Monday, December 19, 2011

Bicycle Diaries

Bicycle Diaries
© 2009 David Byrne
297 pages


Though I've never heard of the musician and visual artist David Bryne before, his recollections of time spent in some of the world's greatest cities had my attention from the start -- for he experienced them on the saddle of a bike, bringing a fold-up bicycle with him as part of his luggage. The bicycle allows him to explore cities more intimately than from a car, but more quickly than on foot -- and while he cycles through Berlin, Istanbul, London, Buenos Aires, he ponders on subjects which they inspire.

Every city inspires musing on different matters. He begins with a fantastic critique of American cities that is right out of The Geography of Nowhere: I posted a selection here. In Buenos Aires, he writes about the local music scene: in Berlin, a visit to the Stasi museum prompts an essay about justification and human nature. Thoughts on biking bookend the text; his final section on New York focuses mainly on its attempts to become a more bike-friendly city, and the epilogue addresses the bicycle's potentially expanding role in the future as energy crises force us to make more intelligent decisions about where we live and how we get around. These and the opening section on American cities made the book for me.

Cities featured are Berlin, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Manila, Sydney, London, San Francisco, and New York.

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