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

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  189 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
A motorcycle odyssey that combines the sensory seduction of the road with the intellectual rewards of archival research.

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,
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published September 13th 2005)
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Barry Bandstra
Jul 11, 2008 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
Nov 10, 2009 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
Jul 26, 2011 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
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: stagger-lee
The thing about reading personal nonfiction is, if you don't like the person (or, to be nicer, if you are unable to empathize with the person), the subject matter can be as perfect as you want and it still won't be a fulfilling read. That's what happened for me here. Bishop seems to hope that his mildly self-deprecating, off-the-cuff styled humor will make him seem cool and humble. Instead, he seems to hit too close to the truth when he jokingly confesses that he can never be as cool as the bike ...more
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very well written, great stuff about motorcycles, authors, bookstores, back roads, and small towns. I enjoyed the little things he tossed in there without going too far off on a tangent, such as the typeface he likes to use, or how pulp paperback books are printed too far into the gutter and use cheap glue to bind the pages together. He does very well writing about his favorite authors and books, without it getting dry or boring. He made me miss Edmonton.
Heidi Nemo
Dec 28, 2007 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?!
Dec 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-2017
"I have accepted that it is my destiny to leave a trail of sunglasses through life, but I never lose my map. My map. What could be a worse omen for the first day of a trip? Bad karma. Starting a journey you should be calm, centered, complete, like a samurai, at one with his sword, totally focused on the task. Not flailing about like a man trying to pick up an exploded bag of marbles. It was all Hsing's fault."

A grown man loses his road map on a trip, and, sorry, let me get this straight, it i
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the best nonfiction book I've ever read. Totally smooth and a page turner cover to cover. Not once did I stop because I was bored. Ted Bishop seamlessly entertains the reader down each highway of anecdotes, tales of D.H. Lawrence here, elegies of Virginia Woolf there, and the whopper of riding with Rilke at the end. From laugh out loud hilarious to heart wrenching Bishop is a master storyteller, the elegant tour guide feeding you history and story with the same spoon of honey. I cannot w ...more
Pat Loughery
May 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
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 14, 2012 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 01, 2007 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
Mar 26, 2012 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.
Dec 21, 2012 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.
Sep 20, 2013 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.
John K. Ross, MD
Feb 09, 2008 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.
Oct 17, 2008 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.
Roderick Mcgillis
Oct 04, 2012 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.
Feb 17, 2007 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.
Jan 27, 2013 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.
Aug 27, 2008 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.
Dynah Thirst
Nov 27, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5. Dragged a bit in spots but otherwise had some beautiful writing and interesting insights.
Jul 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Loved it from the start. I felt part of the adventure.
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.
Cheng Gloria
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
"A book knows when you are ready for it" (WOW)
Dec 20, 2011 rated it liked it
I really wanted more literary commentary, but it was a good book.
Dave Spaulding
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Aug 16, 2015
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Nov 02, 2014
Desiree Fernandez
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Apr 03, 2017
Brad deBeaubien
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Mar 11, 2008
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Dec 19, 2013
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