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Sunday, November 10, 2013

One Summer: America 1927


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.”
A few of the cast:
 
 

8 comments:

Ms Sparrow said...

I am struck by Clara Bow's tiny mouth. Since she was the "It Girl", that must have been an ideal at the time. What a contrast to the extra-full lips in fashion today. It's jarring to see how many TV and movie stars--plus others--are getting their lips artificially plumped (not to mention, other body parts)!

Montanagirl said...

That's quite a line up of old photos. I have to agree about Clara's mouth - Ms Sparrow is right: Too much artificial plumping these days!

Janie said...

This sounds interesting. I've read several of Bryson's books and I enjoy his sense of humor. No deep thinking, I agree, but fun nevertheless.

Anvilcloud said...

Bryson has a great writing style, and I also like to hear him narrate his own books.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Bill Bryson is always fun to read, and one learns lots effortlessly. That makes him a winner in my book! I love those snapshots of a moment in time. As for the lips.....mine are naturally full, and I remember tips on how to make them appear thinner by using lipstick inside the lip line. That would have been the late fifties.

Sarah Laurence said...

I enjoy Bill Bryson's writing too. I haven't heard of this one but it sounds fun, but I'm more of a walk in the woods kind of gal.

Kim said...

Thanks for your post on my blog. Glad you are enjoying the photos of the Twin Cities. Bill Bryson's newest is on my to-read shelf right now. One of my favorites of his was The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. A must read for any Midwesterner who grew up at mid-century.

Linda said...

Ah, that gives me an idea for a gift for my husband! He's read several of Bryson's books. A Walk in the Woods was his favorite.