Vivre Vite: Lou Reed, Tadao Baba, and Death

Suzanne Ferriss

Vivre Vite
By Brigitte Giraud
Flammarion, 2022
ISBN-13: 9782080207340

www.editions.flammarion.com

In November 2022, Brigitte Giraud, a novelist and short story writer, became only the thirteenth woman in 120 years to win the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary award, for Vivre Vite (Live Fast). In this memoir, the author grapples with the death of her husband, Claude, in a motorcycle accident that took place in 1999, over twenty years ago. Stopped at a red light in Lyon, he took off when the light changed and must have inadvertently done a wheelie, resulting in his death.

The book is structured as a series of chapters, each opening with “si” (if): if they had done (or not done) something, could the accident have been avoided? She clocks through a set of circumstances preceding the event, banal life choices (buying a new home, making phone calls, choosing a certain route to work, etc.) that individually appeared innocent but collectively led to a fatal outcome. Her point is to demonstrate the futility of the exercise and thus highlight an unfortunately common truth: we cannot predict or avoid death. That is, with a few exceptions: Giraud singles out the motorcycle (a Honda CBR900RR Fireblade), its designer (Tadao Baba), and the Japanese manufacturer who allowed its import to France even though the bike was outlawed for street use in its native country.

In other words, the book rehearses common clichés aligning rock music with motorcycling—les musiciens et les motards (the musicians and the motorcyclists, 102)—and demonizes the vehicle, including those responsible for its design and sale in France. The accident was inspired, perhaps, she muses, by Lou Reed, who wrote, “Live fast, die young,” lyrics in the book her musician husband was reading (11). She wonders, what if he’d listened to Coldplay rather than Death in Vegas? For her, the Honda’s speed was to blame, not her husband’s rapid acceleration—or her own precipitous decisions, or, more to the point, the inescapable vagaries of chance. L’accident was simply that: an accident. Instead, the motorcycle and its creator bear the burden of blame, perpetuating an all too familiar conception of the vehicle.

In announcing the award, the president of the Goncourt Academy, Didier Decoin, defended their choice:[1]

It’s a poignant book that, despite its apparent simplicity, poses a serious question. It interrogates destiny: “If I had done this, would things have changed?” It’s the question we spend our lives asking. (qtd. in Willsher)

Others followed suit, contending that Girard’s personal questioning has universal resonance. In the French version of the Huffington Post, a journalist argued that all her questions are ours, that it is human to ponder destiny and how our choices determine our existence (Etancelin). Rather than focused inward, the book invites readers to place the events it describes in a broader, existential context. As a writer Giraud has permission to “conduct an investigation that is intimate, but also social, historical and political,” one about the end of the twentieth century, yet speaks to our own era. For that reason, her conception of the motorcycle is crucial. The stakes for its place in culture are high—particularly given the influence of Giraud’s text in the wake of its award.[2]

As I’ve already indicated, questions surrounding the motorcycle are treated differently than the other questions. The motorcycle is singled out for blame while Giraud’s decisions are excused, rationalized. Giraud interrogates her own culpability for the accident, particularly her insistence that they buy a new house. For her, the house and the accident go together: “Accident. Move. Funeral” (13). The terms she uses to describe her hasty decision to buy the house parallel those used to describe the motorcycle’s motion. She calls it “l’accélération la plus folle de mon existence” (the craziest of my life, 14). Her acceleration precedes her husband’s. Yet, she absolves her act by noting the social circumstances influencing her decision. She and her husband had lived and met in the suburbs ringing Lyon and dreamed of moving into the city center. After having already moved into a large apartment which they renovated over a period of ten years, Giraud inherits money following her grandfather’s suicide and decides they must buy a house with more space in the country. She faults the period of real estate speculation and how she fell prey to lure of easy money. Yet, her desire for home ownership is also cast as part of a larger class struggle, the pressure to conform to “the new ideal of their generation, the young couples with children who dreamed of a communal garden, swings and rabbits, with aperitifs shared under the gazebo” (51)—in short, a petit-bourgeois pastoral idyll.

Other of her decisions are excused owing to gendered, familial expectations instilled similarly via French culture. Wanting to be the good daughter, she tells her mother they secured the keys to the house—and its garage—in advance of their move, itself another precipitous action described in terms akin to riding: they need to be in motion, they are “électriques” (58), impatient. And, as the elder sister, she is obligated to share her home with her younger brother, just as she was compelled as a child to share her toys. “Tu prêtes tes Lego, . . . tu prêtes ton garage” (You share your Lego, . . . you loan your garage, 66). Her brother needs a place to temporarily store his motorcycle, her mother says. Giraud has one. It’s not interference, it’s solidarity. There are no boundaries, no personal property. As she writes, “It is the gift of self for the benefit of the group, sometimes even the clan” (65). In other words, she had no choice but to allow her brother to store his bike in their garage.

