Trying to get through the backlog, so this will be short. Though, looking back, not as short as my review of At Home which read in its entirety: “If anyone can tip me off about other authors who are as good at collecting, organising and relating anecdotes as Bill Bryson, please, please do.” Which is pretty much true for One Summer as well.
What can I say? Bryson has picked an interesting year and presents interesting stories in interesting ways. His anecdote-collecting skills have not waned and besides the usual suspects (Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone, Henry Ford, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, amongst many others) are lots of people I’d never heard of (well, ok, that might not say much, but bear with me) with stories that are definitely worth hearing. Such as Carrie Buck, who was sentenced to being sterilised on the grounds that both she, her mother and her daughter were “imbeciles”, and that they should not be allowed to reproduce. On the whole the chapter on eugenics is particularly chilling, perhaps even more so with hindsight, knowing what was to come in Europe a few years later (mind you, some of the atrocities carried out in America, such as agains Carrie, were bad enough, even though fewer people were affected).
Ending on a happier note, I quote:
When tabloids became the rage, Macfadden launched the Graphic. Its most distinguishing feature was that it had almost no attachment to truth or even, often, a recognisable reality.
(Page 51.) Much like some of our more popular tabloids nowadays, then.