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The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Bill Bryson

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5,155210867 (3.88)174
Member:alphawoolf
Title:The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir
Authors:Bill Bryson
Info:Broadway (2007), Paperback, 270 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir by Bill Bryson (2006)

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Showing 1-5 of 207 (next | show all)
good compliment to our recent trip to Memphis — grew up in Des Moines mid-country las mid century —
Not his best — dragged after 1st 1/2

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."
  christinejoseph | Jan 18, 2017 |
Bill Bryson decided to write about his boyhood and early teen years, and the result was this book (which I listened to as an Audiobook). While the book was entertaining it was also a bit annoying. I really do not understand why authors believe that inserting crass or and blasphemous language is a demonstration of supreme literacy skills. While the use of off-color and generally offensive language has its place (war, or crime, for example), in general it is used simply for shock value. A really good author, in my opinion, loses credibility when he has to repeatedly use foul language. So, I discounted my rating of this book based on that factor. Overall, since I too grew up in the late 50's and 1960's, many of the stories invoked common memories for me: TV dinners, test patterns on TV's, Saturday movies, the first color TV in your neighborhood, the Cuban Missle Crisis, and much more. In addition, Bryson does have a way of telling a story and capturing the humor found in everyday life. I did enjoy the book, but wish he would have stuck to the stories and only alluded to language, even if it really happened. ( )
  BrannonSG | Dec 26, 2016 |
In "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid," Bill Bryson reminds those of us of a certain age what a privilege it was to grow up in the 1950s. Sure there was polio, the McCarthy hearings and the threat of nuclear annihilation, but those were things our parents worried about, not us kids. For children, it was a golden time. We were allowed, no encouraged, to wander around our neighborhoods most of the day -- my friend and I called it "exploring" -- and our parents never seemed to worry about us or even place limits on how far we could go or, as long as we didn't miss a meal, when we had to be back.

Bryson, a few years younger than me, spent his childhood in Des Moines, the son of one of the best baseball writers in America, never mind that Des Moines has never had a major league baseball team. Even so his father went to spring training every year and to the World Series every fall and won many writing awards. Bryson's mother, too, worked for the Des Moines Register, so if writing skill is something that can be inherited, which I doubt, we know where he got it from.

His memoir devotes attention to the toys of that era (who can forget electric football, Lincoln Logs and, my favorite, chemistry sets?), school, family vacations (like my own family, Bryson's didn't travel much, but even so we both made it to Disneyland somehow), early television, grandparents, the discovery of sex and other topics related to growing up.

Although he has never been known as a writer of fiction, Bryson strays close in this memoir, as when he tells of his adventures as his own superhero, the Thunderbolt Kid, or when he tells about a roller coaster "about four miles long, I believe, and some twelve thousand feet high." Exaggeration works in creating an amusing, sometimes outrageously funny, book.

"One of the great myths of life is that childhood passes quickly," Bryson writes. Indeed, time passes at glacier speed for children, if not for their parents, who like to tell each other how "they grow up so fast." I continue to marvel at how much I managed to pack into each day back in the 1950s, and it seems even more marvelous now at an age when if I can accomplish one thing in the morning and another thing in the afternoon, I think I have had a productive day. It was as if I, too, were the Thunderbolt Kid. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Dec 10, 2016 |
Finished this book, my feelings are the same- enjoyed his writing- with some exceptions- Will start reading one of his others soon.


I like this guy. I've heard his other books are better but I'm liking his writing style. I'm a bit tired of the 4 letter words - I don't ever like that in books- But he's witty and entertaining. So far I'm enjoying his descriptions of life during the 1950's. So much that I almost wish I could have been born back then :) ( )
  homeschoolmimzi | Nov 28, 2016 |
Like most of the world, I am a Bill Bryson fan. His writing has constantly entertained me, whether the topic be his travels, the strangeness that is the United States, Shakespeare or 1927. "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" is not his best work but it is still an enjoyable read by anyone's standards.

Bryson's memoir of his childhood in Iowa, interspersed with stories of the wider world, is entertaining in the main, although some of the minutiae of his life is not as interesting as he thinks it is. Still, it was good to meet some of the people he refers to in his other books, including his family (Bryson draws his father as completely eccentric, which may be exaggerated but a laugh to read) and the great Stephen Katz, as opposed to Cat Stevens. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Nov 14, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 207 (next | show all)
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson is a memoir of growing up in Iowa, during the 1950's. The memoir was classic fun and an exploration into memories of growing up in the middle of America in the middle of the twentieth century. The book begins with a panoramic point of view on what the 1950's were about, and then Bryson gets closer and closer into his personal life. He masterfully pens his memories of pranks, jobs, candy, sex, politics, main-street, with a well crafted efficacy. So many memories of growing up in Longmont Colorado in the 1970's bubbled up. A fun listen.
 
Bill Bryson is erudite, irreverent, funny and exuberant, making the temptation to quote endlessly from The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir (Broadway, $25) hard to resist. Bryson interweaves childhood reminiscences seamlessly with observations about 1950s America, evoking a zeitgeist that will be familiar to almost everyone past middle age.
 
Had he written a purely personal view of his youth and left out the bits explaining how 1950s America was the best country in the world, my chuckles might not so often have given way to groans of annoyance.
added by MikeBriggs | editThe Spectator, Zenga Longmore (Sep 30, 2006)
 

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bryson, Billprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Diderich, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sibony, JulieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
In memory of Jed Mattes
First words
In the late 1950s, the Royal Canadian Air Force produced a booklet on isometrics, a form of exercise that enjoyed a short but devoted vogue with my father.
Quotations
You really should never fuck with the Thunderbolt Kid....He had, as he would boast in later years, a pornographic memory.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Abridged versions should not be combined with the full work.   "Parts of this book first appeared in somewhat different form in The New Yorker." T.p. verso
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0767919378, Paperback)

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 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:21 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Like millions of his generational peers, Bill Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. Using his fantasy-life persona as a springboard, Bryson re-creates the life of his family in the 1950s in all its transcendent normality--a life at once familiar to us all and as far away and unreachable as another galaxy.--From publisher description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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