One Summer America 1927 MOBI Ü One Summer Epub / ↠ PDF

A Chicago Tribune Noteworthy BookA GoodReads Reader's ChoiceIn One Summer Bill Bryson one of our greatest and most beloved nonfiction writers transports readers on a journey back to one amazing season in American lifeThe summer of 1927 began with one of the signature events of the twentieth century on May 21 1927 Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross the Atlantic by plane nonstop and when he landed in Le Bourget airfield near Paris he ignited an explosion of worldwide rapture and instantly became the most famous person on the planet Meanwhile the titanically talented Babe Ruth was beginning his assault on the home run record which would culminate on September 30 with his sixtieth blast one of the most resonant and durable records in sports history In between those dates a ueens housewife named Ruth Snyder and her corset salesman lover garroted her husband leading to a murder trial that became a huge tabloid sensation Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly sat atop a flagpole in Newark New Jersey for twelve days—a new record The American South was clobbered by unprecedented rain and by flooding of the Mississippi basin a great human disaster the relief efforts for which were guided by the uncannily able and insufferably pompous Herbert Hoover Calvin Coolidge interrupted an already leisurely presidency for an even relaxing three month vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota The gangster Al Capone tightened his grip on the illegal booze business through a gaudy and murderous reign of terror and municipal corruption The first true “talking picture” Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer was filmed and forever changed the motion picture industry The four most powerful central bankers on earth met in secret session on a Long Island estate and made a fateful decision that virtually guaranteed a future crash and depression All this and much much transpired in that epochal summer of 1927 and Bill Bryson captures its outsized personalities exciting events and occasional just plain weirdness with his trademark vividness eye for telling detail and delicious humor In that year America stepped out onto the world stage as the main event and One Summer transforms it all into narrative nonfiction of the highest order

10 thoughts on “One Summer America 1927

  1. says:

    A non fiction work centered around events of one particular year but about the 1920’s in general It’s really a collections of mini biographies and vignettes of the major players and events of the 1920’a Fifty photos are included The two main characters threaded throughout the book whose stories provide a framework for the whole are Charles Lindbergh and Babe Ruth If you read this book here’s what you’ll getStories of early aviation and how the US was way behind Europe in scheduled commercial air travelThe “sash weight murder” and the rise of the tabloids For young people sash weights were heavy iron pipes used in the mechanism of wood windows Prohibition flappers and Al Capone who really only had a 3 year reign as gangster kingThe Bath Michigan school bombing that killed 44 The first national radio broadcasts and networksNYC became the world’s largest city; the skyscraper boomThe Great Mississippi Flood of 1927The Stock market “buy now pay later” bubble leading up to the 1929 crash despite rapid economic growth the decline of debt and zero inflationWere the 1927 Yankees the best team ever? – Babe Ruth Ty Cobb Lou GehrigHenry Ford the Models T and A; the rubber boom and his Fordlandia settlement in Brazil; tires only lasted 2000 3000 miles in those daysThe Florida real estate boom and the one two knock out hurricanes of 1926 and 1928Sacco and Vanzetti and the bombings before and after their trials Calvin Coolidge’s surprise announcement that he would not run for a second term 1927 was the peak year for Broadway shows; Show Boat created the musical as we know itMt Rush; flag pole sitting; the rise of boxing and Jack Dempsey drew bigger crowds than baseball games Talkies started; Clara Bow was out due to her heavy Brooklyn accentAn era of bigotry the resurgence of the KKK especially in Indiana; rumors of the Pope moving the Vatican to Indiana how’s that for early fake news?; eugenics; national origin legislation that reduced the immigration of people who were not northern EuropeansA golden age of writers Fitzgerald Hemingway Faulkner Joyce Woolf TS Eliot Gertrude Stein Ezra PoundOf course Bryson gives us a very engaging style; it reminds me of The Devil in the White City Murder Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America or vice versa Really worth a read

  2. says:

