cfsmtb in low earth orbit

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Buy this book!

Two wheels good, four wheels bad
Bicycle: The History - By David Herlihy, Yale University Press
Don DeLillo's White Noise (to many, the American novel of the 1980s) uses a toxic-gas leak to locate a crucial question about technology and independence: Stripped of your purchased comforts and dependencies, which of the technologies that seem so quintessential to modernity or even the human species could you yourself replicate to aid your own survival? In short, alone and tool-less, could you even make a fire, let alone communicate or travel across vast distances?

Like the car, electricity or running water, the bicycle has become such an ingrained fixture of human life (and one far more global than the car) that we would be hard pressed to think of its invention as a lengthy international contest of misdirections, unexpected reversals and reluctant collaborations. Unlike any of these other technologies, though, the workings of a bicycle are so visible that the great New Yorker artist Saul Steinberg called a bicycle "an X-ray of itself." That is to say the bicycle is neither electric nor (even less comprehensible) electronic, and yet, the genealogical history of this observable machine of immense social impact is still as unpopular as its mechanics. That is, until David Herlihy's handsome new Bicycle: the History.

Hint, hint: Books: Bicycle: The History