I noticed some time ago that my blog was turning up in a lot of searches for “bicycle diaries.” The reason for this is because I posted a piece about a BBC radio series by that name earlier last year. Good stuff. The “bicycle diaries” that folks are searching for, however, is the book so titled by David Byrne of the Talking Heads.
Well, it just so happens that I have, in fact, been reading this book, so let me tell you a little bit about it.
In short, it’s terrifically enjoyable. If you’ve ever read the classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I suspect you’ll appreciate this book all the more. Such has been the case for me. Pirsig’s book is prefaced with the following author’s note:
What follows is based on actual occurrences. Although much has been changed for rhetorical purposes, it must be regarded in its essence as fact. However, it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles, either.
Similarly, Byrne’s book isn’t really about bicycles so much as about cities throughout the world as seen, experienced, and reflected upon from the perspective of a bicycle. It’s a travelogue, which is why you’ll find it in the travel section of your local bookseller rather than shelved under sports.
As is often the case with reflections of the sort you’ll find here (or so it seems), the bicycle functions almost like a sort of symbol for humanity, a technological microcosm of our innate desire to be and do well, an elegant and rolling screen capture of a particular moment in which we were at our very best and the various replications of that moment with each and every ride and rider. Perhaps that all sounds a bit more grandiose than I meant for it to be. The point is simply that, in this book, the bicycle serves not only as the author’s transportation outside the narrative, but also as a vehicle of the narrative itself, a conveyance of the human idea.
A question I found myself pondering throughout the read is whether it’s people with personalities and perspectives akin to those of the author that are inclined to ride bikes, or if people who ride bicycles are simply inclined to see the world and certain details of it in a particular light.
The book emerged out of Byrne’s blog. As a result, it often strays off topic, meanders about, and wanders off (in a manner of speaking, at least). Fortunately, most of these diversions are no less interesting or enjoyable to read. In this context, the tendency toward distraction seems rather befitting of the subject matter.
Would you like to win a free copy of this book? Here’s how:
Leave a comment on any post during the month of March, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to be held on April 1. (No, this is not a prank for April Fool’s Day.) Each comment counts as a separate entry, so the more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win. Yammer on, my friends.
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