“I wrote it for myself, mostly when I couldn’t sleep. I wrote it to help explain the world to myself.” -Ron McLarty
You may recognize Ron McLarty’s name from audio books he has recorded plus movie and television appearances. He wrote ‘The Memory of Running’ in 1987 and couldn’t get it published so he decided to record it. Stephen King hears it and calls it “the best novel you won’t read this year”. In 2005, seventeen years from its conception, ‘The Memory of Running’ is published.
Smithy is an unlikely hero; 279 pounds, feeling inadequate, gone astray from what he was and could become. As with all true heroes, the thing he must conquer is ‘himself’ and that’s what he doesn’t comprehend as of yet. So the quest is soon to be realized as fate has a way of walking tiptoed around us until the time is right.
When his parent’s suddenly die in a car accident, Smithy inadvertently finds himself on a road trip… the ride, a beat up ‘Raleigh’ bicycle… the destination, across the continental United States… the reason, to claim his emotionally unbalanced sister’s remains from a morgue in Los Angeles.
As Smithy loses the pounds, he also loses his inhibitions and comes to terms with his own self-loathing. His sister, though dead, urges him on, as the memory of her voice implores him to keep running; “you must never stop running!” He sees her throughout the journey, on treetops, in mid-air, especially when a defining moment is at hand. In the end, wisdom and freedom are found at the fringes of Maya’s veil for both Smithy and his sister.
This is as much a redemptive trip for the memory of Smithy’s sister as he comes to realizes that intermittent with all our fear and anger is kindness and compassion. The road is one long cross-country meditation for Smithy; the role of the bike on hard blacktop, the sacred sounds of nature at night, are all one mantra as he personally lives the Buddhist decree of ‘joy amidst the sorrows of the world’. One can also go to Thomas Mann’s ‘Erotic Irony’, borrowed from Nietzsche and echoed by Joseph Campbell … say ‘yes’ to life, for with all its iniquity and perplexity, it’s the only choice we have.