    This is a fun and interesting look at America in the 1920s but specifically the summer of 1927 It is remarkable how much happened in a few short monthsBabe Ruth hit 60 home runs The Federal Reserve made the mistake that precipitated the stock market crash Al Capone enjoyed his last summer of eminence The Jazz Singer was filmed Television was created Radio came of age Sacco and Vanzetti were executed President Coolidge chose not to run Work began on Mount Rush The Mississippi flooded as it never had before A madman in Michigan blew up a school and killed 44 people in the worst slaughter of children in American history Henry Ford stopped making the Model T and promised to stop insulting Jews And a kid from Minnesota flew across an ocean and captivated the planet in a way it had never been captivated before Whatever else it was it was one hell of a summerI've always loved history and Bryson does a marvelous job of weaving together different stories and putting events in context For example Prohibition was still going on in 1927 but Bryson goes back to 1920 and explains how it came about Or take the story of Charles Lindbergh Before Bryson covers that first famous flight to France he gives a brief history of aviation and explains how deadly and dangerous it had been Those kinds of details really make the book fly if you'll forgive the punThere are so many interesting stories in this book but here are the Top 5 Things I Learned from One Summer 1 That Henry Ford was an ignorant jackass He was defiantly narrow minded barely educated and at least close to functionally illiterate He did not like bankers doctors liuor tobacco idleness of any sort pasteurized milk Wall Street overweight people war books or reading JP Morgan and Co capital punishment tall buildings college graduates Roman Catholics or Jews2 How ridiculous Prohibition was and that it lasted for 13 years The 1920s was in many ways the most strange and wondrous decade in American history and nothing made it so than Prohibition It was easily the most extreme ill judged costly and ignored experiment in social engineering ever conducted by an otherwise rational nation It made criminals out of honest people and actually led to an increase in the amount of drinking in the country3 That Babe Ruth was a hot mess The most brilliant headstrong undisciplined lovable thrillingly original ornery son of a bitch that ever put on a baseball uniform4 How widespread bigotry was Of all the labels that were applied to the 1920s the Jazz Age the Roaring 20s the Age of Ballyhoo the Era of Wonderful Nonsense one that wasn't used but perhaps should have been was the Age of Loathing There may never have been another time in the nation's history when people disliked other people from directions and for less reason 5 The incredible impact that American films had especially after talking pictures were created Moviegoers around the world suddenly found themselves exposed often for the first time to American voices American vocabulary American cadence and pronunciation and word order Spanish conuistadores Elizabethan courtiers figures from the Bible were suddenly speaking in American voices — and not just occasionally but in film after film after film The psychological effect of this particularly on the young can hardly be overstated With American speech came American thoughts American attitudes American humor and sensibilities Peacefully by accident and almost unnoticed America had just taken over the worldI listened to 70 percent of this book on audio CD and then my car CD player broke While I enjoyed finishing up with a printed copy I did miss Bryson's voice If you like audiobooks I highly recommend his narrationsI've lost track of how many Bill Bryson books I've read but it's never enough I love his humorous and clever style and I hope he keeps writing for several decades

  3. says:

    There are some very obvious ualities to look for when choosing a history book Accuracy is one thing You want the facts to be factual Analysis is another You want there to be some meaning to the facts presented Storytelling though Storytelling is the thing And it’s hard to find So often in my reading I’ve found that narrative takes a backseat to academic ualities such as primary source sifting It’s a shame because I think storytelling is the paramount uality of a good history book Yes factual facts are important Yes interpretation and analysis are important But if you can’t tell a good story why am I wasting my time? I’m a decade and finished with school so reading is a pastime not a punishment Bill Bryson is a storyteller first and foremost I’m not sure how he did his research for One Summer America 1927 but I’m guessing it didn't include a lot of digging in dusty libraries A glance through the Notes and Bibliography shows a heavy reliance on secondary sources Thus the value here isn’t primarily on new discoveries or understanding; rather it is found in Bryson’s ability to entertain while informing One Summer is a garrulous slice of Americana A series of snapshots in time The calendar provides obvious structure and each month is given a chapter including September It must have been an Indian summer Promotional material for the book claims that the 20th century became the American century during the Summer of ’27 This is a pretty ambitious and uestionable assertion and one that Bryson’s text does nothing to support One Summer doesn’t have a thesis statement It is content to be a fun read though tackling some dark subjects The May to June to July to August to September chronology provides the only narrative framework This is the work of a talented raconteur I feel like I would heartily enjoy having a drink or ten with Bryson It is a collection of unconnected stories that Bryson doesn’t make the slightest effort to stitch together Instead he is content to cover one subject and then jump to the next It works because Bryson is a great writer working with good material One Summer covers a lot of ground Early on aviation is the focus Bryson covers the many attempts some doomed by aviators to win the Orteig Prize for the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris Eventually the prize went to a youngster from Minnesota named Charles Lindbergh The fame he achieved was singular intensely focused almost unimaginable today in an age of fragmented media For a moment Lindbergh had almost the entire world at his feet and clawing at his clothes and rooting through his garbage Bryson’s evocation of that weight on his shoulders is top notchPerhaps the most packed category is crime Bryson covers two trials in particular that captured national attention One the Snyder Gray murder has faded with the years It has however left a gruesome remnant an infamous picture of murderess Ruth Gray in the electric chair at Sing Sing The other featuring the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti is still argued over today Bryson does a nice job of weighing the facts of the case and suggesting further reading Since America was in the midst of Prohibition Al Capone also gets his moment upon the stage I appreciated this For as many gangster movies I’ve have consumed I really didn't know suat about the historical Capone I've hidden that picture of Ruth Snyder beneath the spoiler tag It's not super graphic but it's not puppies either view spoiler Ruth Snyder in the chair hide spoiler

