Theater critics do a great deal of sitting. For the most part they are either watching a play or are chained to a computer writing about it. But in his new book, “Life Is a Wheel” (Scribner, $26), New York Times writer Bruce Weber — who spent a significant portion of his career covering the theater — proves he is no couch potato.
During the fall and summer of 2011 (at the age of 57). Weber got on a custom-built bike (an investment of $8,000), and began a solo journey — pedaling from Astoria, Ore., to the George Washington Bridge in New York. He tells us he is reasonably healthy (although a list of medical issues, supplied with no small amount of self-mockery, requires a couple of pages to detail). And he notes he will be “sleeping indoors,” though he has brought a sleeping bag and tent, just in case. Of course all along the way he takes notes, and writes blog posts and stories about his adventures.
Weber, whose previous books include “As They See ’Em: A Fan’s Travels in the Land of Umpires,” and “Savion! My Life in Tap” (co-authored with tap dance master Savion Glover), was a drama critic from 2000-2004, and is now an obituary writer for the Times. But in 1997 he was named the Times’s first national cultural correspondent, and was based in the Chicago bureau. And during his time here he wrote often and well about the the city’s theater scene, bringing a New York-centric readership in touch with the impressive work being done by companies both large and small. It had an impact.