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Organ Grinder: A Classical Education Gone Astray

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A freewheeling essay on mortality and freedom at the intersection of ancient philosophy and biker culture After my accident, I thought I was done with bikes. Until a few years ago—I was lying in bed having trouble sleeping when I heard a voice say to me, “Alan, get a Harley and ride to Death Valley.” I didn’t even like Harleys. And I didn’t believe that God had called down A freewheeling essay on mortality and freedom at the intersection of ancient philosophy and biker culture After my accident, I thought I was done with bikes. Until a few years ago—I was lying in bed having trouble sleeping when I heard a voice say to me, “Alan, get a Harley and ride to Death Valley.” I didn’t even like Harleys. And I didn’t believe that God had called down and told me to get one. It seemed unlikely that the monotheistic God we’re stuck with would endorse a brand of motorcycle—maybe the pagan gods of antiquity would. Zeus might have ridden a Harley, or Apollo a BMW; you can imagine Aphrodite on the back of Ares’ Ninja, zooming around the planets with a golden thong sticking up over the back of her toga. Even that twerp Hermes on a Vespa. Those gods liked to drink, and screw, and run around like bikers, but not Yawheh—strictly black limousines and heavy security for that guy. Thou shalt not ride. Thou shalt not be free. Thou shalt pay off the debt of thy sins to eternity. So begins one of the salty, sharp-eyed anecdotes that fill the pages of Organ Grinder, a book-length essay written by Alan Fishbone, a motorcycle-riding scholar of ancient Greek and Latin. In a series of short pieces inspired by Horatian satire, Fishbone bounces from gonzo fever-dream to philosophical treatise, investigating the conflicts between idealism and cynicism, love and sex, body and soul. One part Plato, one part Aristophanes, two parts Easy Rider, Organ Grinder is a heady cocktail of lewd wisdom—Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for our own, irreverent age.


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A freewheeling essay on mortality and freedom at the intersection of ancient philosophy and biker culture After my accident, I thought I was done with bikes. Until a few years ago—I was lying in bed having trouble sleeping when I heard a voice say to me, “Alan, get a Harley and ride to Death Valley.” I didn’t even like Harleys. And I didn’t believe that God had called down A freewheeling essay on mortality and freedom at the intersection of ancient philosophy and biker culture After my accident, I thought I was done with bikes. Until a few years ago—I was lying in bed having trouble sleeping when I heard a voice say to me, “Alan, get a Harley and ride to Death Valley.” I didn’t even like Harleys. And I didn’t believe that God had called down and told me to get one. It seemed unlikely that the monotheistic God we’re stuck with would endorse a brand of motorcycle—maybe the pagan gods of antiquity would. Zeus might have ridden a Harley, or Apollo a BMW; you can imagine Aphrodite on the back of Ares’ Ninja, zooming around the planets with a golden thong sticking up over the back of her toga. Even that twerp Hermes on a Vespa. Those gods liked to drink, and screw, and run around like bikers, but not Yawheh—strictly black limousines and heavy security for that guy. Thou shalt not ride. Thou shalt not be free. Thou shalt pay off the debt of thy sins to eternity. So begins one of the salty, sharp-eyed anecdotes that fill the pages of Organ Grinder, a book-length essay written by Alan Fishbone, a motorcycle-riding scholar of ancient Greek and Latin. In a series of short pieces inspired by Horatian satire, Fishbone bounces from gonzo fever-dream to philosophical treatise, investigating the conflicts between idealism and cynicism, love and sex, body and soul. One part Plato, one part Aristophanes, two parts Easy Rider, Organ Grinder is a heady cocktail of lewd wisdom—Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for our own, irreverent age.

