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The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A…

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

by Bill Bryson

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Title:The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir
Authors:Bill Bryson
Info:Broadway (2007), Paperback, 270 pages
Collections:Your library

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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 204 (next | show all)
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 |
This was definitely a case of judging a book by its cover. Although I've devoured a number of Bryson's other books, the title and topic of this one just didn't appeal to me. But when a thumbed copy turned up in my household, I decided to have a read of the first couple of pages, and found myself only putting it down again half-way through.

Part-memoir, part-history of a mid-western US state in the 1950s, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is a humourous look at Bryson's early life growing up in Des Moines, Iowa. There are dozens of amusing anecdotes about the vagaries of his family, his school and home life, his holidays, and his unending quest to catch a bit of 'female epidermis' in the flesh. The memories of his own life are interspersed with more general comments on the changes going on in America, with talk of economic growth, changing social mores, anti-Communist witchhunts, racism and the space race. Certainly, some of the things Bryson mentions happens before he was born, or the changes run on long in the 1960s, but it's still interesting to see a take on life in this baby boomer generation. Whilst there's a lot here that's surely unique to the America of the 50s, there's enough that is so simplistically human that I think most people will find passages reminiscent of their own trials and tribulations of youth. Ironically, despite being born a few decades later, I felt that a lot of the developments Bryson talks about in 1950s American society were the same ones I experienced as a child in rural England!

All of this is delivered in Bryson's typical affable and humourous style, which if you're a fan, you're sure to lap up. Some readers have quite justifiably complained that Bryson's reliance on hyperbole and silliness to sweeten his anecdotes is a bit tiring, and makes it at times difficult to separate truth from fiction, but that's simply his style. I've always been inclined to link Bryson with Wodehouse in the way he wrote slapstick humour, and felt vindicated to read that he had readily gobbled up Wodehouse as a child. For me, this is classic Bryson. Some have pointed out that Bryson's labelling as a travel writer is going to have change with the latest additions to his oeuvre. But for me, he never was a travel writer, but a writer who travelled. After all, anyone attempting to travel across a continent armed only with the appropriate Bryson volume was merely arming themselves for a few giggly embarrassing moments on public transportation, nothing more. There are certainly enough laugh-out-loud moments here, and plenty of smiles in between, that you wonder sometimes it doesn't come with a warning sticker on the front.

That said, one criticism that I must agree with is the book's design. There are quite a few pictures in the book, including some family photos, which are sadly captionless and only breezily explained in the footnotes at the back. The typeset is rather widely spaced, which whilst making it easier on the eyes, is just an excuse at padding. There's also a preview chapter from Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe taking up space at the back, which makes this book, despite its heightened page count, one of Bryson's shorter volumes.

Ultimately, this is a book for established Bryson fans. It isn't as well written as the best of his travelogues, and in terms of being informative, there isn't much here that isn't already widely known, but for a bit of light, nostalgic reading that is sure to put a smile on your face, it easily fits the bill. ( )
1 vote Fips | Oct 30, 2016 |
A snapshot of middle America from the 1950s. Fictional in the details but largely accurate overall. An entertaining read. ( )
  DLMorrese | Oct 14, 2016 |
A great trip down memory lane. I did not grow up in Des Moines, but came to Des Moines often enough to recognize a lot of places mentioned. It was laugh out loud funny. ( )
  dara85 | Jul 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 204 (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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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.
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.)
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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)

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