The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles

( 8 )

Overview

"This book, a polished, winding meditation on the theory and fractiousness of motorcycles, celebrates both their eccentric history and the wary pleasures of touring."—The New Yorker
In a book that is "a must for anyone who has loved a motorcycle" (Oliver Sacks), Melissa Pierson captures in vivid, writerly prose the mysterious attractions of motorcycling. She sifts through myth and hyperbole: misrepresentations about danger, about the type of people who ride and why they do so. The Perfect Vehicle is not a mere ...

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The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles

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Overview

"This book, a polished, winding meditation on the theory and fractiousness of motorcycles, celebrates both their eccentric history and the wary pleasures of touring."—The New Yorker
In a book that is "a must for anyone who has loved a motorcycle" (Oliver Sacks), Melissa Pierson captures in vivid, writerly prose the mysterious attractions of motorcycling. She sifts through myth and hyperbole: misrepresentations about danger, about the type of people who ride and why they do so. The Perfect Vehicle is not a mere recitation of facts, nor is it a polemic or apologia. Its vivid historical accounts-the beginnings of the machine, the often hidden tradition of women who ride, the tale of the defiant ones who taunt death on the racetrack-are intertwined with Pierson's own story, which, in itself, shows that although you may think you know what kind of person rides a motorcycle, you probably don't.

This book about the love of motorcycling takes a winding route, past a landscape both subtle and dramatic, literary and experiential. It makes for a ride you are not likely to forget. The Perfect Vehicle includes marvelous vintage and contemporary photographs. 224 pp.

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Editorial Reviews

Robert Pirsig
“This is an exceptionally sensitive and intelligent book.”
Ann Marlowe - Village Voice
“The Perfect Vehicle uses motorcycles as a lens for examining risk, freedom, and most surprisingly, relationships between men and women. . . . Pierson comes through brilliantly, crafting her sentences with precision and a sure ear.”
Andy Solomon - Chicago Tribune
“As Pierson tells us why she loves riding, many who share her passion will often feel themselves nodding, saying, 'Yeah, she caught it.'”
Village Voice
The Perfect Vehicle uses motorcycles as a lens for examining risk, freedom, and most surprisingly, relationships between men and women. . . . Pierson comes through brilliantly, crafting her sentences with precision and a sure ear.— Ann Marlowe
Chicago Tribune
As Pierson tells us why she loves riding, many who share her passion will often feel themselves nodding, saying, 'Yeah, she caught it.'— Andy Solomon
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
People who ride motorcycles live in another world, where the line between life and death often is as blurred as the center line whizzing by beneath the foot pegs. "On a bike," Pierson writes in her first book, "I am hurtling toward what I imagine is a fearful future, but I am using a fearless means to do so. It's odd as hell." Odd, too, is this book. But that's what makes it a precious piece of literature, an ode to a way of life dismissed by most worthwhile writers. Pierson's cultured yet personable and honest style will hook both enthusiasts and readers who've never even sat on a motorcyclelet alone know the difference between a Honda CBR and a Honda CRX. Pierson, a longtime Moto Guzzi rider, weaves autobiography, travelogue, motorcycling history and social commentary with delicious descriptions of the pre-ride ritual, cruising in the rain, the camaraderie of female riders (her husband, the writer Luc Sante, does not ride) and the significance of a wrong turn that leads to a cemetery at the end of a deserted cul-de-sac. The author has stared death in the face more than once, and she understands why medical professionals call her preferred means of transportation a "donorcycle." Butlike so many of America's seven million or so riders she just can't seem to permanently park that mystical machine. After reading this book, you'll know why. Photos. (Apr.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393318098
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/1998
  • Pages: 242
  • Sales rank: 788,837
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Melissa Holbrook Pierson is the author of The Perfect Vehicle, The Place You Love Is Gone, Dark Horses and Black Beauties, and The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing and The Secret History of Kindness. She lives in Shokan, New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2007

    Pathetic piece of tripe...

