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If you are a fan of David Byrne you will be most likely familiar with the cultural territory he covers from his trips in various cities - his musings may be too esoteric for anyone expecting casual travel writing, but anyone looking for an irreverent and insightful take into the artistic, political and social underpinnings of various cities (written in 2008 but still insightful and in some ways MORE interesting now upon reflecting on the developments since this book was released) from around the globe should stop reading and buy this book NOW.....10/10
David Byrne surprised me by being so enjoyably readable. This book is a wonderful travelogue. Its quirky as it gives a cyclists view of the major cities he visits, but he also writes in a very free way about really varied topics. His style meanders somewhat like the bikerides he takes, he speaks of architecture, local history, politics, the art scenes,and interesting meetings and evenings out with characters met along the way. He is a knowledgeable chap,and does not seem so avante garde in print. If you liked the Talking Heads, or bike riding, or travel, or all three such as me, you will enjoy this book.
Byrne is a committed cycling campaigner who takes bikes with him as he travels the world, mainly to the cities where his musical and artistic work takes him. When he has time off, he uses his bike - usually a full-size folding mountain bike he puts in a suitcase to travel on planes - to wander about and explore. It is this aspect of the book which most interested me, because he seems to be a practitioner of the derive, the engaged but directionless wander first proposed by the situationists as a suitable way to move through cities.
As the title suggests, the material for the book evolved in diary form over time, and the structure of the book reflects this. It is right, and true to the material, that this should be so, but it does mean that the various entries are of variable quality. Nevertheless, books of this kind, where an intelligent and engaged observer with a liberal agenda but no particular end in mind takes a close look at localities, are scarce indeed. In the hands of a travel writer, or a journalist, a totally different book would have emerged, but actually, this is the book I wanted.
Great content and gives a whole new perspective on world cities. Docked a star as it is a little wandering but hell so is a bike ride. Very open and not preachy just genuinely interested and concerned. City planners couldn’t go far astray reading this.
This book has a dual identity, part travelogue, and part common-sense examination of what makes a pleasant, liveable city, and what doesn't. I found this to be a refreshingly straightforward approach, and far more interesting than the average travel memoir.
Byrne is particularly good when examining U.S. cities, from the horrific but fascinating decline of Detroit, to the hopeful reinvention of New York. One excellent passage in particular sticks in the mind:
"Since the onslaught of the automobile in the middle of the last century, and the efforts of its enablers, like Robert Moses in New York, the accepted response to congestion has been to build more roads, especially roads that are high speed and with limited access. Eventually it became clear that building more roads doesn't actually relieve congestion - ever. More cars simply appear to fill these new roads and more folks imagine that their errands and commutes might be accomplished more easily on these new expressways. Yeah, right. People end up driving more, so instead of the existing traffic levels remaining constant and becoming dispersed on the new ribbons of concrete, the traffic simply increases until those too are filled. That's what New York and a lot of other cities are realizing now. The old paradigm is finally being abandoned."
A very unusual book, very rambling and lacking in structure but strangely engaging and enjoyable. David Byrne travels the world with his folding bike, and cycles around almost aimlessly but with an intelligent perception of what's going on around him.
There's no flow to the narrative, but the book is full of insights into an extremely wide range of subjects. I particularly liked his commentary on the devastating effects of designing cities for the easy passage of car traffic, and the social and environmental damage caused by this in various locations.
After enjoying an impressive back catalogue of Talking Heads LPs over the years, this book offered a fresh and invigorating insight for me, of David Byrne, not the musician... but the avid cyclist I had no idea about! A thought provoking read from the mad professor of New Wave Rock as he enthusiastically takes you on an entertainingly informative and philosophical journey through the cycle routes of US cities and beyond!
So diverse - not what you might think. Byrne is a keen observer which is why his lyrics are so cryptic at times - muses about urban culture in a wide range of cities, has a quirky streak, sees the good, balances arguments, questions past and present establishments and never rants about anything.
Nourishing reading without getting opinions or views rammed down your throat. I read in bed to help me sleep, so it's got to be palatable.