30 review for Organ Grinder: A Classical Education Gone Astray

  1. 4 out of 5

    John

    Thought it would be an educated essay on life and meaning. Instead, it was a meandering, lost-and-don't-care stream of consciousness without any focus or real value for me. Was excited about reading something from a new (to me anyway) author, especially when I noticed that he taught Aikido. But there is zero Aikido (or anything remotely Aikido-minded) in this book. The description of the sexual encounter served only to advertise the author's exploits in graphic detail. The graphic description of Thought it would be an educated essay on life and meaning. Instead, it was a meandering, lost-and-don't-care stream of consciousness without any focus or real value for me. Was excited about reading something from a new (to me anyway) author, especially when I noticed that he taught Aikido. But there is zero Aikido (or anything remotely Aikido-minded) in this book. The description of the sexual encounter served only to advertise the author's exploits in graphic detail. The graphic description of the autopsy might be interesting to others, but I found it distractingly graphic and skipped the last half. Can't recommend this book, even though it is a quick read I wished I had spent this time reading something else.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Meghan Davis strader

    I thought this was going to be about Classical Education. Instead it was about the author's drunken driving, motorcycle accidents and obscene sexual encounters. I stopped reading after part one because it was so gross and offered nothing worthwhile at all. If the Classical Education is defined as finding that which is beautiful, truthful and worthy, this author has thrown the classical education out the window for the most crass and gruesome life has to offer. I thought this was going to be about Classical Education. Instead it was about the author's drunken driving, motorcycle accidents and obscene sexual encounters. I stopped reading after part one because it was so gross and offered nothing worthwhile at all. If the Classical Education is defined as finding that which is beautiful, truthful and worthy, this author has thrown the classical education out the window for the most crass and gruesome life has to offer.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dylan

    Super incoherent, essentially a jumbled mess of unrelated stories. Occasionally there would be some “philosophical” line shoehorned in to try adding meaning to the garbage. An early chapter is just a long description of the author having sex, the next chapter details his drunk driving experiences. Every story was incredibly sexist and disrespectful to women. I had to finally put the book down when the author started throwing the t-slur around. Considering burning my copy so nobody else has to su Super incoherent, essentially a jumbled mess of unrelated stories. Occasionally there would be some “philosophical” line shoehorned in to try adding meaning to the garbage. An early chapter is just a long description of the author having sex, the next chapter details his drunk driving experiences. Every story was incredibly sexist and disrespectful to women. I had to finally put the book down when the author started throwing the t-slur around. Considering burning my copy so nobody else has to suffer through this garbage. I’m feeling a lot of anger just remembering sections of this book. If I ever had the misfortune of meeting this man in real life, I’d hock a loogie in his face

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    This "book" was a piece of garbage and doesn't even deserve ONE star! It was filled with senseless ramblings. I found his useless words as filth. He has no respect for women or children, calling children a crude name of a woman's anatomy and other things stated regarding females. I think this guy did too many drugs in his days and had too many motorcycle accidents and it caused him to be brain damaged, in some way. In conclusion, I'm surprised this piece of trash even got published. By the way, This "book" was a piece of garbage and doesn't even deserve ONE star! It was filled with senseless ramblings. I found his useless words as filth. He has no respect for women or children, calling children a crude name of a woman's anatomy and other things stated regarding females. I think this guy did too many drugs in his days and had too many motorcycle accidents and it caused him to be brain damaged, in some way. In conclusion, I'm surprised this piece of trash even got published. By the way, great philosophers of ancient Greece would probably be insulted by his statements and spit on this trash. This book is worthy of the trash compactor. I received this book as a Goodreads first reads, in exchange for my honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mycala

    When I first started reading, I liked this book. A lot. But I'm careful what I put in my head. I am a visual person. I am a thoughtful person. If you care about living creatures, there is something in part 2 that you might find offensive. I don't care if anyone gets angry at me for saying so; if I can spare another person from reading something that they might find upsetting then so be it. I would have given this book four or five stars but going into that in graphic detail was completely unnece When I first started reading, I liked this book. A lot. But I'm careful what I put in my head. I am a visual person. I am a thoughtful person. If you care about living creatures, there is something in part 2 that you might find offensive. I don't care if anyone gets angry at me for saying so; if I can spare another person from reading something that they might find upsetting then so be it. I would have given this book four or five stars but going into that in graphic detail was completely unnecessary.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gregory

    I couldn't decide whether to give this book 0 or 5 stars, but if you are paying attention the innards of the book are pretty amazing. I'd love to hang with this guy! I couldn't decide whether to give this book 0 or 5 stars, but if you are paying attention the innards of the book are pretty amazing. I'd love to hang with this guy!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Aaronlisa

