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Fast Company: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Motorcycles in Italy Paperback – May 15, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the economic boom of the mid-1990s, Gross was a corporate lawyer working nonstop for a Wall Street law firm. Miserable, his life "a prison of routine," he instantly accepts his friend's proposal to revive the legendary motorcycle company Ducati Motor Holding in Bologna, Italy. Equipped with only a backpack and the basic knowledge of how to ride a motorcycle, Gross meets a wacky array of fellow employees, learns about Bolognese life and feels the thrill of the open road. His book is filled with insight on the city and corporate color, especially the chapters devoted to his co-workers, who include the World War II–obsessed company historian and the volatile, eccentric chief of design. But aside from his tumultuous affair with a skinhead mama's boy and his birth as a rider, Gross is a passing character in his own memoir. Amid all of the personalities and business chaos, he doesn't establish a consistent connection with the reader. Years pass in his narrative, and outside of some discotheque activities and buddy-buddy revelry, the swirl of triumph and fear accompanying a major, life-changing decision is absent. In examining Italian corporate and social culture, Gross (who has written for Time and the New York Times) has done a solid job; the lack of a personality behind the observations, however, is a liability. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

It was the middle of the 1990s, and at the author's New York law firm, the work was long and hard, leaving no time for a personal life. Gross was good at his job, but it wasn't what he wanted to be doing. Then a friend offered him a new and very different job. Suddenly he found himself living in Italy, spearheading the rebirth of a world-famous motorcycle company. Talk about culture shock: Gross had no idea, when he signed on with Ducati Motor Holding in Bologna, that he would have to learn a whole new set of social rules and a whole new way of living. Except for the fact that its author was an adult when he made the transition from one life to another, the book reads like a traditional coming-of-age story: over the course of the book, Gross discovers what kind of person he is, what kind of dreams he has for himself. The book is also something of a comedy of manners, as Gross, the typical American, fumbles his way through the considerably more laid-back Italian society. Lots of fun. Pitt, David

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (May 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374281335
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374281335
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,067,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David M. Gross is the author of Fast Company, a Memoir of Life, Love and Motorcycles in Italy, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

From 2003 through 2009, Mr. Gross was the Creative Director of Ducati Motor Holding and is credited for turning around the historic marque and turning it into a global high performance brand. He was director of strategic planning from April 1997 to 2000 and a member of the senior management team responsible for the company's re-launch after its purchase by Texas Pacific Group (TPG), a private equity company, in 1996. From 2000 to 2003, Mr. Gross was responsible for new product development.

At Ducati, Mr. Gross oversaw the company's global brand and marketing activities, advertising and communications, investor relations, apparel and licensing development, and the Ducati Store concept. He led development of 2000's neoclassic MH900e, groundbreaking Multistrada 1000 DS in 2003, SportClassic in 2006 and Hypermotard in 2007. In 1999, he was part of the team that led the company's IPO process, taking the company public on the New York Stock Exchange and Milan's Borsa Italiana.

He has lectured about motorcycles, transportation design, global branding, and private equity at universities all over the world including: The Rhode Island School of Design, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Chelsea College of Art and Design, the University of Bologna (Economics), Parsons The New School for Design, Pepperdine University (Business School), and The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.

He is a turnaround specialist with wide experience in luxury, branded consumer goods, footwear, accessories, sports marketing and has worked with clients including: Tumi, Oakley, Valextra, Testoni, Bally, OMP, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, YSL Beaute among others. Most recently he worked for OMP, the supplier of flame retardant race suits to Formula One.

Prior to joining DMH, Mr. Gross was a corporate finance lawyer with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York from 1993 to 1996. In addition, Mr. Gross has over a decade's experience as a financial journalist with the New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsday and other publications. In the early 1990s, he cowrote "twentysomething", a cover story for Time that sparked the Generation X cultural phenomenon. It was one of Time's best-selling covers of the decade.

He now writes for the International Herald Tribune and other publications.
Mr. Gross has appeared on various television and radio programs including CBS, CNN, CNBC, and the BBC. Mr. Gross was educated at Brown University and the Harvard Law School.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on September 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book was a very odd experience for me to read. I know the author professionally and lived in Bologna, had even done some work in Ducati and so have met many of the principal protagonists. However, what I know of David and the company is all from the outside: this book, which is written in an elegant and lively style, portrays it from the inside, very personally. It can be read on a number of levels.

