Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig: There are several layers to this book. The outermost layer is a cross-country motorcycle trip Pirsig takes with his son, Chris. I probably enjoyed this part of the book the most, traveling vicariously through states I’ve never visited. Pirsig’s occasional descriptions of the scenery and people is refreshingly frank. The next layer is a series of talks Pirsig conducts in his head while riding the motorcycle. Most of this is a discussion of Quality. Since most of the book is spent describing this concept I won’t go into it here. The innermost layer is the life story of Phaedrus, a man whose past continually haunts Pirsig and serves as a backbone for his concept of Quality. Now that I’ve finished it, I don’t feel particularly enlightened. I think I may have gotten more out of this book had I read it when it first came out, or perhaps if I were at all familiar with the existing schools of philosophical thought. Having never read Aristotle or Socrates, I can’t say whether or not Pirsig’s arguments against them have any merit. My favorite parts were when he was less zen and more motorcycle maintenance, especially the course on Gumptionology 101. That made me smile. All in all, this isn’t the sort of book I could read for long stretches at a time, but rather something to dip into now and again. I’m glad to have read it, but I don’t think it’s something I would read again.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

  1. I’ve got this one on my list to read sometime in the next few years, and I have to admit I’m not too excited about it…

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