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The Escape Artist: Life from the Saddle

The Escape Artist: Life from the Saddle

Paperback

By (author) Matt Seaton

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  • Publisher: FOURTH ESTATE LTD
  • Format: Paperback | 192 pages
  • Dimensions: 122mm x 196mm x 14mm | 159g
  • Publication date: 2 June 2003
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1841151041
  • ISBN 13: 9781841151045
  • Sales rank: 74,571

Product description

Matt Seaton's critically acclaimed memoir about his obsession for cycling and how that obsession was tamed. For a time there were four bikes in Matt Seaton's life. His evenings were spent 'doing the miles' on the roads out of south London and into the hills of the North Downs and Kent Weald. Weekends were taken up with track meets, time trials and road races - rides that took him from cold village halls at dawn and onto the empty bypasses of southern England. With its rituals, its code of honour and its comradeship, cycling became a passion that bordered on possession. It was at once a world apart, private to its initiates and, through the races he rode in Belgium, Mallorca and Ireland, a passport to an international fraternity. But then marriage, children and his wife's illness forced a reckoning with real life and, ultimately, a reappraisal of why cycling had become so compelling in the first place. Today, those bikes are scattered, sold, or gathering dust in an attic. Wry, frank and elegiac, 'The Escape Artist' is a celebration of an amateur sport and the simple beauty of cycling. It is also a story about the passage from youth to adulthood, about what it means to give up something fiercely loved in return for a kind of wisdom.

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Author information

Matt Seaton was born in Brighton in 1965. He has written for, amongst others, the Observer, Telegraph, Vogue, Independent on Sunday, Daily Mail, and the New York Times Book Review. He is a contributing editor at Esquire and the Parents editor at the Guardian. He co-edited and contributed to the book Before I Say Goodbye (Penguin, 1998), by his late wife, the journalist Ruth Picardie. He is remarried, to American writer Anna Shapiro, and lives in Kennington, south London, with her and his two children.

Review quote

'As poignant an elegy as I have ever read. I finished the last chapters of this book just before I went to sleep, and in the morning, with a swoop of grief in my guts, it was the first thing I thought of.' Toby Clements, Daily Telegraph 'Thoroughly tragic and almost brilliant. The Escape Artist is an achingly sad account of what Seaton now refers to as 'my former life.' Robert MacFarlane, Observer 'A heart-stopping examination of how, why and for what we push ourselves to the edge. I never thought I'd cry about bikes and cycling. It is one of those rare books you could give to absolutely anyone - and one you'll want to keep by you and read again and again.' Julie Myerson 'This book is, above all, about passion and loss. It's about the passion of life at the very edge of athletic and mechanical achievement that is eventually lost to love of a wife and children, which in turn gives way to the loss of the wise and mother herself. I read and relished this book.' Jon Snow, Guardian

Editorial reviews

A confession of an obsession with cycle racing, this book is a rich source of information providing not only technical details of the machines themselves but also an evocation of the insular world of bikies with their rituals, codes of honour and camaraderie allied to competitiveness. In attempting to explore the psychology of people who find a challenge in punishing themselves, Matt Seaton explains the relevance of associated activities, such as turbo-training, measuring pulse rates and even leg-shaving, and he spices the book with ancecdotes concerning fellow cyclists similarly obsessed with 'doing the miles' and 'feeling the burn'. Particularly memorable is the story of riders in the Tour de France stuffing slices of raw steak into the back of their shorts to use as a cushion before setting out in the morning then handing the meat, suitably marinaded in sweat, to a local restaurant in the evening. Whilst extolling the sense of sheer exhilaration in escaping from the mundane into a world of fresh air, speed and, sometimes, danger, Seaton is no mere cycle-racing evangelist. He balances his memoirs with an honest account of the extent to which his passion impinged upon his personal life, especially his marriage to the late journalist Ruth Picardie, dominated by early starts, time spent away from home and fears that their infertility problems are caused by the well-known effect of tight shorts. Seaton has avoided the trappings of obsession - boringness and self-delusion - to produce a highly enjoyable memoir which will appeal to fellow cycling enthusiasts and autobiography fans alike. (Kirkus UK)