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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:…
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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (original 1974; edition 2008)

by Robert M. Pirsig

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
16,678246232 (3.81)238
A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, this book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions on how to live. The narrator's relationship with his son leads to a powerful self-reckoning; the craft of motorcycle maintenance leads to an austerely beautiful process for reconciling science, religion, and humanism. Resonant with the confusions of existence, this classic is a touching and transcendent book of life.--From publisher description.… (more)
Member:willralph
Title:Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
Authors:Robert M. Pirsig
Info:William Morrow Paperbacks (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Your library
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Work details

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert M. PIRSIG (Author) (1974)

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» See also 238 mentions

English (222)  Italian (7)  Dutch (6)  French (4)  Finnish (4)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  Danish (1)  All languages (246)
Showing 1-5 of 222 (next | show all)
I have had a copy of this on my TBR for a few years now and I have no idea where my copy came from. Talking about books in general inspired one of my work mates to read it towards the end of last year but he struggled to really summarise the book for me. I picked this up to read the other day completely on a whim, I had no idea what the book was about except to say that it is considered a classic.

The book is actually three stories/parts all rolled together in a mash of ideas about life. The anchor story is one of a cross country journey on motorcycle of a father, his young son and 2 friends. This is a bit of a travelogue in a similar vein to On The Road as they camp and stick to small roads along the way. The second story evolves into how a person loses their mind and ends up in a mental institute, this person is given the name Phaedrus. The final aspect to the book is the author's explanation and insight into the philosophy of quality. I'll look at the 3 stories/parts separately.

The road story was my favourite part of the book and I would have been happy to read that on it's own in a novella. It is clearly written with some really affection for both his son, Chris and the way American still was at the time in small towns. His avoidance of freeways and favouring small mom and pop diners rather than large garish chain affairs is something that resonates. The characters were fine and I started to really like their travel companions.

The story of Phaedrus started with so much promise and I was really looking forward to find out more once I had established who Phaedrus was. This story was good in places and bad in others. The conflict university staff was good and his back story was interesting but it was very haphazard in the presentation. Phaedrus is obviously meant to be smarter than everyone else, it's just than no one else can see this.

The final part is the thing which really spoiled my enjoyment of the book. If Pirsig wanted to make sure that certain readers felt stupid then he achieved that with me. A few parts of this really struck a chord with me, these mainly involving engineering. The rest of it was largely rambling about philosophy which was way above my head and I suspect above the head's of many who have read or attempted to read this book. There are a handful of zen references thrown in along the way but again these will probably only grasped by scholars. I can see why this level of thinking would send someone into mental meltdown.

After I had read the book I read a few articles on Pirsig and these reveal that he had an IQ of 170 at a young age. I suspect that you would require a love of philosophy (and major in it) or a huge IQ to really appreciate this book. I have neither. The final rating is mainly down to the travelogue and engineering references in it. ( )
  Brian. | Jul 24, 2021 |
I don't know what triggered the thought, but I remembered reading this book some years back. Not only that, but I recalled much of the story so it must have made an impression on me.

Blurb:
One of the most important and influential books written in the past half-century, Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a powerful, moving, and penetrating examination of how we live . . . and a breathtaking meditation on how to live better. Here is the book that transformed a generation: an unforgettable narration of a summer motorcycle trip across America's Northwest, undertaken by a father and his young son. A story of love and fear -- of growth, discovery, and acceptance -- that becomes a profound personal and philosophical odyssey into life's fundamental questions, this uniquely exhilarating modern classic is both touching and transcendent, resonant with the myriad confusions of existence . . . and the small, essential triumphs that propel us forward.
End blurb.

To me this was more of a philosophical treatise on how we perceive quality, but done in a story like fashion so one's eyes don't glaze over :-) I don't know about it transforming a generation, but I do remember finding it an interesting read. ( )
  LGCullens | Jun 1, 2021 |
A philosophy book told through first person is extremely interesting to me -- especially a travel memoir. Many of the conversations hit on specific points that I was nodding in agreement at. Specifically many of the ones that included frustration when getting points across to others, or taking pride in upkeep and finding a way to enjoy it. The only reason I'd rate it lower was due to the long periods of time between enlightening moments. ( )
  adamfortuna | May 28, 2021 |
I’ve heard about this book for years, but never found the prospect of reading it appealing. The hardcover from William Morrow and Company sat on my shelves for years, collecting dust and staving off inferiority complexes against its oft-picked neighbors. What do I know or care of motorcycles? Why do I need to read another book about a practice (Zen) that prides itself on being ineffable? A few Zen koans and some of D. T. Suzuki’s treatises and that’s enough for me to get the gist. Anyway, the title, the unremarkable blackboard binding, the lack of public representation (today), and, well, my own circumscribed thinking kept the book from my mind. Until the recent news of Pirsig’s death.

