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message 1: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (last edited Sep 28, 2012 10:00AM) (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Discuss.

Originally published in TriQuarterly 40 (Fall 1977).

message 2: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments SUMMARY

“Rent a city, if you were rich enough.” A man took his six-year-old daughter, Sarah, to rent a bike. They came early to get the best one. But a hundred bikes all look of the same quality. The man considers the economy of renting a bike versus buying a bike for his daughter. She was too young to make full use of a purchased bike. Last Sunday, he rented a bike without training wheels and proceeded to teach her how to ride. She fell several times but kept trying. After angrily flinging the bike, she tried once again and succeeded. This second Sunday, she wants the same blue bike, so they came early. The renter took out a blue bike, but it was not the same bike. Sarah agreed that it was okay. She was still able to ride. Sarah is feeling comfortable maneuvering her bike. Then she fell. They met a boy, Mark, learning how to ride and a woman who might be his mother. Instead of riding, he was straddling the bike and pushing it like a scooter. Mark has the bike that Sarah had last Sunday. He’s having a hard time getting the hang of bike riding. Sarah’s father tried to coach him. Meanwhile, Sarah is cruising on her bicycle. Mark said, “My daddy’s going to buy me my real bike,” which caused the woman to slap him. Mark eventually got the hang of it and rode with Sarah. She lost control and ran into her daddy. He braced himself and caught her. She wanted a bike with thin tires next time, but they’re too big for her. She said that they would rent a different bike every week, then.

The father’s thought is consumed with the economics of renting versus buying. He’s weighing time versus money, wondering how long she would use it before she outgrows the bike. He wonders “if wealth was a claim on someone else’s labor”, he’s only claiming the labor of someone taking the bike out of storage. Then again, the rental people are exerting a claim on his labor, since he gave them cash for the rental. He’s also expending labor in order to buy and maintain the bike. Sarah had the greatest claim on him, but she’s not paying. He’s paying the rental people “to give Sarah his labor.” He ponders, “What did it cost Sarah to rent him?”

message 3: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments The more I read a passage, the more I love it. This is without a doubt the best puzzle literary novel I've ever encountered. I moved it to my favorite literature of all time. I can read this book again and again, and still find things I overlooked. I'm so happy that I'm one of the few that was able to get a hardback, thanks to Nathan.

message 4: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Jonathan, if you want to focus on reading instead of writing a summary, I can start taking over filling out the chapters that have no summaries.

McElroy is the first author I've read that makes me want to study economics. That is one of the topics I usually can't stand. I now know some of the terms and starting to recognize his usage of them as metaphors. For example, notice the part where Sarah didn't get the exact blue bike, but was willing to substitute another blue bike. This is a factor in economics illustrated in the indifference curve and substitute good , in which a consumer eventually has no preference over one good over another and is able to substitute. Note the parallel curves, too, mentioned periodically in the book. Of course, the parallel curves has multiple meanings worthy of this novel.

message 5: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Jonathan's deleted posts--

Great summary. Thank you. This is one of those chapters where I just got sucked in to the degree that I found it totally distracting to pull away and take notes! W&M is turning out to be, among the thousand other things it is, the great bicycle novel.

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