Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries takes the reader on a two wheeled journey to cities such as Berlin, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Manila, Sydney, London, San Francisco and New York.

David Byrne, singer and musician extraordinaire, has always used a bicycle as his main means of transportation. In the introduction to his Bicycle Diaries, he writes that he found cycling exhilarating. It was a way of being part of the street life around him, while also travelling at a quicker speed. Byrne is now in his early sixties and says that cycling is something you can do at any age. In the 80s, when travelling the world, he started taking fold up bikes on his plane trips so he could continue his passion for cycling while overseas.

The title of this book is, perhaps, a misnomer. Bicycle Diaries is a travel book that covers many cities across the world: Berlin, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Manila, Sydney, London, San Francisco and Byrne’s own home city of New York. Most of the travelling done to these places is by plane. The actual writing in the book that concerns itself with cycling around these cities is fairly small, except for the epilogue where Byrne discusses in more detail his cycling activism. He’s involved in trying to get more cycle paths and more people riding bikes. I suspect the title and nominal theme of the book are part of his way of campaigning for the cycling cause.

What, then, makes up the 300 odd pages of the Bicycle Diaries? It’s mostly a travel book, with many interesting digressions and philosophical musings. Byrne has many hobby horses that he likes to peddle and is very much the autodidact, having educated himself on a range of topics. I like David Byrne’s style on the page very much. He seems a good guy, a congenial fellow, a self-confessed shy person who would make good company for his conversation and insights.

This is a highly enjoyable read. David Byrne is an unassuming everyman whose interest in the world around him infects the reader with a similar urge to explore, both the intellectual and physical.

Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne. Published by Faber. ISBN: 9780571241033  RRP: $24.99

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