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thursday

Like memories, memoirs are implicitly suspect—James Frey and JT LeRoy weren’t the first authors to remember things a little differently than they happened. In The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir, humorist Bill Bryson neatly dispenses with audience wariness by dividing his recollections of growing up in Iowa in the ’50s into discussions of documented events (the Red Scare, nuclear testing) and those that might have occurred but probably weren’t as funny the first time around. You don’t have to buy, for example, that a young Bryson actually viewed the press room of the newspaper where his father worked as “a potentially excellent place to see a mangling,” or that, after years of crappy vacations, he asked his mother, “Have I got leukemia or something?” when his dad finally took the family to Disneyland. (“It was the only time in my life that I saw two $20 bills leave my father’s wallet simultaneously,” he marvels.) Bryson doesn’t waste much time on the book’s purported conceit—that wee Bill used to pretend to be a superhero who could vaporize irritating adults—but that’s OK, because it’s much more fun to read, say, his deceptively lighthearted look back at Communist witch hunts, or Eisenhower-era foreign-policy boners. “It was an especially wonderful time to be a noisy moron,” he recalls of the era, and that he remembers it fondly says as much about Bryson’s talents as it gives us hope that one day we’ll be able to laugh about the ‘00s—even if, unlike Bryson, we haven’t fled to Europe. Bryson discusses and signs copies of his work at 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, at the Avalon Theater, 5612 Connecticut Ave. NW. $10. (202) 364-1919. (Andrew Beaujon)