[Marxism] Big Sid's Vincati

Louis Proyect 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.

read full review: 

More information about the Marxism mailing list