First, there is David's career: he was going the corporate lawyer route, but felt he wanted something different, so he chucked it all when the CEO of Ducati suddenly offered him as job. He left a stable, if stressful, environment for a rollercoaster of career, essentially re-making the brand of the most interesting motorcycle company around - and moved to EUrope in the process. Now, a lot of people would want to do such a thing, but lack the guts. David really did it and changed his life in the process. When you read about this, you feel his inspiration, his fear, and his courage.

Second, there is the story of the company: Ducati was on the verge of bankruptcy, another "Italian" company with unique engineering excellence but poorly run. He and his boss took it over and re-made its image, turning it into a kind of lifestyle brand in addition to continuing to make great bikes. Interestingly for me, this is what I wrote about when I met David, and it is an amazing story. The detail you get is far more personal and introspective than what I wrote (for a business school).

Third, there is David the person. He is gay, seeking a partner and fun, and in wonder of Italian culture and Bologna.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Bromberg on September 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book has quietly created a new genre: it is part travelogue, part business book, part memoir--and throughout all of its parts, defined by an incredible level of character development and a fresh, compelling voice. I can not recommend it more highly. It reminds me of Paul Theroux with a business twist. Just read it. You wont be sorry.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Douglas B. Frederick on March 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
Within captivating literary style, Gross's portrayals illuminate an Italian world as it is now, and this is clearly not the world of "Room with a view". Surely the Italian journals and "Corriere della Sera" are well versed with the struggles of Italian boutique businesses trying to meet the challenge of growth to an international level, but to follow the chain of events of Ducati from within and during a major transitional effort is a special gift. To become acquainted with personal and detailed snapshots of corporate design processes and the trials of prima donna designers is equally rewarding, and sheds a fair light on recent Ducati products. From the beach exploits and dreams of characters depicted, one senses the struggles of modern young Italians. Add to this the author's struggle to rationalize infatuation with a young and arrogant love, and one finds another level or dimension of the Italy of today. This love may have equally been heterosexual, it's characteristics in modern day Italy would have been the same. The vignette descriptions ranging from learning to ride a motorcycle, different bikes, and tours reach out to the motorcyclist in all of us, as these motivate us to reach beyond ourselves whether or not a leg is thrown over a bike. This is a book for everyone where one truly gains a view into the beauty, challenge, and flavor of Italy today. On other levels, having been an Italian ex-pat for three years, ridden motorcycles for 30 years, and a Ducatista for 15 years, this book has touched on many levels and reminds of the need to return.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joe Viamonte on April 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
The book was a good read on several levels. As a motorcycle
enthusiast and as a designer.. the stories from Ducati.. the inner
workings.. design process.. people were fascinating. Having worked
with all sorts of clients and designers I related easily to the events.
Bologna was presented in vivid descriptions, with its culture,
people, society coming to life. I kept having flashbacks to my 2
years in Milano as well as subsequent visits. I toured most of Italy
but sadly I only stopped at the train station in Bologna. Hopefully
on a future trip I can go to Bologna and visit Ducati.
I thought the sections at the seaside were hilarious.... the descriptions
were like Fellini on Jolt cola I was more exhausted with those stories than
the moto giro ones.
The sections on the MotoGiro were also very compelling for one that rides a
motorcycle....the good, the bad, the ugly, the danger, the exhilaration were all there.
Personal life was interesting, full of irony, but in the end none of my business.
Throughout the book I especially enjoyed kind of a deadpan
description of the theater of the absurd that is Italy..left me with
lot's to think about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P. B. Haber on June 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
As my fellow reviewer said, there is something for everyone in this book!

"Fast Company" is itself a motorcycle ride...through the author's experiences we are taken on a swtichback of adventures. Gross's lucid and endearing observations cut a diverse swath from Italian resort towns, corporate branding challenges and unrequited relationships to "just a bit" of cultural self-obsession. The force that keeps us in our seats is the evenness of the writing. Even this non-motorcycle-riding reader coasted through passages depicting single-sided swing arms and ceramic coolers, as I waited for the inevitable excitement at the next turn in the road. Favorite chapters/topics: transitioning to Italy, ALL the business stuff, the second Motogiro race and nightlife on the Adriatic coast. The author has an amazing talent for describing place and character; what's so much sweeter is these "characters" are real! You feel like you are there--taking espresso at the company bar with the smell of grinds, sweat and factory around you; tasting spaghetti alle vongole in Sicily and eating the dirt of the road at mind-altering speeds. Such a cool book!!!!!
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