Neil Peart is not only the expert drummer of RUSH: he’s the author of five books; an Officer of the Order of Canada; and a bike, book and nature enthusiast. In Far and Away: A Prize Every Time Peart takes the reader to places like the snow trails of Northern Quebec, his “soulscape” where he spends every February, to more seductive places like Paris and Madrid. He dips in and out of his past and present with the landscape through a serialized travelogue which he describes as a combo of “open letters and meditation.”
First of all, I can’t believe Neil Peart still practices drumming. After all these years he studies and scrutinizes, and is always working to understand “time,” to “nail the perfect tempo.” It seems Peart is quite the perfectionist, taking time to do things just right, wanting to do things himself, appreciating everything from making a meal with a friend to watching the sunset beyond the Laurentian Mountains (a scene he spends pages describing). He expresses that he tries to travel the self while travelling the land and draws inspiration from his journeys particularly those that bring him over bridges (both literally and metaphorically).
Also inspired by books, he mentions many authors: Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins, Wallace Stegner, Blaise Pascal, Tony Horwitz, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dr. Seuss, Michael Chabon, and Barbara Kingslover.
I particularly liked the entries chronicling the little perks or minor memories of his rock-star, road-dog life like the church signs he sees urging people to stop sinning, or trying to deduce the soccer position that is most suited to the Son of God, reading hilarious posters in the crowd, him and his buddy dancing on their snowshoes in the parody “Lord of the Snows”, holding the Stanley Cup and thinking “Take that, bullies from fifty years ago,” and the various joyous times when his wife Carrie from California (sounds like a Joni Mitchell song) visits him on the road.
The birth of his second daughter toward the end of the collection shows a softer side of Peart as he describes revolving “around Planet Olivia,” how she became his muse, the “chick” he wanted to “impress,” creating in him an even bigger desire to work. I should note that Peart lost his first wife and daughter within ten months of each other. A tragic time in his life that he writes about in Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road (2002).
Simply put, there is a lot in this book—biking, traveling, family, music, nature—something for everyone really, and Peart implies that we need to take our own meaning from the books we read: “the meaning of a book sometimes has its own story to tell.” This book’s meaning is really quite poignant. He urges the reader to never go back the way they came, to figure out the best thing to do that day and simply do it, to realize our unified quest to find love and respect, and to appreciate the worth of a dream and try to support its survival in ourselves and others.