I love Bill Bryson. What the guy does with the English language is stupendous. There was The Mother Tongue in which he wrote that only English would have the same word for an irritating insect you want to swat and the opening to men’s trousers. Read his paean to Australia — In a Sunburned Country — and you’ll feel like you’re on your own personal walkabout.
And now I am reading his memoir — The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid — sent to me by my sister-in-law Helene. Who said I HAD to read it immediately. That I would laugh so hard I’d pee in my pants. (That’s not so difficult these middle-aged days.) But she’s right. Thunderbolt is the funniest thing I have read in years. It’s tears-down-the-cheeks funny; laugh-out-loud funny, three-laughs-a-page funny.
And I’m not even half way through. In fact before I got to the end of page two I was already gasping for breath after reading his description of Bryson pere doing isometric exercises in the galley area of an airplane while his son cringed in embarrassment nearby. I know it doesn’t sound funny at all. But I promise. It is.
“Keen sense of observation” doesn’t even begin to touch the way Bryson relates growing up in Des Moines Iowa in the 1950’s. Did we really think wax coke bottles filled with something ickily sweet like cough syrup was a great candy? Yes. And were our toys really so simple — a hula hoop and a slinky? Yes, again.
I’m heading to the airport tomorrow and don’t know if I dare read it on the plane. Granted I won’t have a child in tow to embarrass with my laughter.
But now that they don’t let you get up and walk around the cabin (much less do isometrics in the galley) they just might tackle me if I tried to make a run to the WC all the while laughing hysterically.
Beg, borrow, buy, steal or order Thunderbolt Kid. Laughter. We need laughter. And once again, Bill Bryson delivers.