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seriouslyreadabook

Seriously, Read a Book!

Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...

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Jean H. Baker, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson

Welcome to Des Moines, Iowa and the 1950s! There are some things you should be afraid of (mainly Communism, teenagers, and comic books not approved by the Comics Code Authority). But, no need to worry! The Thunderbolt Kid (aka Bill Bryson) will be your trusty tour guide.

 

Ah, the 50s—a time when cigarettes made you healthy, your daily dose of amphetamines came in morning cereal, soda was the elixir of life, and prominent doctors defended a boy's right to be dirty.*

Cola Pep and Camels

Approved by the Comics Code Authority

In his telltale jocular but informative manner, Bryson lets his readers in on some of his childhood exploits, as well as the hopes and fears of the era. He lets us enjoy the humors of hindsight, but manages to do so without sounding glib. The “let's suspend everything in JELL-O” craze, revelation that cakes were best served upside-down, and miraculous advent of the TV dinner are no more bizarre than today's cuisine will seem, come 2040. 

50s cuisine trio

The same holds true for technologies. The 1959 launch of the USS Barbero was thought to be just the first among many deliveries made by Missile Mail (spoiler alert: it was also the last).

1959 Missile Mail

Need to buy a new pair of loafers? No problem! We'll just use this handy X-Ray Foot-o-Scope to find you the perfect fit (though, as Bryson mentions, this handy gadget was already on the way out as he was making his way into the world). 

Shoe Fitting Card

How was your trip?

I had a great time, thanks for asking. Three stars is a good rating by my measure. This wasn't the best time I've had with Bryson, and children of the 50s will likely have an added layer of nostalgic enjoyment that I just can't appreciate.

 

Well, I'm off to turn on my breakfast—I can't be late for the family reunion in our self-flying car!

 

Future Food and Car

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* Dr. Harvey Fleck, as quoted in The Des Moines Register, August 28, 1958, that boys instinctively resisting frequent washings were, in fact, keepers of “a profound dermatological truth” that the skin's protective layer of grease, should not be overly disturbed.

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