Book reviews / Non fiction / Read Harder

Book review: Why don’t you fly?

Why don’t you fly is a travel account of a man cycling from England to Beijing, which by all accounts should be fascinating. And it sort of is, but for all the wrong reasons.

EDIT: Just realised this can count as one of my Read Harder challenges – a book published prior to January 2019 with less than 100 GoodRead reviews (at the time of publishing, it had 41). So at least that was helpful.

In brief moments, you get a sense of the landscape and difficulty of the journey, but most of the time you’re just amazed at the man’s arrogance and inability to write a decent sentence.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where someone was so oblivious to their own prejudices. You’d go from a passage where the author seemed to sympathise with the plight of women being catcalled, to a charming paragraph like this:

“I sit down on the steps of Dasawamedh Ghat to watch a number of men dunk themselves in the filthy waters of the Ganges. Once upon a time the river would have been pure, an innocent young girl bubbling with energy and leaping laughingly down the mountainsides of the Himalayas, but by Varanasi she has become fat and sluggish and middle-aged, a bitter old whore defiled and corrupted by the abuse she has received at the hands of mankind.”

So charming!

That and him always describing the physical appearance of every western woman or occasional attractive foreigner is just vomit-inducing (including describing how attractive a 15 year old girl is at one point). Or going into painful detail about how he didn’t sleep with a prostitute when the opportunity arose. Also how he didn’t sleep with a married woman but fantasied about her. Ewww.

Not to mention sometimes the ability to come across as racist or homophobic (usually sometime after him saying that these thing are wrong). I think in some cases he was trying to be funny, but he just sounds like a stuck up git, so humour is something that I never got from this book. I can’t imagine him getting away with half the shit he said in this book today. Or maybe you just have to be a spectacularly arrogant douchebag to have the blind focus to cycle that far.

God, all the terrible opinions on politics and god and all that shit, it was just terrible.

It is staggering that he managed to cycle all the way to Beijing and I wish I ended up with slightly more respect than disdain for the guy by the end. But oh my god, it was impossible, especially when he randomly switches to the third person for the epilogue. It did make me think of how I’d like to go on a bicycle adventure, but not that far. Maybe a week or something.

I almost recommend it because it is kind of that terrible, but also no one needs such a book in their life, so maybe not. Go for a bike ride instead.

One thought on “Book review: Why don’t you fly?

  1. Pingback: My Read Harder list | Blogendorff

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