Similar reasoning explains why she did not check in with her husband on the day of the accident. Giraud had no choice but to go to Paris to publicize her latest book and she wanted to allow Claude his time with their son. This, after all, was the era of “les nouveaux pères,” the new fathers who were less distant, less absent, the inverse of the workaholic, silent fathers of preceding generations (89-90). It was a feminist act to let the boys alone; let them manage.

Hers are bad choices, excused by external pressures. However, these “microevents” as she calls them lead directly to the accident—or drive them. Giraud says in French they “conduisent inexorablement à l’accident” (drive inexorably to the accident, 88). She sets herself and her husband on parallel tracks leading inevitably to the accident, employing the same vocabulary for both: she’s obsessed with their move, speeding up the process. He’s obsessed, like all motorcyclists, with his machine and with acceleration. The garage links house to bike. “Anyone who lives with a motorcyclist knows the attention—if not obsession—paid to the garage,” she writes (99).

However, Giraud takes a detour, set off in the text by substituting the word “pourquoi” (why) for “si” (if) at the start of two chapters. Because, she explains, it’s not just any motorcycle, certainly not her husband’s Suzuki Savage LS 650, but her brother’s 900 Honda Fireblade. “Si” (if) suggests circumstances might have been otherwise; “pourquoi” (why) assigns blame. She directs it generally at Japan and its premiere motorcycle brand Honda, but primarily at Tadao Baba, the Fireblade’s engineer.

She describes three online sightings:

  1. A photo of him, “smiling, full of charm, a cigarette in his hand and his teeth a bit yellowed” (103),
  2. A T-shirt for sale on a site called Pixels (103), with a photo of Baba done by Ronald Brown, and
  3. The same photo of Baba printed on an entire line of related products: coffee mugs, bath towels, tote bags, spiral notebooks, shower curtains, duvet covers, yoga mats, iPhone cases or greeting cards—even a shower curtain (103).

She then includes the origin of Baba’s fame: his creation of the Honda CBR900RR. Honda asked Baba to create the bike for competition, to replace the RV 750 at the Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race, a famous competition held near Kyoto. Giraud includes Baba’s biography: he entered the company in 1962, at the age of 18, and gained a reputation for being impetuous, even falling during test rides on his own bikes. A bit of a poet, he had the following line engraved inside the right fairing of the famous 1998 model Claude was riding: “For the people who want to know the meaning of light weight.”[3]

But in digging up the facts, the one that strikes her as “obscene” (111) is the trade agreement between Japan and the European Union that allowed France and certain other countries to sell the Fireblade, starting in 1992,[4] when Japan prohibited its sale, deeming the bike too dangerous for city streets and reserved it only for competition. The 1998 model, the fourth generation, had 130 horsepower and could reach 270 km/hr (168 mph). She calls it “une bombe pour kamikazes” (a bomb for kamikazes, 109).

She considers suing the company but realizes that the potential danger of the vehicle—the rate of weight to power—is not a legal criterion. The authorities regulate turn signals, brake lights, side mirrors, emissions, license plates, decibels—but not dangerousness. Here she repeats the recurring charge levelled against motorcycles—and not other vehicles: they are dangerous.[5]

She writes, “Claude aurait dû être maître de son véhicule, d’après le code de la route” (Claude should have been in control of his vehicle, according to the highway code, 111). Still, she insists that someone else—government agencies responsible for road use and international trade—should have been responsible. This is the inverse of her thinking about herself: others—her family, social norms, economic pressures—determined her choices. By contrast, Claude’s actions should have been constrained by others. (She neglects to mention that such thinking runs counter to the politics attached to the act of riding by many motorcyclists, namely that motorcycling is a form of liberation and that riders and their bikes should be free from any regulation or restriction by the “man,” from mandatory helmet use to speed limiters.[6])

It’s also worth pointing out that Giraud misrepresents the dangers of the motorcycle as well as motorcycling.  Baba had wanted to create “a fun to ride, easy to control machine.” In a 2009 interview, he said, “We had a sticker on the original bike—Total Control—and that was always the idea” (qtd. in Hooshmand). With each new generation of the bike, Honda had introduced changes to make the bike more, not less, stable than Baba’s original design. In fact, one history of the vehicle claims this drive for greater stability was a commercial mistake, that Yamaha’s introduction of the R1 was the Fireblade’s death knell. “Honda had converted the Blade from a manic sportsbike to something that was more like a sports tourer. The Blade was blunted and the vultures were now circling with intent. Honda had misjudged the public’s appetite for speed and had taken their flagship sportsbike in the wrong development direction” (“History of the Honda Fireblade”).

