DROPPING OUT's Reviews > The Memory of Running

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty
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's review
Jul 18, 2009

it was amazing

I read the author's second book, Traveler, first and I gave it four stars because the book touched me in many ways. I had not intended to read his first book so soon, except I picked it up off my crowded night-stand in error. I'll be the first to admit I had trouble getting into as quickly as the second book, and I had trouble liking the protagonist, an obese (275 lbs) chain-smoking alcoholic in his late forties. (Frankly, I wonder if McLarty lost track of his age, for he was seventeen when he graduated high school in 1966, I reckon him to have been 50 or 51 in 1990, when the book takes place.)

I also wondered why other reviewers has likened Smithson Ide, the protagonist, to Ignatius Reilly and Yossarian (two countercultural American literary icons). Well, having completed the book, I have to say that I prefer Smithy to either Reilly or Yossarian. He is the perfect naif, living an undisciplined life, or rather, having no life whatsoever, except his dead-end job in a toy factory and his swilling Naragannset Beer. Smithy begins to come into his own when he embarks on an utterly improbably road-trip on a 1950s-vintage Raleigh bicycle cross-country to Los Angeles from East Providence.

His is a tale in the high picaresque tradition, but the humor is tempered by Smithy's naivete and the devastating sadness of many of the people he encounters throughout his life and along the way to California.

I cannot judge others who read The Memory of Running before me and hated the book and thought the book was poorly written. Again, I admit, I had trouble getting into the book and liking the protagonist. But once I was over these, I found myself in a book that will stay with me for a long time.
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