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1927: A lot happened that year and Bill Bryson is ON IT

One Summer: America, 1927 is the first Bill Bryson I have finished. I have now come to the conclusion that while I am not so much a fan of Bryson travelogues, I am a devotee of his collection-of-random-facts books. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

He starts with the murderess Ruth Snyder, switches to Charles Lindbergh, then jumps over to the Great Mississippi Flood. In the first three chapters. There is so much information in this book, it just makes me go 

this gif is appropriate for like 50 reasons
DID YOU KNOW that of the 120 million people living in America in 1927, half still lived on farms or in small towns? And that now that number is 15%? So we've become a much more urban-focused society and that is FASCINATING and how has it changed our ways of thinking I don't knowwww but we should maybe think about it.

Also skyscrapers have "pointed masts" on top so that we can tie AIRSHIPS TO THEM. But then airships didn't really take off (ahahaha), so instead we just have a bunch of pointy buildings sittin' around.

Relatively useless facts coupled with tons of digressions are my favorite for obvious reasons, so this book was the cat's pajamas. What gets you more is realizing that this kind of book could've been written about any year in history. Every year, a ton of stuff happens. Why Bryson picked 1927, I'm not sure. A lot of it seems to center around Lindbergh, because damn, that boy was popular (before he said he thought the Nazis had some really keen ideas):

The New York Evening World called [Lindbergh's transatlantic flight] “the greatest feat of a solitary man in the records of the human race.” Another called it “the greatest event since the Resurrection.”

And apparently no one called bullshit on this. Everyone just nodded and went "Yeah, totally." I cannot express how frustrating it is to not be able to put my brain in the place where I find Lindbergh's accomplishment remarkable. My brain just goes "Yeah, he flew across the Atlantic. Okay." And I say "NO, BRAIN. He was the FIRST ONE. And a bunch of other people had died trying to do it. And he had no one else in the plane and it was freezing and he had no forward visiblity." And my brain goes "Yeah, no, still not into it."

oh well.

Grumpy Old Man Bryson is largely absent from the story, and only contributes enough of his personality as to be delightful.
Only about one murder in a hundred resulted in an execution. So for Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray to be accused , convicted, and ultimately executed , they had to be truly, outstandingly inept. They were.
Worse was a popular dance called the black bottom, which involved hopping forward and backward and slapping the rump— an act of scandalous abandon focused on a body part that many would rather didn’t exist at all.

There was, of course, a section on Al Capone and Chicago, which would make me have civic pride, only IMO only idiots are impressed by Al Capone. Unless they're genuinely into him having built a business as large as his was. But no, they like that he was a gangster. A gangster who died of syphilis, I might add, but whatever apparently, a gangster nonetheless. Gangsters: Ruining people's lives. Murdering parents. Dealing in blackmail and extortion. Mmm, let's be proud. 

I AM, however, proud of the fact we elected and then reelected a man who said during his campaign that King George V was going to annex Chicago, and that, if elected, he would find him and "punch him in the snoot."

I also learned about other things! Sciencey things! Like how we have TV now because of Philo T. Farnsworth, and maybe that boy should get some more recognition, and also I still don't understand how TV works, but well done, scientists.

1927 was an excellent first Bryson. Thinkin' next I'll look at At Home and A Short History of Nearly Everything, as they seem to be along the same lines.

Let's close with an example of why an entire book could be written about this one year:

in the week that Richard Byrd and his team splashed down in France, that New York suffered its first heat wave, that Calvin Coolidge celebrated his fifty-fifth birthday by donning cowboy apparel, that Charles Lindbergh took off for Ottawa, that Henry Ford's minions prepared his apology to the Jews, and that the world's leading central bankers assembled in secret conclave on Long Island—the story that preoccupied the nation was how fit and eager Jack Dempsey was.

Don't you want to know more about Jack Dempsey? OF COURSE. Read this book. 


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