Driving is not one of my passions, and motorcycles and I have no connection whatsoever. The nearest I have come to motorcycles is riding pillion with a couple of my cousins, and those opportunities were few and far between. Of the Bajaj scooter though, I have loads of memories.... again, not of driving, but of being driven... When I got the book ‘Sons of Thunder – A motorcycle anthology’ for review, I must admit, I hesitated for a while. Would I be able to enjoy a book that dealt with something I wasn’t really keen on? Would I be even able to complete reading it? But I was also curious. Here was a book solely about motorcycles.... how much could you write about them? So, I laid aside my inhibitions and decided to go ahead and find out just what 26 authors had to write about motorcycles!
|Image Courtesy: Random House|
‘Sons of Thunder – writing from the fast lane: A Motorcycling Anthology’, selected and introduced by Neil Bradford, is, in just one single line, the story of love affairs with motorcycles. Neil Bradford’s love for the machine is evident from the first few lines of the introduction, where he begins with a description of T.E.Lawrence’s (more popularly known as Lawrence of Arabia) garage filled with motorcycles. In fact, T.E. Lawrence appears to have been the inspiration behind the book. It not only opens with a quote by Lawrence, but the title itself has been taken from Lawrence’s names for his bikes – Boanerges – or Sons of Thunder, in Aramaic. Further, the book also includes no less than three writings by Lawrence!
I wasn’t able to find out much about Neil Bradford, other than that he worked in the publishing industry, but he has managed to put together an amazing collection of Motorcycling love stories. The book takes off with Melissa Holbrook Pierson’s ‘The Perfect Vehicle’, which, even in a non-bike-lover like me, managed to induce an adrenaline rush as I imagined myself, through her words, strapping on a crash helmet and speeding through the countryside. “So, this is why they ride” was a thought that crept in, and stayed in my mind, all through the book.
I had heard and read about Lawrence of Arabia. But reading about his love affairs with bikes and speed was something that gave me an entirely new perspective. The book contains three writings of his – the first is a beautiful piece, where he describes speeding over the English countryside, “riding a hundred miles for the joy of it and picking up the best food cheapest, over half the countryside.” The other two are excerpts from his letters, but no less interesting, especially one where he writes about his bike to George Brough, the owner of the company that manufactured the bike in the first place!
If reading Roald Dahl’s piece of riding his bike incognito when he was sixteen and supposed to be in school, made me smile, Ted Hughes poem about a young man crashing his new bike dampened my mood the very next moment. Robert Edison Fulton Jr.’s adventure in the Turkish desert or Alberto Granado’s travels with Che Guevara through Chile were a lot easier to read and enjoy since they were not just about motorcycles, but also about their travels, and there is nothing I enjoy more than a travelogue.
Especially interesting were the contributions by the women. Starting with the first one by Melissa Holbook Pierson, and then Theresa Wallach (who, in 1935 embarked on an extraordinary motorcycle expedition from London to Cape Africa, with her friend, Florence Blenkiron), to Lois Pryce (whose 20,000 mile journey from the most northerly tip of Alaska to the limits of the continent of South America is documented in her extremely entertaining book, Lois on the Loose), each piece of writing is entertaining, but more than anything, they succeed in banishing the myth that motorcycling is just for the boys!
I can go on and on about the 28 stories that make up this book, but then you will miss the fun of reading it yourself. So, go ahead, pick up the book, and enjoy the experience of a rollicking ride from your armchair!
P.S. This book was sent to me for review by Random House India.