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Friday, June 5, 2009

Royal Enfield featured in Irving novel

Royal Enfield's new C5 motorcycle recently earned the approval of a reviewer for The New York Times. It has been a long time since anythings so dramatically new and worth reviewing by The Times came from Royal Enfield India. A check of The Times archive shows that the newspaper hadn't previously mentioned the words "Royal Enfield" since 1969. I wondered: why then?

That mention came in a book review, of the novel Setting Free the Bears. This was the first book from John Irving, author of The Cider House Rules and The World According to Garp.

The title refers to a hair-brained scheme to free the animals in a Vienna zoo but the novel is just as much about an extraordinary motorcycle road trip.

Irving was 26 years old when he published Setting Free the Bears, and obviously obsessed with motorcycles. Motorcycles play several important parts in the book, but one, in particular, sets the whole novel in motion. Here's how Irving introduces it:

It was covered with a glossy black tarp and leaned against the wall of the garage. The rear fender was as thick as my finger, a heavy chunk of chrome, gray on the rim where it took some of the color from the mudcleats, deep-grooved on the rear tire—tire and fender and the perfect gap between. Siggy pulled the tarp off.

It was an old, cruel-looking motorcycle, missing the gentle lines and the filled-in places; it had spaces in between its parts, a gap where some clutterer might have tried to put a toolbox, a little open triangle between the engine and the gas tank too—the tank, a sleek teardrop of black, sat like a too small head on a bulky body; it was lovely like a gun is sometimes lovely—for the obvious ugly function showing in its most prominent parts. It weighed, all right, and seemed to suck its belly in, like a lean, hunched dog in the tall grass.

"...It's British," said Siggy. "Royal Enfield, some years ago when they made the pieces look the way they worked. Seven hundred cubic centimeters."

1 comment:

  1. It's poetry: "when they made the pieces look the way they worked."

    But what happens then? What is the book about? What role does the motorcycle play?

    You can't expect me to read the book!

    You read it, right? Tell!

    ReplyDelete

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