On the eve of the release of Bill Bryson’s latest book, he stood before a crowd at Stevenson University—humbled, excited, and pleased—to talk to students, faculty, and staff members about his works, of which there are many. So gracious was he, that he didn’t even begin his talk by speaking about himself; after being introduced, he simply opened up the floor for questions. The audience had many.
The anticipation for his new book entitled “One Summer: America 1927” is something that readers of history, sports, and discoveries will more than likely relish. The discussion of this book harkens back to the summer of 1927, when things were changing. What brought him to write the book? Two gentlemen in particular: Babe Ruth and Charles Lindbergh. In fact, Babe Ruth hit his 60th milestone homerun on today’s date in September of 1927 (September 30). That year was also when Charles Lindbergh took his solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic. The idea for the book started with baseball and an airplane. However, Bryson soon discovered there was more to the summer of 1927. There was also gangster Al Capone, the carving of Mount Rushmore, and the invention of the television by Philo Farnsworth, among others.
With enthusiasm, knowledge, and a great curiosity, Bryson engaged his audience with candor, humor, and a splash of brilliance. You see, he doesn’t believe he is a brilliant writer, even when he was complimented as such by an audience member.
“I take brilliant and clever things people say and put them into my writing,” he claimed.
When asked about his craft, something that I and fellow writers and writing students took a keen interest in, he said he has only two things that guide him: curiosity and enthusiasm. He grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, where his parents worked at the newspaper, The Des Moines Register. “English was the only subject I was good at—it’s what we talked about at dinner.” From Des Moines, he went to England, where he worked at a hospital, met a nurse (and married her—they are still married today), and began to freelance (he still resides in England today). When National Geographic wanted him to do a piece on Provence or anywhere else, he attributed his success as a journalist to his intense curiosity, and his interest in researching and uncovering truths. He has no set way he goes about his work, except that he reads and researches and allows interesting things to pique his curiosity.
The release of his book is set for tomorrow, and I know I am curious enough to want to read more about that era of the 1920s, especially as someone who loves baseball. I always enjoy reading another take on The Babe, as well as other fascinating stories that will take me back in time to the roaring twenties.