The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty tells the story of Smithson Ide, a fellow who sort of let life get away from him. After his world is drastically shaken up by the unexpected deaths of his parents, Smithy almost accidentally finds himself riding his bicycle cross-country. What began as a short, drunken bicycle ride becomes a transformative journey that allows Smithy to rediscover himself and America.
That explains the "Road Story" but what about the "that nearly wasn't published"?
For most of his adult life, Ron McLarty has made his living as a character actor, but never quite made it into the big time. He also worked as a performer of audiobooks, which became a steady gig. McLarty is also a prolific writer, but his ten novels were ignored by publishers, though. These days, many publishers won't take a chance on an unknown author, especially an older author. In 2000, McLarty showed one of his bosses at Recorded Books his manuscript of The Memory of Running, which began life as a play before growing into a novel. She liked it, and decided to produce it as an Audiobook Original.
In 2003, Stephen King listened to the audiobook, and loved it. Then he wrote about it in his Entertainment Weekly column, calling it the "best book you can't read," and encouraging readers of the column to buy or rent the title from Recorded Books. It wasn't long after that the agents and publishers started calling. The book was edited a bit more, and then published (which is why the audiobook version is different from the print version) to good reviews. Since then, the book has been optioned for a film, with a tentative 2010 date. McLarty has had two other books published as well: Traveler and Art in America.
There will be a book discussion of The Memory of Running at Red Bank Branch on Wednesday, August 12th, at noon. Join us to talk about this thought-provoking book!