The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing: Long-Distance Motorcycling's Endless Roadby Melissa Holbrook Pierson
“Pierson is an even better writer than she is a rider.”—Boston Globe“World’s Toughest Motorcycle Riders”—long-distance motorcycling is not a pastime but an obsession. In this candid, eloquent, sharply observed book, Melissa Holbrook Pierson introduces us to this strange endeavor and the men and women who live/p>/em>… See more details below
“Pierson is an even better writer than she is a rider.”—Boston Globe“World’s Toughest Motorcycle Riders”—long-distance motorcycling is not a pastime but an obsession. In this candid, eloquent, sharply observed book, Melissa Holbrook Pierson introduces us to this strange endeavor and the men and women who live to ride impossibly long distances, eating up road, almost without cease. And who find it nothing but fun.
Perhaps the most determined of them is John Ryan, a magnetic, enigmatic man who loves nothing better than breaking records of amazing distance—at no small risk to himself and his health. But why? Pierson, who rediscovered the joys of motorcycling in the midst of a personal crisis, puts on her helmet and joins Ryan in his element in order to understand his singular desire and discipline, his passion and his obsession.
The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing offers an intimate glimpse of an unusually independent yet supportive community as well as a revealing, unforgettable portrait of its most daring member. In electric, pitch-perfect prose, Pierson gives us rare insights into not only a subculture but also the deeply human craving for something more that drives it.
Publishers WeeklyPierson's (The Perfect Vehicle) marvelously engaging account of her resumption of long-distance motorcycling after years of hiatus proves pure pleasure for the aficionado. A divorce (from writer Luc Sante), along with persistent goading by a new acquaintance, a revered member of the elite Iron Butt Association (IBA), John Ryan, prompted this 50-something former rider to consider getting back on the bike,. Ryan sponsored Pierson's initiation— the grueling SaddleSore, a 1,000-mile journey from Erie, Pa., to Spartanburg, S.C., in under 24 hours. He acted as her "portable witness,” showing her the ropes, such as refueling in four-minutes tops and eating while "on the slab.” Pierson infiltrates this select, loyal group of long-distance riders, like those determined numbers who join the periodic Iron Butt Rally, the 11-day, 11,000-mile trek that crisscrosses the American continent (including Alaska), and during which the riders gain bonus points the more remote their GPS tracking. Long-distance trips are punishing ("this near to hellfire”), requiring superhuman reserves of self-discipline, stamina, and sleep deprivation, and Pierson continually marvels at why people like Ryan do it. Her stately, lyrical prose, profound respect for the machinery, and sympathy for the extreme adventurers will transport even the most unlikely readers. (Oct.)
Bikeland“Good motorcycle books don’t come along often enough. Books that take you to motorcycle netherworlds and make you look differently at life are even more rare.”
Victor Cruz - BMW ON Magazine“Written in beautifully expressed prose, The Man offers by the bucket-load brilliant insights into what drives and motivates motorcyclists of all stripes…. Pierson does a wonderful job at getting to the heart, the principles that define the joy of motorcycling…. An absorbing, sanguine story that will be talked about for years to come, if not forever.”
Albany Times Union“[The book’s] deeper concern is with reinventing the self at midlife . . . and the way that an avocationeven one that seems incomprehensible to outsiderscan give life meaning.”
BMW ON MagazineWritten in beautifully expressed prose, The Man offers by the bucket-load brilliant insights into what drives and motivates motorcyclists of all stripes…. Pierson does a wonderful job at getting to the heart, the principles that define the joy of motorcycling…. An absorbing, sanguine story that will be talked about for years to come, if not forever. Victor Cruz
Susan Richards“Eloquent and probing, Pierson brings us back to the future with the reawakening of her love for motorcycles. Her riding days long dormant, Pierson credits meeting and befriending the charismatic distance rider, John Ryan with guiding her back to bikes and in the process, reminding her of who she is and what makes her sing. A beautiful story of passion and reclamation for anyone who has ever lost the way.”
Kirkus ReviewsIn an odd, misguided combination of marriage memoir and stunt journalism, motorcycle enthusiast Pierson (The Place You Love Is Gone: Progress Hits Home, 2006, etc.) follows two narrative threads--the road to and from her divorce and story of an obsessive long-distance-riding group called the Iron Butt Association--on a journey to...nowhere. While it's a sad tale, the reporting of the author's crumbling relationship is well-worn territory. As for the Iron Butts, the center of that thread is John Ryan, the most obsessive of the obsessive, a man who would choose his motorcycle over anything. Though Ryan is a colorful character, as a subject he's worthy of a magazine article rather than an entire book--much of his story feels like filler. As the story jumps back and forth between anecdotes that don't quite connect, the author struggles to give the narrative context, but the book ultimately feels as if it has no anchor. Eventually, the author resorts to explaining the purported purpose of the book: "I realize, with a start, what this book is about: Death. Not motorcycling, but death. Or, rather, motorcycles as life force and death force at once: the game played so we can safely approach the end, in which one side is squashed by the other." Unfortunately, Pierson fails to meet her lofty goal; the book doesn't adequately mine such Big Themes. While journalists such as A.J. Jacobs and Stefan Fatsis have managed to make their off-kilter passions at once charming and compelling by utilizing humor and heart, Pierson's self-indulgence and pretention make it difficult to join her on this literal and figurative journey. A lack of focus, an often-cold tone and the less-than-exciting parallel narratives make this slight road memoir a sleepy ride.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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