22 July 2012

John Forester As Literary Critic

In a previous post, I mentioned that a new edition of John Forester's Effective Cycling has been published.

Not long after learning that, I stumbled over an essay he wrote but which, to my knowledge, isn't in the book.  It's about a topic that I have never heard discussed in any English or Literature department--or, for that matter, in any educational institution.  

In his essay, Forester asks why cycling has played only an incidental role in literature, and why there are so few works of literature about bicycling or cyclists.

This is not to say, of course, that there is little writing about pedaling two wheels.  As Forester points out, there are any number of "travelogues" about bike tours and races, most of which center on the locales rather than the rides.  There are also any number of books, magazines and blogs, some of which include some very good writing.  However, as he points out, they are not literature because very few, if any, non-cyclists could find anything of interest in them.  That is because none of them connect cycling to the overall human condition and quotidian life as most of us know it.  Plus, most such works "get it wrong" about the way cyclists actually ride.  Even the "major" authors, some of whom make cycling a part of some of their stories.


  1. He's clearly unfamiliar with works of high literature such as "Ride With Me" http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0061C1OQ0/ :)

    This one looks cheesy enough that I likely would have avoided it, if not for the cycling.

  2. I read the article after reading this blog post Justine, and was surprised he did not make any reference to Flann O'Brien especially The Third Policeman which has an unusual portrayal of bikes as a murder accessory. Maybe there is a gap in the fiction market regarding bikes ...

  3. Jerome K Jerome, Three men on the Bummel.
    H G Wells, The History of MR Polly

    Little else will spring to mind until I turn off the computer...

  4. Ailish: "Ride With Me." Hmm...Sounds more like the title of a pop song about cycling.

    Vicki--A bike as a murder accessory? That sounds fascinating.

    Coline--"Little else will spring to mind until I turn off the computer". Isn't that how it always happens?