Above - Bill Bryson born in Iowa,USA in 1951. Whilst in Venice, I finished his latest book, "The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid". Whereas Bryson is known first and foremost as a witty, unassuming and observant travel writer, this book was about growing up in and around Des Moines before America started to question itself, before nuclear nightmares and Vietnam when for many white midwesterners, it seemed as if they were living in a post war paradise of cars and consumer goods, unlocked doors, silver screens and absolute certainties under the star spangled banner. The book mourns the loss of innocence while still managing to make you chuckle, giggle or belly laugh.
I have read almost everything Bryson has ever written. The only book I just couldn't get into was "A Short History of Almost Everything" which has an excitable scientific focus. Not for me. After all, I was the grammar school kid who was asked to drop O level Physics and spent my time at the back of the Physics lab writing poetry for two years. I have loved all of Bryson's travel books and I especially liked "Made In America" which explores American uses of the English language and is both informative and entertaining.
Two real life, as opposed to virtual, Americans I know had both never heard of Bill Bryson till I let them in on his work. It seems he's a bigger literary star over in the UK than he is in his home country. If you like bookshops you surely couldn't have missed Bill Bryson these past ten years. I'm not saying he's a truly great writer but he has a lovely, intimate and self-deprecating style. He finds humour in odd nooks and crannies and through his travel writing allows you to see places in ways that Rough Guides or Lonely Planet Guides cannot mirror. If you're reading this Bill - thanks for so many engrossing hours.