    When I bought this book, I was mislead by both the blurb on the back & the subtitle. The book is billed as memoir & philosophy. The problem is that the author has merely collected a bunch of short essays that are somewhat philosophical in nature and somewhat biographical in nature. While I am not a prude by any means, I think I should have stopped reading after the crude description of a sexual encounter between the author and a lady friend of his - and that was about 18 pages in. No I stuck wit When I bought this book, I was mislead by both the blurb on the back & the subtitle. The book is billed as memoir & philosophy. The problem is that the author has merely collected a bunch of short essays that are somewhat philosophical in nature and somewhat biographical in nature. While I am not a prude by any means, I think I should have stopped reading after the crude description of a sexual encounter between the author and a lady friend of his - and that was about 18 pages in. No I stuck with this book, hoping that there would be something worthwhile. Boy was I disappointed. I should have stopped when a book in 2017 was published with fat-shaming and discriminatory language because it really doesn’t get better. The few intriguing pieces that are either memoir or philosophical in nature (or both) aren’t worth wading through the rest of the book. Yes, Fishbone can write but the problem with this book is it’s hard to tell if it’s supposed to be memoir or philosophy. A book that is 100 pages really should know what it wants to be. The memoir parts are mostly too shallow to make the reader invested and the philosophical parts too much a lecture with no depth. At the end of the day, the book is shallow. I am not even sure what the author’s point is at the end. And I have spent to long on this review. It was a tedious read that never really got anywhere because it was trying to be two things at once and kind of failing at both.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Melson

    When I first started reading this book I thought he was bragging about being reckless and disrespecting women, children, and even himself. I almost stopped reading it, but decided to power through because it seemed like he was being honest and realistic. By the end, I came to realize that there was more to this guy (and his story) than I ever would have guessed from the first half of the book, and I was glad I finished it. Even though his story is raunchy and told in an indelicate way (outright o When I first started reading this book I thought he was bragging about being reckless and disrespecting women, children, and even himself. I almost stopped reading it, but decided to power through because it seemed like he was being honest and realistic. By the end, I came to realize that there was more to this guy (and his story) than I ever would have guessed from the first half of the book, and I was glad I finished it. Even though his story is raunchy and told in an indelicate way (outright offensively even), I think it was insightful, and lived up to its sub-title "A Classical Education Gone Astray". I did have trouble rating this book though. I chose to give it a score based on what was good about it, and to overlook the misogyny and carelessness on the grounds that he is a biker--thus I gave it four stars. But, I could have easily given two stars, and would not suggest it to anyone who is easily offended.

  9. 4 out of 5

    George K. Ilsley

    A slim collection of essays. Does the title or sub-title tie them together, or offer a through-line? The last two pieces were particularly off course. Never trust a philosophy nerd to tell you the punch line of a long joke about a moth going to a podiatrist. Perhaps the message is "Life distracts us from finding the meaning of life". One is left with more insight into the origins of words than insight into this slim volume's author. A slim collection of essays. Does the title or sub-title tie them together, or offer a through-line? The last two pieces were particularly off course. Never trust a philosophy nerd to tell you the punch line of a long joke about a moth going to a podiatrist. Perhaps the message is "Life distracts us from finding the meaning of life". One is left with more insight into the origins of words than insight into this slim volume's author.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Wenger

    this book was incredibly male. i’m not sure how else to describe it

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brian Beatty

    Meh..

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elyn

  13. 4 out of 5

    Spencer

  14. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  15. 5 out of 5

    C K P

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dylan Tarr

  17. 5 out of 5

    KC McKenna

    Exceptional!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Spagnolo

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sam Ladah

  20. 5 out of 5

    bobby

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chef

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  23. 5 out of 5

    Steven Pfau

  24. 4 out of 5

    Trent Smith

  25. 4 out of 5

    Doug Bell

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Manion

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bert Williams

  28. 5 out of 5

    John

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura Applebee

  30. 4 out of 5

    Robin Bonne

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