And Claude knew the bike posed a risk. He told a friend, “Ça, c’est interdit, une vraie bombe, il ne faut pas y toucher” (That’s forbidden, a real bomb. Don’t touch it, 120). Why, then, did he ride it and not his “inoffensive,” “soft” Suzuki to work as he normally did?

She resolves the question by recourse to two twinned stereotypes associated with motorcycling: an adolescent male desire for speed parallel to the “injection of adrenaline” they find temporarily in rock’n’roll. She describes this as a childish desire, archaic and visceral, to pilot a big machine (127-28), one derived from film images of action heroes revving motors and squealing tires. It is, she says, “one of the most universal stories known to modern man, based on speed, risk-taking, [and] virility . . . , whose destiny changes with the appearance of the internal combustion engine” (128).

To Giraud, Claude’s passions for speed and music are immature. He should have outgrown—“renounced”—his affection for rock. She describes his decision to ride the Fireblade as the inverse of “reasonable,” the oppositive of “adult.” It is a “transgressive,” “whimsical” act. How, she asks, could he be both a petit-bourgeois, a good father with a contract on a house, and a “punk,” ready to fight, to screw everything up (129)? Ironically, while she perceives conforming to petit-bourgeois pressures problematic in her own actions, she faults her husband for failing to do so.

His adolescent attachment to speed and rock are fused in Giraud’s mind. She explains that the Japanese who designed and manufactured the Fireblade also exported musical instruments: “The musicians and the motorcyclists know it, those who have bought Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Sony, Casio, Hitachi, venerate the brands who have given them the sound, the speed, the precision, the great thrill. Everyone knows how Yamaha’s DX7 synthesizer revolutionized pop music in the 1980s. All around the world” (102).[7] She finds it telling that Claude was reading rock critic Lester Bangs’ book, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, a collection of his articles from the 1970s edited by Greil Marcus and released in 1987, five years after Bangs’ death at 33 from accidental overdose of opiods, Valium and NyQuil. It contains his interviews with Lou Reed, including the line “Live fast, die young,” attributed to James Dean.

If Claude hadn’t been under the influence of rock, he would not have been listening to Death in Vegas before he headed out on the bike. She invests the group’s name, and the genre of its music, with portentous significance: Death in Vegas and the “live fast, die young” ethos caused Claude’s death. Yet, Giraud herself outlines a more accidental cause: time. Claude, preparing for his job as DJ at the local discotheque, was trying to select a final song for his evening gig before leaving to pick up their son from school. The difference between Coldplay and Death in Vegas comes down not to their music but the length of their tracks: Coldplay’s “Don’t Panic” clocks in at 3 minutes and 27 seconds; Death in Vegas’ “Dirge” lasts 5 minutes 44 seconds. He chose “Dirge”—though Giraud admits she’s not sure that he did. But it fits her narrative linking the twinned dangers of music and motorcycling, a combustible mix, carburetor dung. The two-minute difference, in her mind, delayed Claude’s departure from the venue and caused him to rush, to speed to pick up their son. She’s so invested in affirming her version of events that she obsessively listens to the song, convinced that its intensifying rhythms make it impossible to interrupt. In other words, like the Fireblade, “ce monstre de moto” (that monster of a bike, 156), the song is to blame (not Claude’s chronic lateness) (“sa légendaire façon d’être en retard,” 155).

Paradoxically, she cites a well known fact: serious accidents often occur on familiar roads between home and work, the brief routes that we imagine are safe because they are so much a part of our routines. “It’s the absence of adventure that kills,” as she puts it (Ce serait l’absence d’aventure qui tue, 166). As she imagines his final ride, she includes all the quotidian details—the roads, the river that cuts the city in two, the museum he passes, the school crossing guard, and the red light that temporarily halts his journey. Understandably, she imagines what might have happened if the light had not turned green or if Claude had ignored the signal to go. “Reste la, ne bouge pas” (Stay there, don’t move, 179), she pleads. But she inserts another rock reference, implying the fusion of music and motorcycling impelled him: “Should I stay or should I go?” The Clash song, she remembers, often incited Claude to dance, so why not another form of motion, she infers. And, in her imagined version of the accident, she inserts her own set of “ifs,” with the same repetitive insistence of the Clash or Death in Vegas:

S’il avait écouté Coldplay et non Death in Vegas. Si Tadao Baba n’avait pas existé. Si les accords de libre-échange entre le Japon et l’Union européenne n’avaient pas été signés. S’il n’avait pas fait si beau. . . . Si le feu n’était pas passé au rouge. Pas, pas, pas, pas, pas, pas, pas.

