For years reading friends had urged me to check out bestselling travel writer Bill Brysons (“A Walk in the Woods”) humorous writing. A note from our town librarian Diane that his latest book, a New York Times best seller was available sent me into town to get it. That book One Summer: America 1927 has the author, a now traveling through time, taking us back to perhaps a high point or maybe a low point, depending on your point of view to the “Roaring 20’s. I like the book and I didn’t like the book. And on that ambiguous note, I’ll try to explain why….
This is history as you may never have read it. It’s filled with famous and infamous people and events, amazing coincidences and trivia. We meet the real Babe Ruth, Charles Lindberg, Al Capone, Silent Calvin Coolidge, Henry Ford and the “It” girl Clara Bow. Bryson writes prose clear as crystal often makes us or shocks us into incredulity taking the heroes of the age down more than a peg.
For instance, Bow, in addition to being the most celebrated Hollywood icon of her era, was also famously promiscuous, Bryson notes. She had a slew of boyfriends, many of them at the same time. Bryson tells of one boyfriend who arrived at her house only to realize that another man was hiding in the bathroom. The aggrieved boyfriend, Bryson tells us, demanded that the hidden man “come on out so I can knock your teeth out!” When the bathroom door opened, heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey sheepishly appeared. The aggrieved boyfriend wisely kept his fists to himself, and the hulking Dempsey
The rise of radio and tabloid provide a look back at the seed of our own pop and celebrity culture which I found appallingly reminiscent of our own times.
There isn’t a whole lot of deep thinking or interesting conclusions in Bryson’s account beyond cutting remarks and characterizations (often deserved).
All in all, the book is a fun read about what proved to be in the authors words….. “one hell of a summer.”