  4. says:

    If you think that you had a busy summer consider 1927Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic and became a national hero Babe Ruth broke his own home run record on a Yankees club that would be remembered as one of the best baseball teams ever assembled The Midwest was devastated by extensive flooding and the Secretary of Commerce Hebert Hoover was in charge of recovery efforts A routine murder trial in New York became a media sensation for reasons no one can explain Sacco and Vanzetti were executed and sparked outrage around the world Prohibition was still in effect but that didn’t stop Al Capone’s criminal empire from reaching the height of its power Capone also attended a boxing match between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney that would captivate the nation and still be controversial today A young engineer with the awesome name of Philo T Farnsworth made a critical breakthrough that would lead to the development of television and another entertainment milestone occurred when the first full length motion picture with sound began filming After building 15 million Model Ts Henry Ford’s company ceased production and began creating the Model A In South Dakota the work of carving four president’s faces into Mount Rush began Last but not least four bankers had a meeting in which they made a decision that would eventually start the Great DepressionAnd yet Bryan Adams picked another summer to immortalize in songBill Bryson’s book is packed with the details of these events and many along with plenty of related stories and anecdotes It should read like a trivia book of 1927 factoids but what makes it than that is the deft way that Bryson establishes the history of what came before as well as the long term impact For example he doesn’t just tell the story of Lindbergh’s historic flight and of his subseuent fame he also lays out in a succinct manner how America had been trailing the world in aviation up until that point as well as how it changed things afterwardsIt’s that context that makes this than just a list of events and he also goes to some effort to add depth in several places like describing how horrifyingly racist American society was in those days with the Ku Klux Klan enjoying a reemergence while even supposedly high brow publications like The New Yorker would casually use ethnic slurs By the time he tells the readers about how outlandish eugenics theories became influential which resulted in tens of thousands of people being legally sterilized in the United States the reader can understand all too well how it could happen in that kind of environmentIn fact one of the things that jumped out at me about this is that most of the popular figures of 1927 were basically assholes Charles Lindbergh's boyish good lucks and piloting skill got the press to overlook that he was about as interesting as white bread and he’d show a nasty streak of anti Semitism later in his life that would severely tarnish his image Henry Ford was also a notorious anti Semite and he was also the kind of ignoramus that despised people with educations or scientific background His refusal to consult any types of experts led him to waste millions on schemes like trying to start a rubber plantation in South America and shutting down his assembly lines to retool for the Model A with no clear plan as to what exactly they’d build After reading about Ford‘s stubborn mistakes I can’t believe the Ford Motor Company managed to survive long enough to make it to the Great Depression let alone still be in business today Herbert Hoover led a life that should have made him one of America’s most fascinating presidents He was a self made success story who had traveled the world as a mining consultant and was credited with a relief effort that fed millions in Europe during World War I Yet he seemed to take no pleasure in anything other than work and one long time acuaintance noted that he never heard him laugh once in 30 years Calvin Coolidge believed so much in limiting the role of government that he spent most of his presidency napping and would refuse to take even the most of innocuous of actions like endorsing a national week of recognition for the importance of educationIt’s funny that since the book describes so many people as either being unlikable unethical or downright criminal that one of the few that seems decent was Babe Ruth While all of the Babe’s bad habits are laid out here he also comes across as one of the few that did what he was good at with an exuberant zest for life and generous spirit that was sadly lacking in many of his contemporaries The guy may have enjoyed his food liuor and women to excess but he never hid who he was Plus he was fun at partiesBryson’s look at the events large and small that made up one pivotal summer is an interesting read that provides a clear window to the past while being highly entertaining

  5. says:

