Stylocycle’s Blog

David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries
October 14, 2009, 2:02 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I can’t stand reading fiction. When I was young, I read all kinds of fiction — mostly 19th to mid 20th C. with large doses of the Russians, French, and Irish writers. My ‘trash’ reading leaned toward John Irving and Milan Kundera, both of which really twisted up how I thought about the world for a long time. In my late 20’s I found I had no stomach for fiction anymore. I’d get the newest big buzz book and find that I was bored to tears within three chapters. I’d skip forward to see if anything was happening that I hadn’t already guessed would happen, find I’d guessed correctly and abandon the book.

A few years ago I returned to ‘pleasure reading’ when I discovered that I prefer to read non-fiction prose. These are not precisely autobiographies, but personal observations and experiences saturated by the qualities that come of living a life embedded in some kind of cultural-production world. Ruth Reichel’s books are among my favourites in this genre.

But now David Byrne (of the Talking Heads, yes!) has a book about cycling coming on the market. I’m going to pre-order it today. I hope it will arrive in time for the end of classes so that I can read it over the December holidays. Bicycle Diaries, I think, must be a tribute title to Jim Carrol and so I’m already hooked. But the subject matter — a rock-icon’s view of the globe from a two-wheeled perspective promises to be riveting. And what I like about these kinds of books is that they don’t have a particular narrative arc, no formula; the writer often writes about things s/he had not expected to happen (and so as a reader I don’t get bored). Real life is harder to predict than scripted lives are.

On the NY Times website today there is a video segment with Byrne in which he discusses, for example, the surprise that it’s neither Copenhagen nor Amsterdam that he has found to be most bike friendly, but the many smaller towns and cities of Northern Italy. Interestingly, I found the very same thing a few years ago when we were in Tuscany. City centres were pretty much car-free, and people of all ages rode on bicycles to get where they were going. I have some great photos on my old computer and I’ll dig them up and post them here later.

Y’all might want to cruise over to the NY Times and check out the video with Byrne. It’s on the homepage for the ‘paper’.

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