    Any time wasted on reading this pathetic, whining schmaltz is time you'll never get back. Being a rider of 25 years, I was hoping to find insight into a person's, particularly a woman's, reason for riding, but all I got was a poor little spoiled rich girl's wailing about Mummy not understanding her desire to ride and being dumped by various guys. Every single description in the book is way too flowery, dawdling and plodding - to the point I actually threw the book across the room out of frustration. Three pages to describe some insignificant, forgettable point! MHP, just get to the point already! Geez! I finished the book, but it was the single most painful read of my life. I literally burned the book in my driveway. Garbage.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2012

    Bike curious? Start here.

    This book is an ode to the charms of riding a motorcycle. If you call them "donorcycles" you will still enjoy this view of the passion and soul of a literate and expressive writer's experience riding the open road.

    A friend recommended this book, and at first glance, I thought it was too florid, too emotional, too over-the-top. I revisited the free preview, bought the full version, and finished it in a marathon read: Pierson will sneak up on you. Her passion's there for all to see, and she's not shy about literary references, but it all works together so well.

    If this has made you curious, but you've got doubts, do NOT start with a read of the foreword. It is a first-person story, rich in detail and sensations, and really amazing. (The part about seeing your lover riding alongside--so close, and yet so very far--is what I remember every time I ride with M.) I make this suggestion--skipping the foreward as a preview--because it's quite different from the rest of the book, and a real pleasure to come to AFTER reading the rest. For you who might prefer a little emotional distance to get into this book, pick a later chapter to help your decision.

    For you who've sensed the intense emotions that motivate someone like me to put on 10+ pounds of armored nylon at 95 degrees, just for a commute home, then launch right into the foreword, and drink deeply.

    This is a great read, if you're bike curious, you'll be motivated to take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course and know once and for all if you want to ride. If you're utterly against all things motor+cycle, this book will give you an entertaining insight into how rational people can do something you think is crazy. And if you're already a 100k+ rider for decades, this book'll have you smiling and thanking Pierson for her style and skill.

    One final Post Script to those who think we-who-ride are crazy: Pierson wrote a fabulous piece in the MoMA book on their motorcycle exhibit. She focused on the concept of "eustress" which is the exact opposite of distress. You might want to read wikipedia's entry on that word, it explains a lot!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2002

    get out and ride!

    A wonderful piece of literature. From how to where to why, she covers it all with a unique style and perspective. I can't read this book without getting a deep itch to get out and ride! I've given away several copies as gifts.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2001

    A very readable study of why we ride

    Pearson made me think about, and understand, why I ride. Her love of motorcycling shines on every page. This book is also a homage to Moto Guzzi. That passion itself is part of motorcyling's mystique and - each to our own brand - part of why we ride. The first page delivers a biker's preparation to ride in fascinating detail and left me a dilemma: turn the page or reach for my bike's keys...the book won

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2001

    ...but not the perfect book

    Worth reading for the first half--full of clever allusions and parallels that you don't have to be a Classics major to appreciate. Gets a little chick-ish in the latter half--a very fearful woman is our authoress. Barring her European adventure, the last half of the book we are tag-teamed by her fears and a Cycle-World-esque advertisement for Moto Guzzi. The best book I've read about motorcycling, but sadly the biggest fish in a small pond (better make that parking-lot puddle.)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2000

    A fine writer, perceptive beyond her years.

    My love of motorcycles goes back thirty-eight years, so this is a biased review. I opened 'Perfect Vehicle' with low expectations, expecting fluff. I found instead a life as affected as mine by street-legal two-wheeled g-force generators, and by 'the long ride.' Pierson writes beautifully of her intense times in the saddles of her Guzzis, but more importantly of the human interactions surrounding those times. Thanks for a good read, MHP, and if you happen to read this review, I've a first-edition copy that needs your autograph.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2011

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