(If he had listened to Coldplay and not Death in Vegas. If Tadao Baba had never existed. If the free-trade agreement between Japan and the Euorpean Union hadn’t been signed. If it hadn’t been such a beautiful day. . . . If the light hadn’t changed to red. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, 180)

The percussiveness of the p’s resembles an engine starting up. And the word “pas” works well in French: it negates the action of the stoplight (if the light had NOT changed) but it is also the word for “step,” which implies motion. As she thinks, “don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t,” he does. He moves. In fact, she imagines that he took off with a bang, as if he were taking part in the famous race for which the bike was conceived, the Suzuka 8 Hours. This jab at the bike’s designer and manufacturer follows her reformulation of their culpability. Notice that she now uses “si” (if), rather than “pourquoi” (why): “if Tadao Baba had never existed,” rather than “why did Tadao Baba enter her life?”; “if Japan and the EU hadn’t signed the trade agreement,” instead of “why was the Honda 900 CBR Fireblade imported to Europe, even though it was banned in Japan for being too dangerous?” The blame solidifies through repetition, a sequence of fifteen sentences beginning with “si,” punctuated by seven “pas”s.

Music’s part is injected more subtly through metaphors of sound. No witnesses actually saw the accident. They only heard his acceleration. “Rien vu, tout entendu” (Nothing seen, everything heard, 180). Claude, she notes, was not deaf to the sounds he was making, but his hearing had been compromised by listening to loud music. The implication of this juxtaposition of motion and sound appears to be to fault the bike and the music simultaneously, the refrain “live fast, die young” echoing in the structure of her sentence “rein vu, tout entendu,” the speed of the bike and the beat leading deathward, the rev of the engine the fatal music.

Ultimately, Giraud accepts that “there is nothing to understand,” that it’s “mere coincidence.” Life is a series of simple movements—encounters, friendships, interferences, services rendered, coincidences. “La vie dans sa fluidité” (life in its fluidity, 193). It works or doesn’t, for good and worse. “Il n’y a pas de si” (there is no if, 194). At the end of the book, she conjures up an image of Claude, who asks her “ça va?” (are you okay?). She turns her back to him, and as she does so, something happens: she is reassured (206).

Steven Alford, writing about chance in Paul Auster’s novels, explained the impulse to recall past events, to write memoirs like this, arguing that lived experience, the seemingly random present,” gains its meaning only through retrospection. The events of lived experience are ‘chancy’; what moves them from the realm of chance to becoming part of a causal chain is one’s attaching the chance event, through an act of telling oneself one’s story, to another, significant event” (129). In this case, Giraud seeks to understand what caused the accident by setting a disparate set of unrelated events in a causal chain, then interrogating each to see if removing it from the chain could have affected the outcome: if they had not bought the house, if her brother had not stored the motorcycle, if Claude had not listened to Death in Vegas, etc. The effect, however, is to reify the chain of events and establish causal links among them, all leading deathward. However, in fact, the events are correlated, in a temporal sequence culminating in the accident, but not determinative of it. Only in retrospect, can she attach causality—and significance—to them.

And Giraud appears to admit this, to recognize that hers is a futile exercise—it cannot alter events or fully explain them, since she notes some facts are simply unknown—yet it is therapeutic nonetheless. She is “reassured” by the end, exorcising her own guilt and her husband’s—even the man himself. After asking, “ça va?” (are you okay, 206), he disappears from the book—and her memory.

