisis and the Red Scare, to B movies, with women entering the work force, and along on his paper route.
I’m not a good enough writer to describe it in a way that does it justice, so I’ll give you a sample paragraph below. Believe me, it was quite a struggle to find a representative paragraph that would make sense out of context, but I hope this description of The Thunderbolt Kid’s mission will win you over:
“[M]y superpowers were not actually about capturing bad people or doing good for the common man but primarily about using my X-ray vision to peer beneath the clothes of attractive women and to carbonize and eliminate people – teachers, babysitters, old ladies who wanted a kiss – who were an impediment to my happiness. All heroes of the day had particular specialties. Superman fought for truth, justice, and the American way. Roy Rogers went almost exclusively for Communist agents who were scheming to poison the water supply or otherwise disrupt and insult the American way of life. Zorro tormented an oafish fellow named Sergeant Garcia for obscure but apparently sound reasons. The Long Ranger fought for law and order in the early West. I killed morons. Still do.”
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