    I know I'm Johnny come lately on the Bill Bryson bandwagon but I am fast becoming a full fledged fanclub member Honestly I'd read just about anything that dude wrote In fact if I can convince him to write my obituary I'm going to throw myself in front of a bus the first chance I get just so I can read itThe title of One Summer America 1927 explains pretty clearly what's between the covers And oh boy what a whole heck of a lot happened that year Here's some of the highlights Charles Lindbergh's historic flight across the Atlantic The Great Mississippi Flood The worst national disaster in US history at the time affected well over half a million peopleThe advent of televisionFirst real talkie The Jazz Singer Brings about the sudden death of silent filmsPresident Calvin Coolidge Least hard working US President of all timeBabe Ruth broke the current home run recordLindbergh's story and that of flight in general takes up a large portion of this book Babe Ruth and the Yankees also feature prominently The tragic trial of Sacco and Vanzetti is discussed at length But it's not just a book about the historic events of '27 or a relating of the principle players and their doings but rather an all era encompassing work that takes in the broad epic of America's strange exciting dangerous and in the very least interesting happeningsBryson is a great storyteller Here he does an excellent job in putting the reader into the time and place giving you a feel for the general undercurrent of the people the importance of an occurrence and its aftermath But it's not all about 1927 What led up to the big happenings that year are just as important to the greater understanding of the thing and Bryson sets the table admirably He also placates the curious by giving us the epilogue of the major players and events of this time so the reader gets that comforting closureAll in all One Summer is a very satisfying way to endure a history lesson

  6. says:

    This book covers a lot of subjectsSome of it was interesting and sometimes I found my attention wanderingBryson starts off with the hazards of the early days of aviationThen he tells the story of Charles Lindberghthe flight to Paris that made him a hero and the public's obsession with himon his returnAlsothe later part of his lifewhen he went through personal tragedyhis advocacy for eugenicsand his sympathies for Nazi GermanyIt is an interesting storyThere is also a good deal about baseball and Babe Ruthboxing and Jack Dempseywhich didn't interest me all that muchApart from sportsthere is politicsBryson talks about Hoover and Coolidge and their shortcomings as PresidentsAlsoProhibition in Americawhich he doesn't view favourablyAlso included are chapters on the beginnings of radio and TV and the advent of talking motion picturesplus a discussion of the merits of the leading writers of the ageNot to be left out is Henry Ford and his Model TThenthere are some noteworthy murdersthe rise of gangsters like Al Capone and the views of controversial Americanswho advocated negative eugenicsThere is also some discussion of how the Great Depression beganIt is a lot of subject matterwhich at times feels not like a bookbut a series of articlesIt's a mixed bag

  7. says:

