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A Writer Writes,
This review is from: The Perfect Vehicle: What it is About Motorcycles (Paperback)Rarely does a book about motorcycles receive reviews from publications as diverse as The Times to Marie Claire. And even more rarely is a book a book published about motorcycles by a publisher that prides itself adhering to the highest literary standards.
Good writing is good writing whatever the subject. And Melissa Holbrook Pierson's book just happens to be about motorcycles. This book is a refreshing " bolt out of the blue" amidst a sea of anorak books. It is also a timely book from a quality publisher that will probably be read by more non motorcyclists than motorcyclists. Those who have previously thought of "dipping their toe into the water" of biking, but have been put off for a variety of reasons may be stimulated to take the plunge. The following lines are a foretaste of the books "unputdownability" :-
" At precisely this moment, someone, somewhere is getting ready to ride. The motorcycle stands in the cool, dark garage its air expectant with gas and grease."
It's a million miles from the broken bones and bhp culture the public expect from motorcyclists. And even if Melissa is an American who rides a V twin, don't despair:_ :-
" if I see another glossy photo essay on tattooed hellions accompanied by earnest text explaining to a horrified but titillated middle America that their bikes are called "hogs" I think I'll scream"
Its not easy to start motorcycling, particularly if you're a young lady in America and your V twin isn't a Harley Davidson. Melissa sees the motorcycle through the eyes of an articulate and intelligent artist. She gives to the reader the motorcycle in rich colours rather than stereotypical monochrome. Her travelling companions are as likely to be sculptors and composers as whatever it is that the media likes to portray motorcyclists as.
The history of motorcycling, their place in the context of a nations social history, military campaigns and the economy are all touched upon. Melissa is probably the only person who can review the opinions of what constitutes a "real biker" without putting the reader to sleep.
All these matters are intertwined with her account of her life, loves, long distance journeys and the camaradarie of the motorcycle community into which she becomes nervously ensconsed.
It also adds to the colour that the motorcycle that she chooses is the idiosyncratic Moto Guzzi, still built in a dated factory in Mandello del Lairo that has the air of a family concern. There is no global mega corp anonymity and such products attract people who are equally idiosyncratic. Indeed Melissa herself is a complex individual. Her candour only adds to the books quality.
From a daily account of her long journeys to a history of man and womans endurance on the open road ( an area of motorcycling too long neglected ) add variety to a varied tract.
Inevitably she makes her pilgrimage to Italy, enabled by the hospitality of another motorcyclist she's never met, each only knowing that the other rides a Moto Guzzi.
How many motorcycle books refer to their writer watching " ...as the Alps revealed themselves like an accordian fold postcard set, and ( that she )smiled behind the helmet...."
Melissa finds happiness, keeps her Moto Guzzi and the memories of tens of thousands of miles. Motorcycles have been more than a conveyance, Melissa and her Moto Guzzi have lived an important part of their lives side by side.
The solitary rider travelling light is probably thinking behind that helmet. Thinking the sort of thoughts only Ivy League alumni are supposed to think. If you are in a car give them room, they're precious, they maybe composing the following lines :-
" Each moment of those 35,000 miles seems to be catalogued in some deep archive, and occasionally the wind flips up one of those index cards they're each on and its suddenly there, bobbing on the surface of consciousness, along with a global perception of the temperature and smell of the air. This is the perfume of the past. Future scents wait by the road"