Monday, November 27, 2006

So, Is It Bill Bryson I Like or Just George Will Writing About Bill Bryson?

I have never read anything by Bill Bryson but I must be in the minority (what else is new?) because the fellow is a true bestseller with 13 books establishing his popularity. Among them are A Walk in the Woods, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, A Short History of Nearly Everything, and Bryson's latest, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.

Interesting titles and, from a quick review of his website, they look like they are crafted especially for someone of my generation. Still, it is quite likely that I will never get around to reading the fellow. But that doesn't mean I didn't thoroughly enjoy George Will's recent column about Bryson's new book. Below are a few paragraphs:

...By the end of the '50s, GM was a bigger economic entity than Belgium, and Los Angeles had more cars than did Asia -- cars for a gadget-smitten people, cars with Strato-Streak engines, Strato-Flight Hydra-Matic transmissions and Torsion-Aire suspensions. The 1958 Lincoln Continental was 19 feet long. And before television arrived (in 1950, 40 percent of Americans had never seen a television program; by May 1953 Boston had more televisions than bathtubs) America made almost a million comic books a month.

Consider what was new or not invented then: ballpoint pens, contact lenses, credit cards, power steering, long-playing records, dishwashers, garbage disposals. And remember words now no longer heard: icebox, dime store, bobby socks, panty raid, canasta (a card game). In 1951, a Tennessee youth was arrested on suspicion of narcotics possession. The brown powder was a new product -- instant coffee...

...White House security precautions were so lax that on April 3, 1956, a somewhat disoriented Michigan woman detached herself from a White House tour and wandered through the building for four hours, setting small fires. When found, she was taken to the kitchen and given a cup of tea. No charges were filed...

If there are visitors to The Book Den that have read Bill Bryson and have some advice for me about reading him or ( or about continuing to leave him alone), please let me know. After all, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! (