    The things change the they stay the sameInsert Snake Plissken gif hereBill Bryson takes a look at almost everything going on in the summer of 1927 Think Sacco and Vanzetti Charles Lindbergh Babe Ruth Al Capone the invention of TV and talkies Coolidge Hoover and Henry FordWhat struck me most about this book is that the things going on in 1927 aren't that much different than the things going on today In the autumn of 1927 Hoover's opponents of whom there were many began floating the notion that Hoover couldn't legally run because he hadn't been resident in America for the proceeding 14 years as the Constitution reuiredRecently people try to claim Obama isn't an American Illinois imposed no restrictions on the sale of tommy guns so they were available to the general public in hardware stores sporting goods stores and even drugstores The wonder is that the death tolls in Chicago weren't higherGun control AND the murder rate in Chicago are still big issuesPolyamory 1927 His private life was eually unorthodox in that he and another man shared the affections of a woman who had once been Baird's girlfriend was now the second man's wife and who found it impossible to choose between the two In true British fashion the arrangement to share was agreed between all three over a cup of teaNowadays polyamory is becoming accepted The Ethical Slut A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities is published in 1997 The most recent issue of Time magazine September 21 2015 leads with IS MONOGAMY OVER? across the top Palmer was so pleased with the publicity his raids generated and the fear they instilled that he ordered a second larger set of raids in the new year This time some 6000 to 10000 people accounts vary widely were arrested in at least 78 cities in 23 states Again there was much needless destruction of property arrests without warrants and beating of innocent peopleThe Red Scare leads to thousands of arrests without warrants or probable cause Still happening today but not with people feared as communists but the knowledge that terrorists could mount coordinated violence on such a scale left many Americans distinctly unnerved Referencing the anarchist bombings of prominent officialsStill dealing with terrorism and the fear of it todayA lot of the book deals with the overwhelming hatred of Jewish people black people and immigrants Still dealing with all that shit today The mark which had traded at about 4 to the dollar before the war now shot up to 600000 to the dollar By summer the exchange rate was 630 BILLION marks to the dollar and inflation was so rampant that prices were doubling daily sometimes hourly People needed wheelbarrows or baby buggies to carry enough paper money to conduct even the simplest transactionsGermany 1927 or Argentina 1998 2002?In the book we see that Warren G Harding fathers a child out of wedlockWe still have scandals with American presidents who can't seem to keep their penis in their trousers A German man in St Louis who was believed to have spoken ill of his adopted country was set upon by a mob dragged through the streets tied up in an American flag and hanged A jury subseuently found the mob leaders not guilty on the grounds that it had been a patriotic murderRestaurants stopped serving German food or gave it non German names; sauerkraut famously became liberty cabbageFreedom fries anyone? LOL In 1927 Americans were not terribly popular in Europe and not popular at all in France The result of all this was uite a lot of anti American sentiment especially in France where the struggling natives had to watch American tourists many of them young noisy and made obnoxious by wine and no doubt sometimes also by nature living like princes and living it up on Europe's debased currenciesStill tons of anti American sentiment abroad for various reasons1927 Andrew Kehoe blows up a school Altogether forty four people died that day thirty seven children and seven adultsToday school shootingsBesides this you have some interesting facts about famous people that perhaps you didn't know beforeBoth Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh were anti semitic Both were admired and respected by HitlerBabe Ruth slept with any woman he could including the wives of other men and the wives of his teammates At a party in his rooms at the Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit Ruth famously stood on a chair and shouted Any woman who doesn't want to fuck can leave nowClara Bow the famous movie starhttpwwwyoutubecomwatch?vDxo99also seemed to be happily and unabashedly promiscuous sleeping with 6 different men in the production of just one of her films I admire her gumption LOL Bryson details much of both Ruth and Bow's exciting love affairs in the bookIt's funny to see how the concept of morality was being set up and played with in the 1920s I mean we all know how Prohibition turned out The national murder rate went up by almost a third after Prohibition was introducedAlso boxing was taking off in popularity among white people for the first time which raised moral concerns about how white women might become um excited by the sport The Reverend John Roach Straton saw a worrisome threat to morals in allowing members of the weaker sex to gaze upon two practically naked men battering and bruising each other and struggling in sweat and blood for mere animal masteryIn fact as it turned out that was very much what women wanted and the person they most keenly wished to see glistening and lightly clad was the French boxer Georges Carpentier He was by universal female consent an eyefulHowever the book is not a total winThere is A LOT of stuff on aviation and flight While this was interesting to me it may not be to other peopleAnd there is A LOT of stuff on baseball I have no interest in baseball Zero Zilch None Reading Bryson ramble on and on and on about baseball and baseball games was making me sleepy And this wasn't some little parts of the book It's not only a huge portion of the book but it's scattered all throughout the book same with the aviation stuffYou're warned If you're not enad of aviation and baseball you might struggle to get through this bookTl;dr As a history tome this is fascinating and fun Bryson is right to take a simple three months out of one year and focus exclusively on that for his book Any than that and it would have been too overwhelming As it is it is just right Bryson can focus on an entire range of subjects but not let it get out of hand I loved learning about historical figures I loved getting a thorough glimpse into the past and even though some things were disturbing to read about eugenics in particular I feel like I learned a lot the number one lesson being that the human race is still dealing with a lot of the same problems as it was 90 years agoHowever I'm happy to report that flying in a plane is about a billion times safer than it was in 1927 You wouldn't BELIEVE how many people die or disappear in planes in this book Tons Tons of people oO It was just accepted that if you fly you might die I'm so grateful for modern air travel

  8. says:

    Only one man could take Charles Lindbergh's 1927 transatlantic flight Babe Ruth's record setting home runs the worst flooding in US History a surprise announcement by President Coolidge the execution of two Italian anarchists the introduction of taking motion pictures television and the electric chair and dozens of other totally unrelated events that happened during the Summer of 1927 and connect the dots Of course I'm talking about Des Moines' own Bill BrysonSeveral years ago I picked up a copy of Bryson's The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and became so struck with his ability to put words on a page I immediately had to anoint myself as the President of the International Bill Bryson Fan Club Within a few weeks I had devoured everything BB had ever written and eagerly awaited being one of the first to read his newest works that followedThis time I was able to read a publisher's advance copy of One Summer America 1927 a full month prior to the book's introduction to book storesWhile you may think that the events of the Summer of 1927 are not high on your list of things to know please do yourself a favor and pick up this book I promise you will find yourself LOLing and wanting to reread passages aloud to anyone within an earshot Even cataract surgery could not force me to put down this book

  9. says:

