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Riding with Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books
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Riding with Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  144 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
Ted Bishop took one last ride before the fall term. When he tried to pass a tractor-trailer at 80 miles per hour, his motorcycle began to vibrate out of control. Bishop was flung into a ditch, breaking his back in two places, shattering a wrist and ankle, and collapsing his lungs. Left with time to write and reflect, Bishop produced Riding with Rilke, an account of the epi ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published September 13th 2005)
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Community Reviews

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Nov 30, 2009 Keith rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadiana, 2009
If you don't love motorcycles but you do love books this is the read for you. If you happen to also love motorcycles then this book is doubly satisfying. Author Bishop, a professor of English at the University of Alberta, narrates his tale of a southern road trip from Edmonton to Austin. Bishop is on sabbatical and traveling to the Harry Ransome Center at UT Austin to use that center's magnificent manuscripts collection in furtherance of work on Virginia Woolf. While Woolf gets her due - there's ...more
Barry Bandstra
Jul 11, 2008 Barry Bandstra rated it it was amazing
Edward "Ted" Bishop is an English professor at the University of Alberta, Calgary. He is driven by two impulses: finding primary sources in literary archives and pushing his Ducati Monster to the limits. I found this book to be thoroughly engaging: both his reflections on riding and his stories of research. And, he is a darn good writer. Admittedly this is a niche book; how many people out there want to hear about non-Harley motorcycling AND literary criticism? But he tells the stories soooo wel ...more
Heidi Nemo
Dec 28, 2007 Heidi Nemo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: riders
Tweed vs. leather--and often annoying. Occasional moments of insight. He rode all over the US and Canada, but he didn't even CAMP?!
Aug 13, 2011 C rated it liked it
Technically, he's riding with Joyce and Woolf, not so much Rilke. Rilke doesn't rear his poetic head till the epilogue. Yes, I said the same thing, "but why...?" One quote summed it up for him. I can't copy that here because it'll ruin the surprise...right?

I want to give this five stars, but I'm held back by the narrative dragging badly in some spots. Around those spots, though, is an enjoyable, very quotable book. It bummed me out a bit, not to have sticky notes in hand to mark spots, OR the bo
Pat Loughery
Jun 02, 2011 Pat Loughery rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this one. The author is a college professor of English, specializing in modern literature. He's also a motorcycle enthusiast. The story is the memoir of his ride from Calgary to Austin for a sabbatical research project, and takes on library archives, James Joyce, TS Lawrence, Virginia Wolfe, motorcycle touring, the Ducati brand, and other topics.

It's far deeper on the literature side than the motorcycle side, but it did a good job of describing the love many of us have for motor
Dec 15, 2012 Marc rated it liked it
This book took about a day to get through cover-to-cover, and was entertaining. I expected something more academic, or at least with a greater connection between the author's two worlds of motorcycles and literature. Instead, he occupies both worlds and has anecdotes from each, but they don't blend well and the pacing of the book suffered as a result of lack of transition between the "bike" and "books" sections.

The opening of the book, describing his crash, was chilling and very well written -
Aug 11, 2007 Bob rated it it was ok
A novice to the American West rides through it on motorcycle. Narrative is much like other travel writing.

Clarity in discussion of 'place" is fuzzy at best. Caught many times with incorrect positioning of places. The worst infraction is his visit to Monument Valley...just outside Moab, UT. Looking at acknowledgements, it is clear where the problem lies. When not writing about the road, he seems to be clear and concise. In turn, it is not surprising that he seemed to do a lot of research about th
Dec 23, 2010 Charlie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had SUCH high hopes for this book. And I am now aware that Ducati is a significant brand when it comes to motorcycles. Also, I wrote a note to myself about a book on typefaces that sounded kind of interesting. Also, it is apparently possible to hold Virginia Woolf's actual suicide note in your actual hand, which...whoa.

But the book was pretty bland and poorly organized and I couldn't wait for it to be over so I could start reading Michael Perry's Truck: A Love Story, which rules.
Dec 21, 2012 Tom rated it it was amazing
A travelogue and a memoir of ideas about literature, motorcycles, people and places. This satisfying book is more thoughtful consideration and educated reflection than swagger, pussy and motors, and that's a good thing. Compelling memoir written by a Canadian lit prof who toured the West astride his Ducati Monster. Riding with Rilke, to me, was a celebration of the finer connections between people and the places they inhabit, the past and the present. I loved it.
Mar 26, 2012 Spyder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
A book about motorcycles and books... Hell yeah!!! Two of my favorite things. An interesting read for a non-Academic though I admit that the story drug on a little as he described his research endeavors. Having lived in Austin for 9 years and knowing the Hill Country as well as I do, as well as, being familiar with many of his other well traveled routes through various travel books, maps and personal driving experiences made this little book a lot of fun to read.
John K. Ross, MD
Feb 09, 2008 John K. Ross, MD rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This artful blend of motorcycle riding, motorcylcles lore and the world of academic literature echoes Melissa Pierson's "the perfect vehicle--what is is about motorcycles". Substitute an early middle-aged professor for the young Melissa, put in a little literature archive work and the Southwest desert...definitely, to this two-wheeler nut, a good, good read.
Jan 03, 2015 Frank rated it it was ok
There was too much description of what he saw on the road. I find this to be a common mistake among travel writers. The interesting parts of travel/adventure books is the description of interactions with locals, or descriptions of the traveller's experiences. But this book had little of the latter, a lot of the former.

Not recommended.
Roderick Mcgillis
Oct 04, 2012 Roderick Mcgillis rated it really liked it
Bishop weaves reading, archival work, motorcycles, and riding motorcycles into a fascinating narrative. His evocation of libraries, archives, landscapes, meteorological phenomena, and food is lovely. This is a clever book. It also tells us something about practising experience, tasting life, and enduring adventure.
Oct 17, 2008 Frank rated it really liked it
I liked the book and was going to give it only three stars but like the author I, too, have totaled an older BMW twin motorcyle, ending up hurt in a ditch. And I, too, have a Ducati Monster motorcycle. So, I added an extra star in honor of his vehicular taste. Oh, and because his writing's not too bad either.
Jan 27, 2013 Matt rated it it was amazing
this book is about one event, but it one takes about two chapters on that one event, the prologue and the final chapter, the rest of the book is about what it means to ride a bike across the states as a college professor. the event is good, but the description of the ride is much better.
Feb 17, 2007 Melissa rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of literature and travel books
Shelves: booksaboutbooks
A professor of literature who focuses on the moderns (Joyce, Lawrence, Woolf) relates his travels from Alberta, Canada to Austin, Texas on his Ducati. Along the way he muses about the connection of his two loves--literature and motorcycles. Fun read.
Scott W.
Good read, a few interesting bits here and there. I needed something easy to read while spending time in a hospital and this worked for me.
Sep 25, 2008 Kristin rated it it was ok
A few good parts, and I did like all the book-talk, but it was just ok and dragged in a lot of parts.
Joanna Croston
Jan 28, 2013 Joanna Croston rated it really liked it
Loved this book. Clever, sharp, witty and intelligent by an unsung Alberta author.
Cindy Barnes
Apr 10, 2012 Cindy Barnes rated it it was amazing
Travel, motorcycles, libraries, books, and music. Practically a perfect book!
Dec 20, 2011 Daisy rated it liked it
I really wanted more literary commentary, but it was a good book.
Jul 19, 2012 Colleen rated it really liked it
Loved it from the start. I felt part of the adventure.
Cheng Gloria
Feb 15, 2013 Cheng Gloria rated it really liked it
"A book knows when you are ready for it" (WOW)
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