I began this book in October, and it seemed a bit of a slog, and I’m not sure why. I love Bryson’s signature style of history enlivened with juicy tidbits of whimsy. The people involved are interesting. The stories are compelling. The year, 1927, was the year my mother was born, adding an extra element of interest for me. Maybe it was just that there were too many stories, too much to keep track of, for someone reading it piece-meal.
1927 was a busy, busy year. The race to successfully fly the Atlantic was in full stride. Babe Ruth was on track to have an epic year. The Yankees were arguably the best baseball team, ever. Prohibition was making gangsters rich. Events were conspiring to ensure the onset of Depression.
My overwhelming take-home from this book was that those “Good Old Days” are just better left in the past. Lessons include:
-The cult of celebrity is not new, not at all. If anything, it was scarier then; people were killed just trying to see Lindbergh
-On that subject, Lindbergh was a naive kid who turned dark very quickly.
-It sucked to be an immigrant. Legal or otherwise. Being Italian was enough to make you a suspect of all sorts of horrors. Interesting how the same thing exists; it just has transferred to different cultures and/or orientations.
-People died young of things we treat without a thought these days.
-Crime was not invented recently. You were more likely to be murdered in 1927 than today, by a huge factor. When Al Capone is holding press conferences expounding on his business methods, and not troubling to hide the fact that his business was all illegal, there is a problem.
-Graft & corruption are not recent either.
-Censorship & prejudice were practiced on a level that I think even the most steamy of tea-party attendees would find repulsive.
We have come a ways. Perfect? No. But it gives me optimism to think that we do progress.
And thus far, this isn’t much of a review of the book itself. Bryson skilfully entwines the various stories and you really don’t have to work too hard to keep the principals straight. There is enough humor to keep it light and enough meat to keep you satisfied. If you are a fan of Bryson’s more fact-filled books, you will enjoy his take on the summer of 1927. My mom would have loved it.