Read full review here: http://www.chrisviabookreviews.com/2017/09/04/zen-and-the-art-of-motorcycle-main... ( )
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
Pathological and oppressive. I finally understand why dad stares into space all the time and can't take care of me anymore. Read Foucault's Discipline and Punish instead, it's somehow less harrowing. ( )
  .json | Mar 21, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 222 (next | show all)
One is tempted to call the book a psychomelodrama, for Pirsig's intentions are as extravagant as his themes. The attempt to triumph over madness, suicide, death in the self, of his son, for our world, by means of the patient exploration of ideas and emotions is certainly an extravagant ambition. That he succeeds in finding a plausible catharsis through such an enterprise seems to me sufficient reward for the author's perseverance, and ample testimony to his honesty and courage.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times Book Review, Edward Abbey (pay site) (Mar 30, 1975)
 
Whatever it's true philosophical worth, it is intellectual entertainment of the highest order.
 

» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
PIRSIG, Robert M.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bacon, PaulCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jonkers, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
JONKERS, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
And what is good, Phaedrus,

And what is not good -

Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?
Dedication
for my family
Aan mijn familie
First words
I can see by my watch, without taking my hand from the left grip of the cycle, that it is eight-thirty in the morning.
Quotations
You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It's easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally.
Live in the future, then build what's missing.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, this book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions on how to live. The narrator's relationship with his son leads to a powerful self-reckoning; the craft of motorcycle maintenance leads to an austerely beautiful process for reconciling science, religion, and humanism. Resonant with the confusions of existence, this classic is a touching and transcendent book of life.--From publisher description.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Acclaimed as one of the most exciting books in the history of American letters, this modern epic became an instant bestseller upon publication in 1974, transforming a generation and continuing to inspire millions. This 25th Anniversary Quill Edition features a new introduction by the author; important typographical changes; and a Reader's Guide that includes discussion topics, an interview with the author, and letters and documents detailing how this extraordinary book came to be. A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to live. The narrator's relationship with his son leads to a powerful self-reckoning; the craft of motorcycle maintenance leads to an austerely beautiful process for reconciling science, religion, and humanism. Resonant with the confusions of existence, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a touching and transcendent book of life.

In his now classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig brings us a literary chautauqua, a novel that is meant to both entertain and edify. It scores high on both counts. Phaedrus, our narrator, takes a present-tense cross-country motorcycle trip with his son during which the maintenance of the motorcycle becomes an illustration of how we can unify the cold, rational realm of technology with the warm, imaginative realm of artistry. As in Zen, the trick is to become one with the activity, to engage in it fully, to see and appreciate all details--be it hiking in the woods, penning an essay, or tightening the chain on a motorcycle. In his autobiographical first novel, Pirsig wrestles both with the ghost of his past and with the most important philosophical questions of the 20th century--why has technology alienated us from our world? what are the limits of rational analysis? if we can't define the good, how can we live it? Unfortunately, while exploring the defects of our philosophical heritage from Socrates and the Sophists to Hume and Kant, Pirsig inexplicably stops at the middle of the 19th century. With the exception of Poincaré, he ignores the more recent philosophers who have tackled his most urgent questions, thinkers such as Peirce, Nietzsche (to whom Phaedrus bears a passing resemblance), Heidegger, Whitehead, Dewey, Sartre, Wittgenstein, and Kuhn. In the end, the narrator's claims to originality turn out to be overstated, his reasoning questionable, and his understanding of the history of Western thought sketchy. His solution to a synthesis of the rational and creative by elevating Quality to a metaphysical level simply repeats the mistakes of the premodern philosophers. But in contrast to most other philosophers, Pirsig writes a compelling story. And he is a true innovator in his attempt to popularize a reconciliation of Eastern mindfulness and nonrationalism with Western subject/object dualism. The magic of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance turns out to lie not in the answers it gives, but in the questions it raises and the way it raises them. Like a cross between The Razor's Edge and Sophie's World, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance takes us into "the high country of the mind" and opens our eyes to vistas of possibility. --Brian Bruya
Haiku summary
Biker -- deep thinker:

finally finds acceptance

for his peace of mind.

(legallypuzzled)

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