BookBrowse Reviews The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty

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The Memory of Running

by Ron McLarty

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2005, 358 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2006, 384 pages

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A funny, poignant, slightly gawky debut that aims, like its protagonist, to please - and usually does. Novel

From the book jacket: Meet Smithson "Smithy" Ide, an overweight, friendless, chain-smoking, forty-three-year-old drunk who works as a quality control inspector at a toy action-figure factory in Rhode Island. By all accounts, including Smithy's own, he's a loser. But when Smithy's life of quiet desperation is brutally interrupted by tragedy, he stumbles across his old Raleigh bicycle and impulsively sets off on an epic journey that might give him one last chance to become the person he always wanted to be. As he pedals across America—with stops in New York City, St. Louis, Denver, and Phoenix, to name a few—he encounters humanity at its best and worst and adventures that are by turns hilarious, luminous, and extraordinary. Along the way, Smithy falls in love and back into life.

Comment: The Memory of Running had an unusual genesis as an audiobook original (Recorded Books 2002), which Stephen King raved about in Entertainment Weekly saying, 'this is a book that can do more than walk; it has a chance to be a breakout bestseller...Smithy is an American original, worthy of a place on the shelf just below your Hucks, your Holdens, your Yossarians*.   King's glowing endorsement led to a veritable publisher feeding frenzy in the USA with rights being sold to Viking Penguin for $2m; the sale of rights to 12 further countries followed soon after.

You can read reviews by Wally Lamb, Publishers Weekly and Library Journal at BookBrowse - all  generally positive, for example Publishers Weekly concludes, 'it's a funny, poignant, slightly gawky debut that aims, like its protagonist, to please—and usually does; while Wally Lamb says, 'riders who hop onto the back of Smithy Ide's bike and ride America with him will cherish the journey. I loved this sad, funny, life-affirming novel.'  However, Kirkus Review is having none of this, describing The Memory of Running as 'a dreary tale of woe, with none of the dark places illuminated'. 

I listened to the original audiobook and enjoyed it quite a lot. I can't comment on the print version because when I compared the first few chapters of the audio version to the print version it seemed to me that the latter had been quite substantially edited - so that, for example, the first chapter in audio is not the first chapter in print. No doubt the story is essentially the same but I have only listened to one, and not read the other!

*Huck (Huckleberry Finn),  Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye) and Yossarian (Catch-22).

This review was originally published in February 2005, and has been updated for the January 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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