Skip to main content

A quite interesting year

The 'quite interesting' year I refer to is not a look back at 2013, but a glimpse of the summer of 1927 given to us by Bill Bryson in his latest book. In fact a glimpse is a bit of an understatement as a description of this doorstep of a tome.

As the cover suggest, one of the major themes of the book is the rise to outstanding fame of Charles Lindbergh as a result of his aerial Atlantic crossing. As Bryson surprisingly informs us, this was not actually the first crossing by air but around the 120th. It had certainly been done by plane earlier by Alcock and Brown. But somehow Lindy's flight caught the imagination of the world and he became a superstar.

The rise and fall of Lindbergh occupy a fair amount of the book, but we also meet his competitors and other notables of the period in America from politics to sport (notably baseball and boxing) and bringing in everything from famous murders of the period (through to the details of their electrocution) to the sad disaster that was prohibition and the gangsters who profited from it.

Overall, Bryson's skill is in weaving all this together into an enjoyable tapestry. If I'm honest I much prefer his travel books, where the personal story and humour makes the writing a lot more fun, and I had to skip over the sports sections which I found deadly dull, but despite being about an obscure year in a foreign country it still made for a very readable book that kept the pages turning.

For me, one of the greatest delights of the read was finding out more about Texas Guinan, who features in one of my favourite numbers from the Yale Song Book, George Jones.

You can find out more about One Summer at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you  

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope