Long Distance: A Year of Living Strenuously

Bill McKibben, Author Simon & Schuster $23 (192p) ISBN 978-0-684-85597-4
McKibben's description of his decision at age 37 to hire a professional exercise guru and undergo a grueling, year-long regimen of cross-country ski training on a par with that of an Olympian is as well done as his project may seem ambitious. McKibben (Hundred Dollar Holiday) admits early on, ""I'm not sure where my wimpiness came from."" He describes how, through all his torturous physical training, his most rewarding results have been psychological. ""I came seeking sweat,"" he writes, ""and found only enlightenment."" A balance of humor and healthy cynicism keeps the sentiment from overwhelming the text. McKibben also steers clear of an obsession with chronology or a journal-entry style that often dogs such projects, instead telling his story in anecdotes and asides, which allows for shifts in scene and subject that keep the story fresh. He incorporates an account of his father's battle with brain cancer, which coincides with his training, but he avoids melodrama when ruminating on his father's decline and weakness in light of his own increasing vigor. The result is a short and satisfying read that, like the author's experience, may not completely alter one's life, but certainly supplies plenty to think about. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/04/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
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