Isn't it nice to lie on a holiday lounger reading a good book? Sunshine. Occasional dips in the pool and then between dozes you turn the pages. And because you're away from home and work and your usual everyday life, you can devote so much more mental and emotional energy to the reading process - giving the writer the attention his or her efforts truly deserve.
Over in Gran Canaria I read the Bill Bryson book illustrated left - "One Summer - America - 1927".
I have read just about everything Bill Bryson has ever written. His style is comfortable and he is as inquisitive as a boy scout in a summer meadow armed with a magnifying glass and a guide to insects. And he can be drily funny and self-deprecating and unlike some writers I have known, he is genuinely in love with words. He plays with them and knows where they came from.
"One Summer" is like a window into a special year in American history. You could say that it was the year in which America truly came of age. Perhaps that is why the crowds were so vast as Charles Lindbergh toured the country following his famous solo flight to Paris. And there were also huge crowds to see the incredible Babe Ruth in action and the boxing contest between slugger Jack Dempsey and erudite sportsman Gene Tunney. The Mississippi flooded thousands of acres. The film industry gave the world its first true "talkie" - "The Jazz Singer" starring Al Jolson and dwarfish Al Capone stomped around the streets of Chicago like a giant as the ludicrous Prohibition experiment truly kicked in.
It is a well-researched tome of over six hundred pages and it covers a time of peace and prosperity between the wars and before The Wall Street Crash of 1929. It's hard to think that in 1927 international air travel was very much in its infancy. Flying any aeroplane was an extremely dangerous pursuit. There was even a hare-brained scheme to build a series of "seadromes" so that Transatlantic flights would involve several hops - like frogs in a pond. And it was in 1927 that some visionaries began to see the possibilities of television in a distant future even though this was a time when radio played second fiddle to reading. Bryson says,"The 1920s was a great time for reading altogether - very possibly the peak decade for reading in American life. Soon it would be overtaken by the passive distractions of radio, but for the moment reading remained most people’s principal method for filling idle time.”
The book is populated by flappers and gangsters, murderers and inventors and there's Henry Ford and Herbert Hoover and Clara Bow and the curious President Calvin T. Coolidge and Mount Rushmore is being carved in the wilds of South Dakota while the country's population is just nudging 120 million - compared with today's 317 million.
As I have admitted before in this febrile blog I am an unashamed Americophile so of course I was going to enjoy "One Summer". In a very readable way, it convinced me that 1927 was indeed a very interesting and significant year in the formation of today's America. Bryson's writing makes what might have been dull history truly come alive.