While my writing may not reflect it, I actually like to read. As an only child (loner/loser/whatever) I spent quite a bit of time buried with my nose in a book. I love the smell, look, feel, everything about them, much in the same way I love bicycles.
I started pretty early, and started with fantasy fiction for no good reason other than the dragon on the cover of the Hobbit looked pretty cool in the British bookstore in Bangkok. From there it was naturally The Lord of the Rings and then the Narnia chronicles and other books of that ilk. I've probably reread all of those books ten, fifteen times in my life. As I got a lil older and daring I read a lot of pretty pulp spy novels from Clive Cussler and the Ian Fleming James Bond-esque stereo typical sex-pionage junk. Not exactly literary genius but fun and imaginative (especially for a ten year old, what was my mother thinking?). After that came Coupland, Pahlaniuk, Hornby, Murakami, Cormac McCarthy, etcetera, etcetera, etc. Mixed in with all that was forced reading assignments for my english degree, some good, some not.
Now, I love reading, as I mentioned above, but that love has limitations. Limitations imposed through expectations. When I read as a child there was no pressure, just a captivating love of the word. As I got older and was given reading assignments, book reports, in-depth character studies the love of the word began to wane. It was ingrained in me that I had
to finish a book once it was started. There was a goal, an end that had to come to fruition.
Finally after my years of academia were finally over, I read a piece of advice that brought my love for reading back to its original lustre.
“All I know is that you can get very little from a book that is making you weep with the effort of reading it. You won’t remember it, and you’ll learn nothing from it, and you’ll be less likely to choose a book over Big Brother next time you have a choice.”
― Nick Hornby, Housekeeping vs. the Dirt
Basically what Mr. Hornby is saying is that you can put a book down. You don't have to finish it. You can stop. You can sit up and happily get dropped.
We often talk of the joy of suffering in cycling, that cycling is
suffering at it's very core. This is a glorious and viable idea to be sure. There are many times that I have sat on a wheel with a mouth full of bile and a heart full of joy at the impending pain. What makes the suffering palpable is the knowledge that it is inflicted by choice, not necessity. I have asked for it, I welcome it, and if it becomes too much, I can withdraw from it.
“And what would happen if we never read the classics? There comes a point in life, it seems to me, where you have to decide whether you're a Person of Letters or merely someone who loves books, and I'm beginning to see that the book lovers have more fun. ”
― Nick Hornby, Housekeeping vs. the Dirt
Admission, I have never finished Moby Dick. Great Expectations, War and Peace, Anna Karenina. Classics, must reads, if you will. I've never finished anything Dickens ever wrote to be honest. I have tried, suffered, and failed to keep Dickens boring, boring wheel. I have gracefully sat up, pulled into the nearest coffee shop with the latest edition from Anne Tyler, or Zadie Smith, or any other of a host of authors that aren't interested in a literary hammerfest and rekindled my love for reading.
“A couple of months ago, I became depressed by the realization that I'd forgotten pretty much everything I've ever read. I have, however, bounced back: I am now cheered by the realization that if I've forgotten everything I've ever read then I can read some of my favorite books again as if for the first time.”
― Nick Hornby, The Polysyllabic Spree
I applaud everyone's dedication to our sport, all the kilometers and suffering that we inflict on each other. The happy exhaustion, the bold typography. Just remember that when you get burnt out, don't reach your training goals, or your legs feel dead, you can stop at anytime. You can turn off your heart rate monitor, your cadence sensor, your speedometer, your Strava and your Map My Ride. You can take a junky cruiser bike laden with a picnic to the island and just ride a bike. That's the beauty of it. The essence of it is that riding a bike is joyous and pure and not limited to anyone's expectations. From a tot on a run-bike to Tommeke crushing the early season classics it's all beautiful.
p.s. if anyone has any books to recommend feel free to comment. I'd be happy to return the favour.