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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Greasy Rider" The Return of the American Male Road Novel

I picked Greasy Rider , by Greg Melville while I was aimlessly browsing through the 10 or 20 new volumes on the New Books shelf in the local library last Wednesday. I was attracted to by the punny title, and I'm glad to say once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. I wasn't sure what to expect, I feared the book might be earnest and scolding as Melville's blog, but I was happily proven wrong.

Although Greasy Rider includes serious discussions about environmentalism and renewable fuels, most of the book is a romping return to the Great American Road Novel, told through a more journalistic than literary prose. Melville is a thirtyish married guy with with two kids, major bad communication with his controlling and scolding wife, and absolutely no mechanical ability. When he wants a second car, he buys a 30 year old Mercedes station wagon and converts it to run on vegetable oil, rather than answer his wife's nagging about the wastefulness of owning two cars. Now comes the midlife crisis that seems to hit at younger and younger ages these days.

He finds his road buddy in a recently divorced compulsive shopper friend with whom he's been pretty much out of touch since college. But, this Iggy guy is brilliant with engines and drives Melville to deepen his research and self knowledge, while often talking in a Gomer Pyle voice until Melville threatens to kill him. Is this a road novel or what?

Their mission is to drive from his home in Vermont to a vegetable oil filling station in Berkeley, California, using vegetable oil he finds along the way for fuel (actually, the greasecar system uses a small amount of diesel fuel at the beginning if each drive to heat the vegetable oil to about 80 degrees F. Melville used four gallons of diesel on his cross country trip).

The trip is a series of misadventures from mechanical issues, summoning courage to ask restaurants for their used grease, and visits to various renewable energy high points. In between the road stories, Melville describes what he learned from visiting various renewable energy hot spots. His visit to Al Gore's place (actually looked around the gate because he wasn't asked in) was great.

What I liked best about the book was the rhythm of misadventures, I always wanted to know what these two chowderheads were going to get into next.

I give this book 4 stars.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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I must enjoy shouting into a vacuum, but I think about getting my act together one of these days. My mom says I am very handsome and intelligent.

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