Consider that Giraud could have represented Claude’s death—and life—differently. Rather than seeking to assign blame or contort events to fit neatly into a reassuring narrative, she could have operated from an alternative set of assumptions: we cannot presume to evade death. Heidegger, for instance, describes it as our “ownmost possibility,” and to resolutely confront its possibility is the beginning of living an authentic life.[8] A memoir of Claude’s life beginning from this assumption would represent his choices—and motorcycling—otherwise: rather than speeding deathward, Claude rode while understanding the risks and embraced acceleration as life affirming. Michael J. Apter, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and others have explained the appeal of activities such as motorcycling as heightening human experience: “If you want to live life to the full, you must risk losing it” (qtd. in Apter 40).  In The Dangerous Edge, Apter argues that we exist mentally in three zones: safety, danger, and trauma. He argues that we experience excitement when we move away from safety, toward danger, stopping just short of trauma. To find that dangerous edge, we construct a psychologically protective frame between safety and trauma: “one feels that, when it comes to it, one will not actually go over the edge” (26). Finding the edge requires skill: when the change in external conditions (such as curves, speed, road conditions) puts us at the edge of our abilities, employing them becomes pleasurable. Apter says, “At this rate the challenge never becomes too great for the individual’s resources of knowledge and skill, but remains great enough to elicit continuing interest and response.” Such an individual is experiencing flow, “a state of mind in which one is so totally and deeply absorbed in what one is doing that one feels one is ‘flowing along in it,’ typically losing all sense of time and selfhood” (Apter 187).[9]

This would be a defense of Claude’s decision to ride the Fireblade. But his usual riding practice as she describes it does not confirm her charge that he was a thrill-seeking, adrenaline junkie.  Instead, he normally piloted his “inoffensive,” “soft” Suzuki as a commuter. He was not a “punk” seeking to screw things up, but a petit-bourgeois father with a contract on a house using a motorcycle for transportation. He had not lost all sense of time but was impelled by it, cognizant of his responsibilities as a father. Likewise, he had transformed his passion for music into a means of steady employment as a DJ.

However, Giraud’s book is not a memoir of Claude’s life. It is her memoir, her attempt to exorcise the trauma of his death. She employs memoir as what Suzette Henke termed “scriptotherapy,” whereby “the author recasts his or her life narrative in the shape of a salutary paradigm that offers both a myth of origins and an implicitly teleological model of future development” (xv). In essence, Giraud expunges her grief by embracing a set of myths about motorcycling and music, while crafting a teleological narrative that explains Claude’s death and positions her to move forward in life unburdened by his haunting presence.

In her memoir, Giraud may have finally exorcised the ghost of her late husband, but the monstrous motorcycle lingers. She describes the Fireblade repeatedly as a supernatural (or unnatural) force: “ce monstre de moto” (156), “cette sportive surpuissante” (110, 121), “une bombe pour kamikazes” (109, 120, 122). And her title—Vivre Vite—perpetuates the facile equation of speed with death. She exonerates her haste and her husband’s acceleration, but not the motorcycle—or the music that celebrates speed.

Giraud’s reassurance comes only by attaching causal determination to the bike’s designer, its manufacturer, and the government agencies that allowed its import to France. Tadao Baba, Honda, and the EU created the bomb and Lou Reed’s lyrics supplied the fuel. She establishes definitive connections between these links in the chain, mistaking correlation for causation. As we’ve seen, the links themselves are either weak or faulty. But they require an interrogation like this to reveal they are constructed out of misinformation and soldered together by stereotypes.

The danger lies not in the bike or in rock music, but in the enduring—and false—idea of their combustible fusion.


Notes

My thanks to Marie-Christine Orfanides for recommending the novel and assisting with translations from the French. Any errors are my own.

[1] After 14 rounds of voting, Giraud was tied with “Giuliano da Empoli, author of Le Mage du Kremlin (The Kremlin’s Sorcerer), an account of the last 30 years in Russia under Vladimir Putin, that has sold nearly 100,000 copies since it was published six months ago. Da Empoli won the Grand Prix du Roman, another of France’s prestigious literary prizes earlier this year. Haitian novelist Makenzy Orcel with Une Somme Humaine (A Human Sum) and Cloé Korman’s Les Presque Soeurs (The Almost Sisters) were also on the four-book shortlist.” Decoin cast the deciding vote (Willsher).

[2] The Prix Goncourt is 10 euros, which most writers simply frame for it leads to an enormous bump in sales, as do other literary awards.

[3] Giraud doesn’t mention that the bike’s name is a Japanese mistranslation of “lightning.” See “A History of the Honda Fireblade—Part 1.”

[4] Giraud says 1991, when it was introduced at the Salon de la moto in Paris. It was not sold commercially, though, until 1992.

[5] The relative danger of motorcycling in relation to other activities (e.g., driving, bicycle riding, horseback riding) has been hotly debated. One 2007 study, for instance, found that cheerleading led to more catastrophic injuries than all other sports combined (Pennington). For a discussion of the concerns regarding risk, safety, and mobility, see Packer.

