Friday, November 10, 2006

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

I've recently finished reading the latest book from Bill Bryson:
"The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid"

It's mostly a memoir of his pre-adult life, laced with Bryson's typical
humour and casual social commentary.  If you've read any of his travel
books, you should enjoy this book.  Of course it's easy to label it as
pure nostalgia for a bygone era, but I think the book transcends such

I've had to return it to the library, so I won't give you any quotes.
Instead I'll out some of the general things that struck me ...

1. Living as a child in the 50s and early 60s (in America) doesn't
sound too different to my own childhood in the 70s and 80s (in
Australia).  Neighbourhoods were friendly.  Children could spend
endless summer days playing safely with their friends in the streets
and any other open spaces.  I don't see that these days.

2. Despite, or perhaps because of the Cold War, ordinary people seemed
nicer to each other.  Things were simpler and people were less obsessed
with material things.  Perhaps I'm being nostalgic myself?  Maybe I'm
over-romanticising a time when I was too young to notice what was
really going on?

3. Mass-merchandising and marketing glitz has come at the cost of
"the corner store" and other specialty stores run by people who really
cared about their customers. "Local legends" like cinemas have been
replaced by multinational chains and franchises.

4. America really was an extremely racist place prior to the civil rights
movement.  While the situation has improved since then, some Americans
are more equal than others.  To some extent this applies to Australia