Sunday, September 02, 2007

Triathlon lit

This week is going to be pretty crazy--sometimes that means I end up blogging like a maniac (it's a kind of sedative!)--but likely it will be pretty quiet round here. Before I take a huge deep breath of air and go under, though, a few thoughts on sport-related light reading...

I'm not sure what it is with the cycling books--I was pretty much mesmerized by the two I read earlier this summer, Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike and Tim Krabbe's The Rider--could be me, could be the books, but the next crop of 'em I tried have given me the Goldilocks effect: I would pick one up, then reject it after forty or so pages as not quite right....

This one was too macho and too boring. (Also Krabbe wrote this book already, only much better!)

This one was horrendously melodramatic and self-help-y and histrionic in the James Frey vein. (Hmm, didn't read as many as forty pages of that one, not my cup of tea...)

This one was a great disappointment, it had such a great name and at least it wasn't melodramatic but I was tearing my hair out when it was p. 43 and we were still with this aimless rambling "and then I had another bike that I loved" mode. I have a strong feeling that if I was truly obsessed with bicycles, I would find things to enjoy in this book. I didn't dislike its author--I just wanted him to have had a far more stringent editor! (The two-star Amazon review seems in this case to be very apt--the phrase "an autobiography in which the chapters not involving bikes were simply cut out" is used...)

It was with very great relief that I plunged into the opening pages of William Fotheringham's Put Me Back On My Bike: In Search of Tom Simpson. I haven't quite finished it, but it's an excellent book, I think; a real book. (Only around Chapter Three I had a sudden realization--it is not at all Fotheringham's fault, he wrote his book first!--that really in a way I also sort of had read this book already, because what it is is a very thoughtful and interesting account of a self-destructive and ambitious man from the English working classes in the 1950s and 1960s, and if you were only going to read one book in that category it would have to be this one! Admittedly I am more interested in novels than I am in bicycles--but Like a Fiery Elephant really was a wonderfully good biography...)

Bicycle-related reading recommendations will be welcomed in the comments. I'm actually doing better with swimming-related reading: I made a brief detour from a work-related stacks trip to get Roger Deakin's Waterlog (I haven't had the time to delve into this properly, I am saving it for a treat once things are a bit less busy later in September), and of course just ravaged the whole shelf, I was pillaging the swim lit!

This is exciting, because I now have a new favorite call number--GV! I doubt that I'd ever checked a GV book out of the library before this summer...

Here was a post I wrote just about two years ago--it started with me getting lost in a library, which is very uncharacteristic because though I often get lost in general, i.e. in the world & through not paying attention, this library was one place I knew very well--but it had been renovated, including the entrance to the stacks being moved to a different floor, very uncanny like being in a ghost story by Henry James--and one of the changes that had been made led to me (once I was no longer lost) rhapsodizing on my intense personal relationship with the Library of Congress call number system:
I really do have an extreme fondness for the whole Library of Congress classification system. (If you have never thought about this, do take a look, it is a wonderful thing.) PR has to be my favorite, I read vastly more PR books than any other single category. But there are other ones I like too--Q's a good one--and I also think nostalgically of what I might call exes--call numbers I used to frequent all the time but now only encounter now and then. HQ and HV were particular favorites when I was an undergraduate. I read more B books when I was in grad school than I do now. I like T but it's often housed in a specialized library (the classes are disproportionate in size, even the best planners get carried away by systematizing). Z books are often funny-shaped and interesting to read. J and R are likely to be represented on my shelves at home.
It's funny, just this afternoon I was in the stacks getting this BJ book--the minute I saw the call number in the online catalog I had a warm feeling of homecoming, because BJ is the ethics-etiquette set that I immersed myself in while I was finishing my dissertation (and this book-finishing business is strongly reminding me of those last months of dissertation-finishing in New Haven in August and September 1999)...

(The other thing--this is funny--that always makes me feel like I'm coming home: reading a book, either in the original or in digital facsimile, that was published in London in the 1710s and 1720s! Because I spent so much time reading little pamphlety books about Jonathan Wild and various other criminals, all published in the 1710s and the first half of the 1720s, that it's not just the date on the title page but everything about the size and shape and typography and feel of the book that makes me feel at home...)

I have now had such a long library digression that I must write up this swim lit in a separate post!

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