Saturday, July 12, 2008

Seniors August Book Club

The Seniors Book Club will meet on August 13th at 2 pm in the Training Room on the second floor of the library. Our choice this month is the hilarious memoir

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson.

The Life and Times is an account of growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, in the 1950s, and it’s fascinating how Bryson revivifies, and makes fresh again, all the standard generalisations of adolescence and of that decade, with its leaps of prosperity (“the last time that people would be thrilled to own a toaster or a waffle iron”) and its famously soul-deadening conformity. As he portrays it lovingly but with a cosmopolitan distance, Iowa was quite grotesque in its normalcy, possibly the whitest place in all of pre-multicultural America. It’s fairly easy to be sardonic like Vidal; it’s fiendishly difficult to be so likeable at the same time, the way Bryson is.
Beneath all his sweet nostalgia for his typical, long-ago childhood (Bryson is fifty-five), he paints the 1950s, the time of fallout shelters and drive-ins and the rise of fast food and television, as a manic-depressive period in history, “a curious blend of undiluted optimism and a kind of eager despair.” (Adapted from Books in Canada review).