James Cridland's Reviews > Bicycle Diaries

Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne
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Mar 24, 12

Read in March, 2012

I knew that David Byrne had something to do with music, but didn't actually know more than that (shhh) - 67% of the way in, he drops into the narrative that he was, of course, one of the founders of Talking Heads.

Impressive, then, that this book isn't called Road to Nowhere: it's a meandering and rather self-indulgent book; part travelogue, part social commentary, part political activism; part back-slapping prose - all using the construct of a bicycle trip or two.

Byrne, who lives in New York, has meetings all around the world and usually goes to them on a bicycle. And, as any cyclist knows, you see (and smell) an awful lot more of the places you're in if you're on a bicycle than if you're in a car. Partially, therefore, this book is an interesting travelogue of a rock star and artist; we get to know what Chicago is like, London, Berlin, and many other places.

Partially, too, it's a commentary on the way we live these days. Byrne is clearly an activist on behalf of the bicycle, and of sensible town planning (railing against the type of single-use town planning that has blighted many cities across the world).

It's a little all over the place as a result - literally as well as in terms of structure. He clearly lives a charmed life; and whether he's in Sao Paolo or London he seems to know the places to go to and has friends who show him the way; but he spends much of his time cycling in a vague way and just seeing what happens. Commentaries on planning, on transport, and seemingly anything else that occasionally comes to mind, weave through this book in as unplanned a way as his travels. Photos accompany the text - though Byrne appears not to take very many photographs himself. (They appear decently enough, if in black and white, on Kindle).

I can never resist a good travelogue. This isn't one, to be frank; but it is an interesting read from someone I think I understand a little more now - albeit living a world which I'll never really inhabit. Enjoyable.
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