[Marxism] Big Sid's Vincati
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Nov 28 13:32:33 MST 2009
Not long after I blogged about poet Frederick Seidel’s motorcycle memoir
in Harper’s Magazine, an even more interesting denizen of this
subculture showed up as a commenter. Matthew Biberman, a U. of
Louisville literature professor, informed unrepentant Marxist readers
about a memoir titled “Vincati” that describes the project he carried
out with his ailing father Sid to create a hybrid motorcycle based on a
Ducati frame and a Vincent engine.
Even if you have never owned or driven a motorcycle, I strongly
recommend this memoir that I finished recently as a sensitive study of
father-son relations. It is interesting that Biberman tells us early on
in the memoir that he had hopes at one point of becoming a novelist.
This beautiful memoir is additional confirmation, as if any was needed,
that the most interesting literature today uses this medium, just as the
best films are documentaries rather than fiction. It would seem that
true life, as long as it is described mercilessly but with compassion,
is far more compelling than the best novel.
I had a particular affinity for this memoir as a one-time motorcycle
owner, even if it was an underpowered Jawa motorcycle—more of a scooter
than a real bike. I was green with envy as Matthew described his father
giving him the present of a Matchless Motorcycle when he was just a
teenager. Of course, that might be expected given Sid Biberman’s
long-time involvement with motorcycles, both as a rider and as a
motorcycle shop owner and master mechanic. When I bought my Jawa in
1965, my father only worried whether I would get killed or maimed in a
highway accident, thus sacrificing the small fortune he had invested in
my education. This was despite the fact that he rode a motorcycle
himself during his years in the army.
Sid Biberman can best be described as a “tough Jew“, a type of anomalous
character described by Rich Cohen in “Tough Jews : Fathers, Sons, and
Gangster Dreams”. Despite having a father who was a butcher, closer in
sociological terms to my fruit store owning dad, Sid Biberman became
seduced by motorcycles at an early age and was drawn into a subculture
we associate with tattooed “goyim”, or gentiles. Ironically, “Big Sid”,
who could lift a motorcycle with his beefy arms when he was young, could
pass for one of these characters but without the tattoos of course. As
you probably know, a tattoo will keep you out of a Jewish cemetery.
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