Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Spoke 'N' Words - The District
From the District - (02/10/10)
Last month David Byrne presented a trial run of this week’s TED lecture, “Creativity in Reverse,” for a full house of cross-legged beardos on a desolate strip in Brooklyn. Fittingly, after opening the microphone to a lengthy question-and-answer, it seemed more than half the questions were about bicycles. As hipster spokesperson for the pedaling masses, Byrne is known first as the lead singer of the Talking Heads, and second as a guy who likes to ride bikes (Academy Award-winning composer, conceptual artist and funky dancer round out the top five). Since the early 1980s he has been a fixture of New York streets, dodging potholes between art galleries and concert stages. Eventually he took to bringing a bike on tour with him as a way of seeing whatever paved location he found himself in that day. His newest book, Bicycle Diaries, is a scattershot tour of such far-flung regions as Buenos Aries, London and San Francisco as seen from a banana seat. Much like his blog of disjointed observations, Byrne takes on everything from the loneliness of Nazi war criminals to the history of PowerPoint, stringing them all together with a low-speed travelogue of the world’s unique offerings—Filipino karaoke stalls, Australian seaside cemeteries, Detroit’s industrial ruins, etc. His ruminations are insightful but occasionally a little naïve (or is it optimistic?), with an ample amount of profanity peppered throughout. Although he does not dedicate a chapter to Los Angeles, he makes numerous references to our “residential theme park,” where sidewalks abruptly end and people are imprisoned by their own cars—the seeming antithesis of his idyllic Manhattan lifestyle. Byrne provides a convincing argument for the role of the bicycle—both socially and economically—by addressing what has worked and failed abroad (more roads = more traffic jams!), as well as at home (bike lanes, bike racks). His 30-year perspective gives him credibility, while his eccentricities prevent the text from being overly preachy. Now, if only he could find a helmet that wouldn’t mess up his hair, everything would be perfect.
BICYCLE DIARIES BY DAVID BYRNE • VIKING ADULT • 320 PAGES • $25.95
Bicycle Diaries @ the District