A Simple Machine, Like the Lever by Evan P. Schneider

A Simple Machine, Like the Lever by Evan P. Schneider


Nicholas Allander, thirty-one—carless and careerless—is trying to get his life on track while holding his head high. He’s trying to pay off his debt, impress his girlfriend, keep his job, cast off his introversion, and accept the world’s imperfections without abandoning his heart. Unsure of what moves to make, though, he considers growing his beard, taking up alcoholism, abandoning scrounging, and owning an automobile—before too much slips by. All the while he clings to his bicycle, a simple machine whose purpose and workings he grasps. Nick’s struggle to position his aesthetic within the world is the story of a perfectionist who is far from perfect, who is considerate but clumsy, and may be invisible. Like Nick, A Simple Machine, Like the Lever is short, toned, observant, generous, purposeful, and brimming with bicycle wisdom.

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“Evan Schneider's debut novel, A Simple Machine, Like a Lever, is exactly that: a deceptively simple, efficient, and potentially revolutionary machine. Like its co-protagonists—Nick and his bicycle—the novel cranks out quietly subversive, smart, and funny prose that crackles with insights on the current human condition; a book that, while never polemical, seduces you into fully re-examining the stuff of your life and somehow convinces you that the answer lies in reducing, reusing, and riding . . . just riding.” —Steven Church, author of The Day After The Day After: My Atomic Angst

"I’m tempted to say all kinds of irresponsible things about Evan P. Schneider’s first novel: that it’s the Catcher in the Rye of our time; that it’s the book that saves leisure-time fiction with an eye to the fact that making money and trying to survive on that money is the primary substance of most of our lives; that “If There’s One Book You Read This Decade, It Should Be This!” If I said these things, I would risk being seen as engaging in the reviewer enthusiasm warned against here and here, which warnings, I would add, I agree with wholeheartedly. But I loved this book. I think more people need to know about it. So what the hell." —Dennis James Sweeney, HTMLGIANT

"Self-consciously and without angst or sarcasm, Nick lives in the details. Narrating how carefully he rolls up his pants before a ride, explaining why he wears two pairs of socks instead of one, parsing the logic of his plan to win [his girlfriend] back—the simple machine here is not the bike. The machine the title references is Nick himself, and by extension, his quiet, elegantly dispassionate story." —Virginia Thayer, The Portland Mercury

“This unforgettable first novel effectively taps into bike culture — but on a deeper level it’s about the emotional and financial deficits faced by our recession-battered generation. The climactic scene…is both cathartic and haunting…The physical book itself is beautiful, complete with French flaps. Forget about using them for bookmarks, though—you won’t put this one down.” —Justin Hocking, author of The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld 

"Clever, poignant and unexpectedly funny, Schneider’s A Simple Machine, Like The Lever masterfully evokes the simple pleasures—and harsh realities—of keeping to one's ideals in a world where speed is revered and complexity is king.” —David Rozgonyi, author of Goat Trees: Tales from the Other Side of the World 

“Schneider's literary cycling uplift is enough to counteract the weight of the world. He nails the essence of being a cyclist and of being young—the yearning, the detachment, the attempted grace, the uncertainty, the gray confusion.” —Jonny Waldman, author of Rust: The Longest War

"All the fresh pleasures of taking a bike ride are to be found in A Simple Machine, Like the Lever. The novel is by turns innocent, lyrical, wistful, funny, and poignant. Necessity has made its observant narrator, Nick, hopelessly thrifty, but what has made him so bafflingly sweet?" —Mary Rechner, author of Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women

"Just as a simple machine is defined as ‘a mechanical device that changes the direction or magnitude of force’, A Simple Machine, Like the Lever is a literary creation that changes the reader’s intellect and heart. With sincere and engaging narration, Schneider unfolds the spirit and the flaws, the sorrows and the loves of an endearing character whose honest observations transcend the conventional cultural obsession with profit, convenience, and speed. Like a child lifted upon a teeter-totter, like a rider propelled upon a bicycle, the reader is carried back to the invaluable world one can never purchase, and given again the too-often forgotten splendors of everyday life." —Erzsébet Gilbert, author of Logodædaly, or, Sleight-of-Words


Evan P. Schneider is the founding editor of Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac. His work has appeared in The Normal SchoolPropellerFalseGER, on the McSweeney’s website, and in other publications. He has received a fellowship from KHN Center for the Arts, and in 2006, his poem “Traffic” was printed as a limited-edition broadside by New Leaves Press. Born in New Mexico and raised in Colorado, Schneider now lives in Portland, Oregon.