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Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig…

Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle…

by Mark Richardson

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Five stars. That says it all, but this book deserves an explanation. It is exactly what it claims to be, a retracing of the route taken by Robert Pirsig and his son that later became the story of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. But it is also a retelling of Pirsig's life, but more than that - and this is where the power of the book surges into the very rare category of 'great', it is a 'telling' of the lives of the author and the people along that route. This book doesn't encompass all of America, or everything about motorbikes, or do more than graze the surface of the deep meaning of life - but what it touches on is touched in turn with magical clarity, as if there was (as there was) a divine voice singing that can only be heard on the road, or in the silence of wild places, and Richardson has brought the words of to us. Every page, every mile is perfectly balanced. This deserves to be a best seller, but it doesn't matter if it isn't (though for the sake of the author it should be), it is a classic - one of the greatest motorcycling-travelling books ever written. And like the very best travel books it isn't just a book about traveling through places, but a book about finding the way home. And of course the music to which Richardson's words are set is always out there - this is a book for the backpack, the knapsack, and most of all for the saddlebag. This is a book to be read under the stars and beside the campfire. Hugely recommended. ( )
  nandadevi | Jan 18, 2014 |
This book is a good place to start reading Zen and the Art. It also explains Pirsig's family and friends and puts a human face on Pirsig's madness. Richardson has done Robert a great favor. ( )
  ffstorer | Jan 7, 2011 |
I like many tried to read Pirsig's original and didn't quite make it through to the end. This book is about Richardson's journey along the same route with reference to the 'original' - it's a very engaging read. ( )
  rightantler | Jan 6, 2010 |
Zen And Now: On The Trail Of Robert Pirsig And Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance
Mark Richardson; Alfred A. Knopf 2008

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM) by Robert Pirsig is a classic, a modern Walden with its inquiry into values and its journey off the beaten path. Many readers begin ZAMM, fewer finish it, but it is the kind of book to which you can return and finish later. I first read ZAMM in my twenties, then reread it in my thirties with a new kind of satisfaction. Another decade later, I am rereading it through Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Mark Richardson.

One of the compelling things about ZAMM is that the essence of the book is fact, both Pirsig’s motorcycle trip and his philosophical pursuit into the meaning of quality. Richardson follows Pirsig’s route on his own motorcycle, laptop and GPS along, aiming to reach the final destination of San Francisco by his 42nd birthday. As Richardson observes, 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It also happens to be my current age, and perhaps explains some of why the book worked for me.

Richardson does ZAMM readers a big favour with his carefully researched details about the real-life characters in the book. Richardson’s correspondence with Pirsig was met with helpful replies, but no opportunity for a meeting. Pirsig told him “the best place to meet an author is on the pages of his book”. Readers learn about Pirsig’s wife, Nancy; his son, Chris, who was murdered a few years after the book was published; and his other son, Ted, who was never mentioned in the book. Richardson meets John Sutherland, who helps set the record straight about himself and his wife Sylvia, and later dines with the DeWeeses.

Zen and Now does not attempt to delve into the philosophical depths of ZAMM. Richardson tactfully describes the real life schizophrenia suffered by Pirsig, which ZAMM frames as a sort of climax to his philosophical investigations. Personally, I do not subscribe to correlations of genius and madness. Pirsig managed to pull things together and write a second book, Lila, his preferred work, a coherent statement of his philosophy, though never as hot a bestseller as the first.

Richardson’s trip has many parallels with the original. Like Pirsig, Richardson is in a state of estrangement from his wife and two children, and is using the trip to help sort it out. Richardson’s storytelling has the same sleepy quality, with mindful observations about the road, and lessons about motorcycle maintenance that are really about caring for oneself and finding quality in life. If you are one of those who liked ZAMM but didn’t finish it, this book may be your way forward.

http://johnmiedema.ca/2009/01/17/zen-and-now-by-mark-richardson-book-review/ ( )
3 vote jmiedema | Dec 14, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307269701, Hardcover)

Zen and Now is a vivid chronicle of a journalist’s heartfelt and determined journey to reconnect with a beloved American classic.

In 1968, Robert Pirsig and his eleven-year-old son, Chris, made the cross-country motorcycle trip that would become the inspiration for Pirsig’s book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a powerful blend of personal narrative and philosophical investigation that has inspired generations.

Among the millions of readers to fall under the book’s spell was Mark Richardson, who as a young man struggled to understand Pirsig’s provocative and elusive ideas. Rereading the book decades later, Richardson, now a journalist and a father of two, was moved by its portrayal of Pirsig’s complex relationship with Chris and struck by the timelessness of its lessons. So he tuned up his old Suzuki dirt bike and became a “Pirsig pilgrim,” one of the legion of fans who retrace the Pirsigs’ route from Minneapolis to San Francisco. In following this itinerary over the lonely byways of the American West, Richardson revisits the people and places from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, pondering the meaning of Pirsig’s philosophy and the answers it may offer to the questions in his own life. Richardson’s dogged reporting also gives new insight into the reclusive writer’s life, exploring Pirsig’s struggle with mental illness, his unwanted celebrity, and the tragic, brutal murder of Chris in 1979.

Published to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of Pirsig’s original trip, Zen and Now is a stirring meditation on a classic work and a passionate inquiry into the lessons it continues to teach us in the complex and bewildering world we inhabit today.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:30 -0400)

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A journalist recounts his odyssey retracing the cross-country motorcycle trip taken by Robert Pirsig and his son, Chris, that inspired the classic philosophical narrative "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."

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