[6] For a concise overview of the political issues, particularly riders’ embrace of “freedom,” see Alford and Ferriss, Alternative History, 147-53.

[7] On the connections between music and motorcycling see Alford and Ferriss, Motorcycle, 127-37.

[8] I am grateful to Steven Alford, Mathew Humphrey, and Jason Wragg for suggesting this possible alternative.

[9] The sociological study of risk taking has since considered “edgework” as a subject and includes work by Stephen Lyng and many others. For a consideration of risk and speed, see Walton.


References

Alford, Steven E. “Chance in Contemporary Narrative: The Example of Paul Auster.” Paul Auster. Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004. 113-35.

Alford, Steven E. and Suzanne Ferriss. An Alternative History of Bicycles and Motorcycles: Two-Wheeled Transportation and Material Culture. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016.

—. Motorcycle. London: Reaktion, 2007.

Apter, Michael. The Dangerous Edge: The Psychology of Excitement. New York: The Free Press, 1992.

Etancelin, Valentine. “Brigitte Giraud et son Goncourt ont un point commun avec Annie Ernaux, prix Nobel 2022.” HuffPost, November 2, 2022. https://www.huffingtonpost.fr/culture/video/brigitte-giraud-et-son-goncourt-ont-un-point-commun-avec-annie-ernaux-prix-nobel-2022_209765.html

Giraud, Brigitte. Vivre Vite. Paris: Flammarion, 2022.

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1962.

Henke, Suzette. Shattered Subjects: Trauma and Testimony in Women’s Life-Writing. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.

Hooshmand, Dana. “Honda FireBlade History and Buyer’s Guide—’Total Control.’” MotoFomo, July 3, 2019. https://motofomo.com/honda-fireblade-history-buyers-guide

“A History of the Honda Fireblade—Part 1.” BikeSocial, December 13, 2013. https://www.bennetts.co.uk/bikesocial/news-and-views/features/bikes/a-history-of-the-honda-fireblade–part-1

Lyng, Stephen. “Edgework: A Social Psychological Analysis of Voluntary Risk.” The American Journal of Sociology, 95.4 (1990): 851-886.

—, ed. Edgework: The Sociology of Risk-Taking. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Packer, Jeremy. Mobility without Mayhem: Safety, Cars, and Citizenship. Durham: Duke UP, 2008.

Pennington, Bill. “Pompoms, Pyramids, and Peril.” The New York Times, March 30, 2007. https://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/30/sports/31cnd-cheerleader.html

Walton, David. “Close Encounters of a Deadly Kind … Freedom, Riders, Road Racing and Risk.” The International Journal of Motorcycle Studies 12.1 (Spring 2016): https://motorcyclestudies.org/volume-12-issue-1-spring-2016/close-encounters-of-a-deadly-kind-freedom-riders-road-racing-and-risk-david-walton

Willsher, Kim. “Brigitte Giraud Becomes 13th Woman to Win Prix Goncourt.” The Guardian, November 3, 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/nov/03/brigitte-giraud-becomes-13th-woman-to-win-prix-goncourt-vivre-vite


Suzanne Ferriss is a Professor Emeritus of English at Nova Southeastern University. She has published extensively on literature, theory, film, fashion, and motorcycle studies. With Steven Alford, she is the author of Motorcycle (Reaktion, 2007) and An Alternative History of Bicycle and Motorcycles (Lexington, 2016). Most recently, she has focused on the work of director Sofia Coppola. In addition to editing The Bloomsbury Handbook to Sofia Coppola, she is the author of The Cinema of Sofia Coppola: Fashion, Culture, Celebrity and the BFI Film Classics volume on Lost in Translation.

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4 Comments

  1. Ivan Rabinowitz

    An absolutely excellent review – thoughtful, lucent, and inflected through a deep understanding of the fragile edges of mortality.

  2. This is terrible and shows a lack off understanding motorcycling as a core of it being an essential way of life in in some riders eyes. one persons view is not a whole motorcycling commitment make! ex- Fireblade rider!

    • Hi Trevor, I assume you are referring to the memoir showing a lack of understanding, rather than the excellent review!

      • Yes – and my point being while its a review – while self praise is no recommendation – this lost me – “Stopped at a red light in Lyon, he took off when the light changed and must have inadvertently done a wheelie, resulting in his death.” – that’s it nothing more nothing less!

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