Book Review: Big Sid’s Vincati by Matthew Biberman
Hudson Street Press, New York, 2009
140 miles per hour! Before I read this book, I didn’t even know that vintage motorcycles could aspire to such speeds. Matthew Biberman is a college professor. His father, Sid, is a famous motorcycle mechanic and tuner. In simple terms, Big Sid’s Vincati tells the story of how the two went on a quest to build a legendary vintage motorcycle that combines the powerful engine of a British Vincent and the sleek chassis of an Italian Ducati. If the book was simply filled with memorable motorcycling adventures, mechanical challenges, and moments of genius, it would be a good read. But, just as the Vincati is much more than a motorcycle, Big Sid’s Vincati is more than a biker book. You don’t even have to be a motorcyclist to enjoy this book.
As a narrative, Big Sid’s Vincati addresses many themes. At it’s heart, this is the story of how an adult son connected with his aging father by building motorcycles and particularly the Vincati. The reader learns how both men came of age as motorcyclists. It shows Sid and his son dealing with the issue of mortality. It offers a glimpse at how men struggle to keep dreams alive amid the challenges of daily life, family life, and medical issues. It shows how Matthew and his father struggled with the rivalry between a stubborn father and an independent son or vice versa. Every man with a consuming hobby can relate to the struggle to carve out hobby time while maintaining quality time with one’s wife.
The themes addressed in this book are deep and many men lack the self-awareness to even articulate the existence of these issues. But, Matthew Biberman’s prose is always warm and readable. As the book motors along, Big Sid’s Vincati never becomes too wordy, maudlin, or sentimental. While the personal themes play out and Matthew and his family members grow and evolve, there are plenty of exciting blasts down country roads on powerful motorcycles to keep it all an adventure.
Matthew Biberman wrote that he had once dreamed of writing the great American novel. Instead, by writing what he knows and writing from his heart, Biberman has written a great American story. You learn a little about motorcycles and a lot about people as you read Big Sid’s Vincati. I highly recommend this book. Besides, whenever an English professor writes about something other than deconstructionist, feminist, paramarxist perspectives on gender roles in The Canterbury Tales, that effort should be praised and rewarded. Maybe we’ll get more Dude Lit for real guys?
Other articles by this contributor:
Be a Man: Read Like a Man
Car Review: the 1973 Opel GT
Sailboat Review: The Flying Scot