Mar 11, 2009

Book Review: A Cure for Gravity

A Cure for Gravity, by Arthur Rosenfeld, 2001

All Rights Reserved © 2008 Thomas W. Day

I'm a binge reader. I get hooked on a topic and read everything I can about it. This month, I started an adventure touring binge and I checked out every book in the library on motorcycle adventures. While I was doing my library search, I bumped into A Cure for Gravity. Mostly, I'm not much of a fan of motorcycle novels. I've read a few. Most are poorly written, motorcycles ignorant, and closer to romance novels or bad westerns than they are to entertaining literature. Sometimes, however, I run into an author who reminds me that the only skill I've picked up in forty years of attempting to learn the writing trade is a refined ability to know when I am reading the work of a master. Arthur Rosenfeld is a word crafting master.

It was the title that made me stick this book on my checkout list, A Cure for Gravity. Motorcycling has "cured" gravity for me, momentarily, several times and I thought that the author might have some actual insight into motorcycling. It was a lucky guess. When I saw the cover page, an upside down view of a long, straight section of two-lane, I suspected the author might really know something about riding. Rosenfeld is, in fact, a motorcyclist. He is also a fine writer. If I had to put him in a category, he'd be in the Elmore Leonard, William Goldman, Joe Heller, and Pete Dexter category. Those writers are my favorite in a curious genre. The genre is "story teller." Is it a mystery? Is it a fantasy? Is it a ghost story? Is it one of the best, funniest, most complicated novels I've read in years? Yes. All of those. And a motorcycle trip is in the mix. Like the work of my favorite fiction authors, Rosenfeld weaves a story that is beyond genres.

in either an event of synchronicity, bad luck, or not-so-clever marketing, for his first novel Rosenfeld (or his publisher) chose a title very close to Joe Jackson's 2000 autobiography. Jackson's story was about how music lifted his life above the gravity of his social caste. Rosenfeld's title refers to something less specific.

Gravity has a large collection of characters, but the main focus is on two riders crossing the country on motorcycles; Mercury Grant and Umberto Santana. The two bikers meet each other fantastically defying gravity with the assistance of an Oklahoma tornado. Grant is a middle-aged, ex-vet, ex-limo-driving-fishing-boat-captaining refuge from an incredibly failed love affair on the way to an unclear destination. Santana is a 17-year-old Cuban bank robbing bike mechanic on the run of his life. Other principle characters are FBI agent Eagle Cooper, 6-year-old blind Audrey and her widowed grandmother, Santana's gorgeous wannabe-a-movie-star pregnant girlfriend, a murderous lover, and a collection of bad memories and ghosts.

Santana thinks he pulled the perfect crime, that he's set himself up for life with a $370,000 one-time bank robbery. However, a U.S. Senator freaked out during the robbery and, in an asthma attack, suffocated and died. Now, her rich husband wants revenge and Santana's otherwise incredibly lucky day takes a vicious turn. Grant isn't part of the plan until he involves himself. The FBI and Cooper are on Santana's back tire and that means both riders are on a different trip than the one they planned to take.

A Cure for Gravity is a rare gem in an otherwise desolate pile of rocks. We often meet interesting strangers on a long motorcycle trip, but this is one strange trip. While you're at it, check out Rosenfeld's 2nd book, Diamond Eye. It is also about a character who occasionally rides a motorcycle and it is, also, a terrific read.

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