May 02, 2007

Dreaming of Jupiter by Ted Simon

Writing about web page http://www.jupitalia.com

Book front cover
Title:
Dreaming Of Jupiter
Author:
Ted Simon
ISBN:
0316732273
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars
Ted’s new book is out. I rode down to Dorset to meet him and get a copy. It is really good. Worth reading even if you haven’t read Jupiter’s Travels yet (surely everyone has read that travel writing classic).

59,000 miles on a motorcycle is, in experiental terms, quite a journey. It is many times greater than that same distance travelled by car. And by air? – there is no comparison possible. There is always something special about travelling by motorcycle. Ted Simon has developed conclusive arguments on the subject: being exposed to the elements and the terrain, covering large distances with ease, experiencing sudden contrasts and juxtapositions, meeting people on their own more human terms, the constant physical and mental difficulty that intensifies experience, the ability to just stop anywhere at anytime, changing direction or just letting unplanned things happen, and quite often the humility of being a small individual on a big road. Speed and agility should of course also be mentioned. And danger? Yes, as Ted recently explained to me, that has to be part of it too. You’ll find all of these factors throughout Ted’s latest book, Dreaming of Jupiter. Both on the journey that it documents, and in the resulting book, they combine to make for an exciting and important read.

In 29 months, between January 2001 and June 2003, Ted piloted his bike, with varying degrees of skill and luck, on a journey of just that great intensive and extensive length. For a second time, he encircled the world and joined up countless distinct points and narratives just as he had in the ‘70s, resulting in the classic Jupiter’s Travels . On many occasions, chance and geopolitical forces conspired to pull him away from his planned route, which should have followed that of the 1973 journey. Afghanistan was out of the question, with consequences for Pakistan. The results are, however, still as interesting, and perhaps even more significant in providing us with a picture of how the world has changed in 30 years, and to where it might be heading. Perhaps the most important thread joining the two books together is that of migration, and the plight of the migrant. In 1973, I have claimed (and Ted says I’m on the right track) he was a migrant amongst migrants. Now he returns to the ever moving ever striving ever changing “unfinished world” (Ted’s great alternative description of the developing world). The intensity of it’s desires and frustrations is shocking. This book acts as a warning to the rich nations.

So there then are a few good reasons to read Dreaming of Jupiter. But there’s a lot more. Ted’s style, a master of the art of travel writing, sets these arguments within a thoroughly enjoyable context. There’s more humour than the first book. Characters and situations are drawn up rapidly, but without resorting to cliches and stereotypes. Add to that lots of action (including one of the most dangerous high altitude breakdown rescues ever), beautiful ladies, fun with the Allende’s, and a BMW R80GS, what more could you possibly ask for?


- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Richard hyett

    There is a scene in this new book where he gets on an old Triumph in NZ and realizes how hard it is to ride without a fairing/windscreen, it gives him new respect for his forty year old self. I’d hoped he would elaborate or probe this a bit further. Unfaired Pirsig makes a similar point to Simon about how Motorcycling turns you from a spectator (In a car scenery is just more TV) to a participant in the landscape. Whilst both authors are happy to contrast Motorcycling with Driving neither looks the other way and contrasts it with walking or running, or just standing in one place (fishing).

    10 May 2007, 12:56


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