HOG FEVER by Richard La Plante


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 No, this isn't the tale of one man's love for a febrile sow- -it's the story of his obsession with Harley-Davidson motorcycles. An aging biker (pushing 40) who's been out of the saddle since college, novelist La Plante (Leopard, 1994, etc.) finds it all coming back with an Easy Rider rush after he buys a small Harley, the 883 Sportster. Initially, as an American living in London, he tools around unlicensed--until the fuzz catches up with him and he's compelled to attend a special training school, where his lack of skill rises to high relief. For all his (mostly cheerful) blather about the metaphysical entwinement of man and machine, La Plante is a weak rider (corners are his nemesis). But he has Harley on the brain, so it isn't long before he's subscribing to countless biker magazines and chasing the London and L.A. Harley crowds (Billy Idol, Schwarzenegger, Stallone). His love of chrome also imperils his already precarious finances as he upgrades to ever bigger machines that he can more enthusiastically customize. The mark of a genuine ``Hog Fever'' sufferer, customizing includes modifications to both the bike's look and its performance. With the assistance of various master mechanics, La Plante gradually transforms his stock Big Twin Springer Softail into a fearsome road chariot, the sort of rumbling spectacle that stops traffic and earns him the respect of Hell's Angels. He even manages to answer the inevitable phallic-symbol accusations by freely admitting that he's addicted to the masturbatory ritual of endlessly polishing his iron horse. Less a rite-of-passage narrative than a chronicle of a spoiled kid and his pricey toys, the book culminates with La Plante's account of crossing the US with a pack of neoconservative outlaw posers. Fewer Zen sound bites and more butch shoptalk with the motorheads would have helped temper the over-the-hill road-warrior clichÇs. Still, an amusing subcultural memoir. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-85884-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995


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