A Unicyclist’s Guide to America
Why a unicycle? Why a cross-country trip? Why leave a prominent New York magazine and return to the simple life in Kentucky?
Reminiscent of classic literary travelogues, Mark Schimmoeller’s Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America takes readers on an inward, emotional journey as he inches across landscapes and communities from North Carolina to Arizona.
Schimmoeller became inspired by his unicycle as an adolescent. It taught him that rushing—whether down the driveway or toward adulthood—would cause a fall, and so, instead of accepting the speeding, straight line that de-fines modern American life, he adopted his single wheel’s wayward rhythms.
Written with poise and humor, Slowspoke is more than a cross-country trip on a unicycle; it’s a meditation on a playful, recalcitrant slowness that is increasingly rare in a culture obsessed with acceleration. At times ach-ing and other times joyful, Schimmoeller intersperses recollections of his journey with vignettes of his present-day, off-the-grid homesteading with his wife in Kentucky and their efforts to save an old-growth forest.
Schimmoeller’s personal journey will resonate with anyone who has slowed down to experience life at a unicycle’s speed or who longs to do so, who has fallen in love or searched for it, or who has treasured tall trees or mourned their loss.
Reviews and Praise
"A man stands naked in the cold air of a winter’s morning. Because he has to? No, because he wants to. He savors the anticipation of a warm-water outdoor bath near his home. He’s there '…to feel the heat of the water and more to the point, to feel the heat of the water after being cold.’ This anticipatory streak in Schimmoeller is his defining characteristic, the one that helped him to unicycle his way across the USA in 1992. Though there is plenty about the physical journey, the book is less about that than it is him expostulating on life generally, especially the one he has built with his wife living off the grid in rural Kentucky. He darts back and forth through time, managing to charm the hell out of readers the whole way. With liberal amounts of verbiage and a winning disregard for moving his story forward, Schimmoeller’s story meanders exactly as a pleasant, cool stream would: seeking its own level, going at its own pace, beholden only to itself—and exuberantly charming in that freedom. After a co-Valedictorian high school career (but no dates with girls), the author majored in English and spent some unhappy time working for a NYC magazine. He gradually came to the idea that, instead, he would let life rip. He’d '…put the backpack on, strap the canteen over me, and launch myself on the unicycle.' VERDICT Homesteaders, independent thinkers, off-the-gridders, slowpokes of the world, and those who love dudes like us—unite! We have found our superhero/poet laureate!”
More Reviews and Praise
“This is a beautiful book, lushly written and elegantly rendered. In these pages, lines, and gorgeous human moments, we are transported to what the future must include.”--Nikky Finney, author, Head Off & Split, 2011 National Book Award winner
“In the quest for growth, we have come to undermine the very meaning of life. Someone needs to point a new way. People like Mark Schimmoeller do that for us. Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America is as wise as it is entertaining.”--Colin Beavan, author, No Impact Man
“The book will remind readers of other homesteading narratives, such as Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle... In some ways, it also transcends personal history, like a modern-day Pilgrim’s Progress: one man, alone on a road, seeking redemption and ultimately finding it. Not just for unicyclists, Schimmoeller’s memoir is beautifully written and often funny; a real find.”
“This is just the kind of epic we need right now—humble, sweet, and very deep indeed. As good a travel story—within and without—as you’ll read anytime soon!”--Bill McKibben, author of New York Times bestseller Eaarth
"Mark Schimmoeller's Slowspoke captures the multi-faceted culture and spirit of America in the early twenty-first century the way Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance revealed us to ourselves forty years ago. Schimmoeller has a gentle, honest, insightful voice, a Thoreauvian vision, and a gift for bringing to life the dozens of individualists he meets along his way, both on and off the grid. Slowspoke offers us a unique and hopeful look at who we really are and who we still have the potential to become. This is an important book: moving, deeply personal, and all kinds of fun to read."--Howard Frank Mosher, author of The Great Northern Express, Walking to Gatlinburg, and On Kingdom Mountain
Publishers Weekly, starred review-
"Sumptuous language and a disarming gentleness propel this profoundly simple, funny, and sincere memoir... The author's story of finding a way to live in the world on his own terms is told simultaneously with that of his attempts to save old-growth forest... 'It doesn't make a difference one way or the other if I take a break,' he tells a stranger who questions the intensely slow pace of his mode of transport--an explanation that speaks to the author's quest to find respite in a troubled world."
About The Author
|Size:||5.5 x 8.5 inch|
|Publisher:||Chelsea Green Publishing|
|Pub. Date:||August 8, 2014|
Available In/Retail PricePaperback, 328 pages, $17.95
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