    It has been a long time since I have read a Bill Bryson book so when I happened upon an opportunity to win an ARC of One Summer America 1927 I jumped at the chance Bryson is nothing if not prolific He cranks them out C SPAN’s Book TV has an eight minute interview with him about his most recent effort I received the ARC of One Summer just a month before publication I was not able to read the entire 448 page book prior to its publication But I do want to say a few words about it even after publication since Bill Bryson is for me a Blast from the Past with this summer of eighty six years ago Two central events of the book are the Lindbergh flight from NYC to Paris and Babe Ruth’s sixty home runs The Prologue covers many of the unsuccessful efforts to fly between Paris and NYC But many events are covered in this three ring circus of a book The action never stops It would be hard to say that many of these tabloid news events warrant so much attention so many decades later However the entertainment value is high If you are a Bryson aficionado you don’t want to miss this one Bryson you will not be surprised to hear was not totally fixated on the year 1927 He covers some of the family history of Charles Lindbergh He writes of the lives and presidencies of a snoozing Calvin Coolidge and a self aggrandizing Herbert Hoover Coolidge was actually President in 1927 As the Commerce Secretary Hoover was appointed the head of relief efforts in response to the unprecedented Mississippi River flood of 1927 during which the great river was in flood stage for over 150 daysUS population in 1927 120 millionUS v Sullivan 1927 Supreme Court case that established the legality of the IRS pursuing tax evasion charges against criminals for ill gotten gainsThe Spirit of St Louis took off from Roosevelt Field Long Island NY at 752 am on May 20 1927 and landed in Paris 33½ hours and 3600 miles later With Lindbergh temporarily unavailable what America needed was some kind of sublimely pointless distraction and a man named Shipwreck Kelly stood ready to provide it At 11 am on June 7 Kelly clambered to the top of a 50 foot flagpole on the roof of the St Francis Hotel in Newark New Jersey and sat there That was all he did for days on end but people were enchanted and streamed to Newark to watch Bryson detours from Lindbergh for a while to begin to tell us the story of the life of Babe Ruth who was born in 1895 leaving some distance to be covered before we arrive in the signature year of 1927 But even diversions have their own diversions in this homegrown history of many years rolled somehow into one The segues from the Spirit of St Louis to Shipwreck Kelly to The House that Ruth Built to radio coming of age are not always smooth It takes some effort of imagination to appreciate how novel radio was in the 1920s It was the wonder of the age By the time of Lindbergh’s flight one third of all the money America spent on furniture was spent on radios Stations sprouted everywhere In a single day in 1922 the number of American radio stations went from 28 to 570And as Babe Ruth is sold by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees we slip nimbly into pages about New York City In 1927 New York has just overtaken London as the world’s largest city By 1927 New York had half the nation’s skyscrapers The canyon like streets and spiky skyline that we associate with New York is largely a 1920s phenomenon Prohibition in the US lasted thirteen years One of those years was 1927 so Prohibition gets a chapter in the book There is no lack of stories about Prohibition and Bryson tells many of them – poisons being added to some forms of alcohol and padlocked establishments having customers enter through the back door are a couple of examples The phrase “giving a hand’ applause to an entertainer was allegedly coined during Prohibition and was probably uttered several times in the summer of 1927 You may think that with four seasons in a year each would have three months You will not be surprised I am sure to learn that for the purposes of his book Bill Bryson extended the summer of 1927 to five months – May through September I can only wonder if when asked about this Bryson said “So sue me” The connections of the book to the summer of the title are not always self evident You just have to go along for the ride The flight of Commander Richard Byrd from New York to Paris weeks after Lindbergh is given some considerable attention although Byrd arrived in Paris by train since the plane was forced to land in the ocean along the coast of France Evidence is given of serious misinformation given by Byrd and his chief pilot Bert Acosta about the trip; foremost is the fact that the co pilot Bernt Balchen actually did almost all of the actual piloting as a result of the lack of skill of the pilot Acosta who knew nothing about flying on instruments an integral part of the journey Cramming events of other years into 1927 continued with abandon For Warren G Harding the summer of 1927 was not a good one which was perhaps a little surprising since he had been dead for nearly four years by then Few people have undergone a rapid and comprehensively negative reappraisal than America’s twenty ninth President When he died suddenly in San Francisco on August 2 1923 he was widely liked and admired At the time of his death President Harding was on the brink of being exposed as a scoundrel and a fool If you like tabloid journalism and “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” I can almost promise that you will like One Summer Although it is somewhat long it’s an easy read that seems determined to amaze and amuse Frippery may be too strong a word but no one should expect too much of conseuence from this book The ARC I read was missing the bibliography and notes from the end additions that may be of value to those who are interested in pursuing the historical aspects of the book But I think you will likely find One Summer entertaining than stimulatingMore weak tangents to 1927 boxing and Fordlandia Fordlandia was a failed Henry Ford development in Brazil in 1928 There were some well known boxing matches in that era but again a summer 1927 connection is a stretch But hey it’s just the title of the book so I probably