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She's a Bad Motorcycle: Writers on Riding [Paperback]

Geno Zanetti
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 19 2001
Why do people ride motorcycles? Thomas Krens, curator of The Art of the Motorcycle, the most popular exhibition ever mounted at the Guggenheim Museum, writes: "For much of society, the motorcycle remains a forbidden indulgence, an object of fantasy, and danger." And of envy. No other machine is thought of as the vehicle-"the perfect vehicle" Melissa Holbrook Pierson calls it-of rebellion, lawlessness, and freedom. She's A Bad Motorcycle collects the writings of those who have sought that freedom. From the genre-defining-and exploding-Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to Chasing Che the motorcycle has inspired a startlingly rich, unabashedly romantic body of writing that celebrates the risks and exhilaration of the journey to self-discovery. The book includes selections from Eric Burdon, Harry Crews, Harlan Ellison, Robert E. Fulton, Jr., Che Guevara, Fred Haefele, S.E. Hinton, Dennis Hopper, Richard La Plante, Erika Lopez, Horace McCoy, Allen Noren, Robert Pirsig, Gary Paulsen, Melissa Holbrook Pierson, Patrick Symmes, Keith Tye, Hunter S. Thompson, Lois Wilson, Daniel R. Wolf and Tom Wolfe, as well as photographs by Bruce Davidson, Martin Dixon, Ann Ferrar, Danny Lyon, Helge Pedersen, and Irving Penn.

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Product Details

Product Description

From Library Journal

The disparate writings gathered here by freelance journalist and motorcycle rider Zanetti include thoughts on the nature of riding, travel narratives, and stories from various segments of motorcycling culture, notably the Hell's Angels. A few are by familiar names, such as Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson, and some are a pleasure to read, as is a lyrical piece from Melissa Holbrook Pierson. Aside from the references to motorcycles, however, Zanetti's choice of pieces seems arbitrary in both selection and organization. A large number of them are extracted from much longer works, losing context and perhaps even sense. In the selection from Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, for example, the reader will have no understanding of the references to Phaedrus and why the difference between "classic" and "romantic" is so important. Background notes about the writers and the works from which pieces have been excerpted would have been helpful. Despite some interesting material, the book as a whole contributes little to the history and culture of this compelling machine. David Van de Streek, Pennsylvania State Univ. Libs., York
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


"[Y]ou're sure to find one entry in this free-wheeling anthology on biker culture that'll get your motor running." -- Maxim Magazine

Geno Zanetti offers a must-read . . . many of the best books ever written on motorcycles are excerpted here. -- Andy Solomon, Times, March 17, 2002

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and very uneven June 14 2004
My favorites chapters in this anthology were Ted Simon's from Jupiter's Travels, Robert Fulton's from One Man Caravan, and of course, Robert Pirsig's from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (which is a great read as well as a great ride). Eric Burdon's piece on Steve McQueen wasn't half bad either.
But there's far too much chaff with this wheat. About half of the chapters in this collection waste space on Hell's Angels and related gangery, much of which is bad fiction, dull fact, or has nothing to do with motorcycles. The lone standout is Sonny Barger's chapter which really is classic.
In the end, I think this book's value is twofold -- 1) you get perspective on the variety of riders, their perspectives, and their writing styles, and 2) it suggests further sources of motorcycle literature. But because the caliber of contributions perhaps befittingly matches the lack of sophistication or maturity of many bikers, I suggest that you borrow a copy (or buy used) and then do a lot of skimming.
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I make a point of bringing a motorcycle book to read when my husband and I go on our annual bike tour. This year, I brought Bad Motorcycle. It's an interesting and eclectic collection of stories, essays and a poem (yes, it sucked. More on that later).
The writing styles and quality are as varied and diverse as motorcycle riders and the bikes we ride. Its not surprising that the book starts with a piece from Melissa Holbrook-Pierson's The Perfect Vehicle. She is able to describe the indescribable nuances about riding in a fluid, poetic and natural style. If you love motorcycles, do yourself a favor and buy The Perfect Vehicle. It's not without its flaws, but so well-written, the flaws are easy to overlook (which is more than I can say for a lot of writers.)
After reading a segment from Robert Fulton's One Man Caravan, I ordered the book because I couldn't get enough of his tales of derring-do during the 1930s.
For those who aren't into motorcycles, there are basically two types of motorcyclists. Harley-Davidsons and everyone else. I would fall under the 'everyone else' category. To me, motorcycling is like religion. Not everyone is into the same thing, but I totally respect people's choices. It's what makes the world go 'round. However, not being of the Harley faith, I found the piece by Hell's Angel pioneer, Sonny Barger to be OUTSTANDING. In the too short chapter of the book, Sonny bares a surprising amount of his soul with funny, insightful and intelligent writing. It has given me a new perspective on Harley riders.
Buried in the back of the book is a piece by Rachel Kushner which briefly chronicles her adventures racing in Baja. I was so intrigued, as soon as I finished it, I reread it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Anthology April 2 2002
As a new rider I was looking for a book on the experience of riding, riders, destinations, etc. This book worked perfectly. It is a very good anthology of stories and, mostly, excerpts of other books. As in all anthologies, the entries vary in length and quality. Aside from just a few of the chapters, I enjoyed this collection very much. I do think that the editor should have given some information on the writers and on the original works from which the pieces are taken. I would have liked information on whether the original articles appeared in magazines or books and their dates of publication. I definitely recommend the book to anyone interested in reading about motorcycling.
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