Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Book Review: Bikeman by Thomas F. Flynn

On September 11, 2001, journalist Thomas Flynn jumped onto his bicycle and rode to Ground Zero to cover the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. He would soon find himself caught up in the events of that “forever September morning”, his life – like that of countless others – changed forever.

Flynn’s words paint a vivid picture of the low flying jet, an ominous and incongruous sight as it skimmed the tree tops above him and roared towards its target. His words are equally eidetic as he describes his arrival at Ground Zero, where he sees people jumping from the burning buildings, tumbling like rag dolls to the ground below. The reader, like Thomas, is there for the most intimate moment in the life of a stranger:

“I am witness to this and embarrassed.
I am an intruder on the most private moment
of her life: her death.”

Flynn also records the surreal visage of the towers engulfed in flames:

“The flaming tower mocks a colossal lighthouse
built to protect unsuspecting passengers
No, this is not the lady of the harbor
who carries a torch of dreams
It is a barbarian beacon, with no intention
to warn those who see her beams.”

Throughout the poem, the reader bears witness to Flynn’s struggle to survive, and later, his struggle to come to grips with being a survivor:

“We did not live through it,
we just did not die.”

Bikeman is billed as an epic poem in the style of Dante’s Inferno. This may sound intimidating to someone who is not a regular poetry reader. However, Flynn’s style is very approachable and easy to read. It will be enjoyed by both serious poetry students and those who may be unfamiliar (or perhaps a bit uncomfortable) with the genre.

At just over seventy pages, Bikeman is a quick read, but a lasting experience. Within the first few minutes of my reading, I found that I was so engrossed in the experience that I was holding my breath. Flynn’s words and the images that they evoke stayed with me long after the last page had been turned.

Visceral and hauntingly beautiful, Flynn’s poetry is an intense and unique insight into one of the darkest days in American history. Bikeman has found a place of honor on my bookshelf, and it is a book that I cannot recommend highly enough.

Rating: 9/10.

Buy Bikeman:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon


  1. Interesting ... I've avoided most books about 9/11, but this seems like something I could manage. I'll have to look for it when it's released.

  2. This was the first 9/11 book that I've read. I've avoided most of them as well, thinking that it's still too soon. (It's amazing how six years ago can seem like just yesterday.) But I requested this one from Early Reviewers because I've been wanting to get out of my comfort zone a little -- try some new genres, new authors, etc. And I'm really glad that I did. It's a beautiful, beautiful book.