shouldn’t be so demanding about the content as long as it is interesting Much of it is interesting without dwelling overlong on many of the topics We are talking blurbs here of a page or two for those with a short attention span History in the form of birdshot The August segment of the book leads off with a twenty page story of Sacco and Vanzetti the Italian anarchists convicted of a payroll robbery and murder that occurred in Massachusetts in 1920 and culminated in their execution in August of 1927 After dipping briefly into the announcement of President Coolidge that he will not to run for re election in 1928 we find ourselves in the story of the carving of Mount Rush in South Dakota Zip zip zip We move uicklySilent films turned to talkies in the 1920s and Clara Bow morphed from the It Girl to the has been because her voice just would not do on screen – “the vocal euivalent of nails on a blackboard”Few difficult uestions are asked in One Summer However one uestion directly related to the book was asked “Were Sacco and Vanzetti innocent?” Bryson euivocates and vacillates He names some who thought they were guilty and boldly states Many people closely involved in the case then and later concluded that Sacco and Vanzetti were certainly guilty of somethingFor himself Bryson says Across such a distance of time it is impossible to say anything with certainty but there are grounds for suspecting that they were not perhaps as innocent as they made themselves outHe did not specifically note the positions of the tabloids that were often evidently a trusted source This is one place I wish I had the final edition complete with notes I am sure Bryson must have been forthcoming there But here again I am probably taking this book too seriously It is not investigative journalism by any means To call it “fluff” is too cruel for me but I am sure that some would use that appellationIn fairness I should note that serious consideration and topics are not totally absent from One Summer In the section titled “Summer’s End” the Ku Klux Klan and eugenics are examined in some detail The information about the eugenics movement in the 1920s and 1930s is chilling In 1927 a US Supreme Court case Buck v Bell was decided 8 to 1 in favor of eugenic sterilization Altogether at least 60000 people were sterilized because of Laughlin’s efforts At its peak in the 1930s some thirty states had sterilization laws though only Virginia and California made wide use of them It is perhaps worth noting that sterilization laws remain on the books in 20 states today But it does not take much imagination to recognize that even these “serious” topics had a strong tabloid appeal ignoble aspects for the KKK and prurient for eugenics Also toward the end of the book methods of communication make a strong pitch for notice radio nascent television popular authors like Zane Grey and Edgar Rice Burroughs The popular authors outsold the F Scott Fitzgeralds of the time RCA NBC and CBS are early entries in mass communicationsIn writing about writers Bryson makes an attempt to pin his subjects down to the summer of 1927 since this is after all the alleged focus of his book Among serious writers of fiction only Sinclair Lewis enjoyed robust sales in the summer of 1927 Elmer Gantry was far and away the bestselling fiction book of that year The novel sold 100000 copies on its first day of sale and was cruising towards 250000 by the end of the summer Hemingway produced no novel in 1927 He was mostly preoccupied with personal affairs – he divorced one wife and wed another Also well received but not runaway commercial successes were The Bridge of San Luis Rey by a new writer named Thornton Wilder and Mosuitoes by another newcomer William FaulknerF Scott Fitzgerald the other American literary giant of the age – to us if not to his contemporaries – produced no book in 1927 Since I have drifted into culture let it be noted that Bela Lugosi opened on Broadway in the play Dracula in September 1927 He made his entire career from that character We take a brief stroll down Broadway in the neighborhood of but not the block of 1927 And we are told that the heyday of Broadway ended about that time with the advent of the talking pictures The movies took the Broadway audiences actors and writers So says Bill Bryson I have said a couple of times that it would be interesting to see the Notes that appear in the final edition Seems to me that Bryson may have occasionally sacrificed facts for a good story He covers his ass as they say with phrases such as “according to one authority” and “it has been suggested” and many other variations on the iffy vernacular You may have noticed I have reverted to some maybe’s myself Maybe is just another way of being flexibleIf you are from Chicago or Indiana you may be pleased to hear that these two locations get some special attention from Bryson Actually you may not be pleased since a lot of the attention is on crime and corruption You might not agree that Al Capone was a model citizen Capone has also many times credited with the line “You can get a lot farther with a smile and a gun than you can get with just a smile” but it appears he probably never said that either The Prologue tells of Lindbergh’s life before The Flight and the Epilogue his life after In one short paragraph Bill Bryson lists the events and people of the summer of 1927 that he observed for 450 pages As any good tabloid the Epilogue exposes some uirks and tells how the people died Apart from Lindbergh’s airplane in the Air and Space Museum in Washington and Babe Ruth’s bat and sixtieth home run ball in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York almost nothing remains from the summer of 1927 To that short list of objects you might now add this book One Summer America 1927 by Bill Bryson But to fill 450 pages Bryson had to stretch out the summer to much of the year and the era to all the years the people of 1927 lived You shouldn’t expect him to do justice to such an extended period He has entertained me as he has done in some of his previous books but he has neither made my spirit soar nor my mind marvel nor my pulse uicken He has written a three star book that entertained without enthralling and that informed without compelling

