**** Book Review: Life is a Wheel, by Bruce Weber
LIFE IS A WHEEL, by Bruce Weber is a memoir of his 4000-plus mile, 79 day bicycle ride across America in 2011. At the time, Weber was a New York Times obituary writer and a very good one. The paper serialized his journey with many readers sending him messages along the way.
The author does an admirable job of relieving his—and readers—potential day-to-day tedium of a marathon bike trip. As he seesaws between breathtaking mountain views and windswept plains, Weber salutes America’s magnificent real estate and its occupants: hardworking farmers, innkeepers, city folk and fellow riders. As for the highs and lows of bicycling—flat tires, dangerous road conditions and/or drivers, sore butts, and breakdowns. But also the kindness of strangers which often brightens the day.
At one point, Weber does a bang-up job of describing the wind: It can be straight-on, e.g., a headwind, prevailing, accommodating, breezy or gusty, including rouge gusts. But, he tells us, …”what you don’t want is stagnant air that feels stifling and soggy, and a gentle breeze is surely a boon to anyone who is exerting himself over an extended period.”
Among his many asides, the author comments extensively on writing, quotes the writer Richard Ford and describes a bike trip to Vietnam that was way more adventurous than his current one. He’s a middle-aged bachelor with a guy’s perspective. He misses his girlfriend and his neighborhood bar, but knows that the trip was good for his soul. He is kind to his elderly father, and worships the exceptionalism of Manhattan, where he lives and has spent most of his life.
As a native-born and raised Manhattanite, who now lives in the Midwest, I began to tire of Weber’s monolithic view of the city. He used a good amount of time and ink lauding America’s magnificence, but New York, New York is the place for him.