A book-length essay connecting the profane and the profound, as a biker with a master’s degree in classics (and a translator of ancient Greek and Latin) contemplates a life not always well spent.
Though categorized as an essay, the book has two parts and chapters within them. The first part is mostly about the all-American concept of freedom, as exemplified in Easy Rider. Toward the end of this part, Fishbone relates the story of his attending an autopsy after earlier chapters showed how easily he and his friends could have been the subjects of one. “I felt a strange detachment which I’m not sure ever really left me,” he writes of the experience, described in vivisectionist’s detail. “I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that we were all just bags of guts, dragging around in the air.” In the second part of the book, Fishbone is a little less descriptive and experiential and more philosophical. It begins with the voices the author has heard, ones that may or may not be God’s, but which he is certain are not his own interior voice. He had been reluctant to resume motorcycling after a drunken accident that might have—perhaps should have—killed him. Until that voice says, “Alan, get a Harley and drive to Death Valley.” Which he did, even though Death Valley is way across the country from the upper Midwest and he’s never bought into the cult of Harley. The trip turns into a meditation on the Platonic conception of the soul, as the author weighs scientific evidence that there’s no such thing as the soul against spiritual certainty that there is. “It takes a soul to believe in the soul,” he writes. A couple of final chapters on animal instincts and a birth bring the meditation full circle.
A slim book that will resonate with the reader’s inner biker/philosopher.