Wednesday, March 5, 2014
The Enlightened Cyclist: A Book Review
The Enlightened Cyclist: Eben Weiss's failed followup to Bike Snob NYC
Okay, so I'm a little late to the party in reviewing this book that has been out since 2011. I am recently in book reading mode since all of this cold weather has kept me indoors with little else to do besides making vegetarian recipes due to the fact that I'm trying to get in shape for the summer. I picked up this book a little over a year ago and started reading it briefly before putting it down and losing it in my bookshelf until I found it again during my recent move. As a huge fan of Weiss's first book, Bike Snob NYC, I bought this book with great expectations that it would be as entertaining and as humorous as the first novel. Nevertheless, it was a complete disappointment that torpedoed any further success he could have had and ultimately became his undoing as a publisher that could relate to most cyclists and people in general.
The message of the book, in short, is that all commuters should treat each other with compassion and consideration, treating each other in an ethical manner the same way we would like to be treated. The author raises the question as to why this isn't the case between bicyclists and motorists, and tries to dissect the situation by getting into the environmental factors between the two. Being a resident New Yorker at the time, Weiss describes the collaborative unity between New Yorkers after 911 but how New Yorkers have once again become insular over time, getting into confrontations over petty things like being in the bike lane or cutting a vehicle off on the road.
While attempting to find a solution, the author makes this book a soapbox for his atheistic views, discrediting the Bible as a fictional reference piece while at the same time quoting from the Sermon on the Mount when it was convenient for him to do so. This is what really irritated me most about the book and why I really don't recommend it to anyone, even as an easy reading piece. Here you have this guy trying to give moral advice who is obviously without a moral compass himself, denying belief in God but at the same time quoting from his word.
What further discredits the author was his use of strong language and vulgarity that wasn't at all like the first novel he wrote. Weiss's first book, Bike Snob NYC, was a funny, down-to-earth satire of cyclists that made us laugh out loud about ourselves. The first book was rated G and this book, by comparison, is rated R. It must have been a dark period for the author when he wrote it, and I could only feel pity for him as I struggled to read through the pages, knowing that this will probably be the book he will be remembered by. I begrudgingly read the rest of this book so that I could give a fair and overall review of what I had read. But seriously, it was probably the worst 20 bucks with some change that I have ever spent. If I would had known what was in the book before buying it, I would have never bought it.
It was almost as if the author took the success of his first book, which was a well thought out masterpiece, and then created this 200 page rant thinking that it would have the same reception. Was he hoping that people would be forgiving or ignorant of his liberalism and profanity just because of his new found celebrity? As with many who achieve a sense of fame, I wouldn't doubt that the success of his first book went straight to his head. In his mind he felt he could write whatever he wanted, regardless of whom he offended. That's sad, really, because he could have been a credible voice in the bike community, like a Sheldon Brown of sorts. Instead he attempts to score political points with the liberal, self pleasing crowd and narrows down his reader demographic as well as anyone who has any respect for him. Whatever good intentions or message of goodwill the author might have had became undone when he attacked people's belief in God and most people's tolerance for number of bad words in a single book.
This book is will make a great overpriced doorjamb or paperweight, or a good projectile for defending oneself against a stray dog while out on a bicycle. Other than that, save yourself the trouble and don't buy this book. I'm throwing away mine, as it was a complete waste of my spare time.