  10. says:

    Bill Bryson’s written another fantastic book though this time it’s not about his ramblings across our planet but a very specific point in history where numerous astonishing and world changing events took place the summer of 1927 in America It’s primarily about Charles Lindbergh and his plane The Spirit of St Louis crossing the Atlantic in a single flight for the first time Bryson provides a truncated biography of Lindbergh and his family as well as the background circumstances of the flight and the various contenders who also attempted and failed often fatally to do what he did seemingly effortlessly It’s an amazing story and I’m glad to have finally become acuainted with all the details not least taking a closer look at the plane itself which incredibly had no forward facing windows Lindbergh had to tilt the plane sideways to get a window view of where he was flying or else deploy the periscope which he rarely did It’s such an unbelievably small and flimsy craft and only further highlights what a gifted pilot Lindbergh was His ground breaking achievement aside Bryson follows Lindbergh through the rest of his life I won’t go into all of the details but it’s a fall from grace and despite personal tragedy the famous kidnapping of his first child he held some utterly repugnant views that aligned with the Nazis which played a big part in his downfall from being the greatest American hero of the age The other “main character” so to speak is George “Babe” Ruth the legendary baseball player who hit a record 60 homeruns in the 1927 season I say “main character” because this is a nonfiction book and not a novel but he really was a larger than life “character” and I enjoyed reading about his life in general He was a crazy guy but it’s understandable why he was and remains so beloved by so many And while his sporting achievements have been overshadowed by recent players I liked Bryson’s line about how instead of steroids Babe did it all “on hotdogs” It was also fascinating finding out about Babe’s teammate Lou Gehrig a man who deserved the nickname “Babe” for his all round innocence long after becoming a baseball success Ruth himself lost the innocence of his nickname almost immediately after leaving school And he seemed like an absolutely decent chap to boot I really liked reading about the growing popularity of boxing and the rise of Jack Dempsey culminating in his title fight with Gene Tunney I knew the name of Henry Ford but I didn’t know uite how pig ignorant the man was It’s surprising how successful he was given how bone headed a number of his business decisions were When his son finally convinced him to upgrade the bestselling Model T rather than develop a new car what would become the Model A before switching production he closed production altogether while he and his team of specifically non experts another of Ford’s weird uirks he didn’t trust experts bungled together a new design 60000 workers were made redundant and Ford lost millions including a huge chunk of market share What was still interesting about Ford was Fordlandia his insane idea of recreating an American town in the middle of the so he could get cheap rubber for his tires That’s an amazing story that deserves and probably already has a book of its own Charles Ponzi began his grift for which his namesake is remembered today; an oddball pair of train loving businessmen brothers Mantis and Oris Van Sweringen are highlighted; Mount Rush begins to be chiselled out; an area the size of Scotland flooded the Southern states when the Mississippi river broke its banks leading to the rise of the next US President Herbert Hoover Hoover was another remarkable figure He was so cold as to be almost robotic but he did some extraordinary things particularly post WW1 in helping feed millions of starving and homeless people And though he was a one term president after the amusingly lazy Calvin Coolidge refused to run for a second term I didn’t realise a lot of New Deal policies that FDR gets credit for began under his administration Al Capone and prohibition the emergence of talking movies and television the murder trial of Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti the architects of the 1929 Wall St crash making their disastrous plans there’s too much to mention but it’s easy to see why Bryson singled out this period of history and was able to write a 600 page book about it Some of the baseball stuff didn’t do much for me not being a fan of the sport but it doesn’t seem right to give this book anything but the highest rating when it’s such an accomplishment and an inspired idea One Summer America 1927 is a brilliant entertaining and informative history book written throughout in clear accessible prose that I would recommend to anyone even readers not particularly interested in this era Bill Bryson will make you interested Bravo sir Now let’s all do the Charleston