Kevin's Reviews > Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
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M_50x66
's review
Jul 05, 07

bookshelves: metaphysics, spirituality
Read in August, 2006

Well, this book is not for everyone, and I have certainly heard people say that they found it overblown, pretentious, pointless, etc. but I loved it and found that what I read and my life experiences as I read it formed a didactic and interesting dialectic with the content of the book.

The book itself interstices Pirsig's account of a motorcycle road trip with his son and some friends with the story of his personal and professional struggles developing his philosophy of "the metaphysics of quality". There is also some history of philosophy, although this is to provide an exposition for Pirsig's arguments, so he cherry-picks the stories and interpretations that he tells. This is fine because it is not meant to be a primer on classical or any other kind of philosophy; I don't really have an extensive philosophy background but the little I did know helped I think.

Not that they have anything to do with the book, but I have a couple of stories about it. I figure that most people who have any interest in this type of book are already pretty familiar with it, so I won't say too much about it other than that I couldn't put it down and I wholeheartedly recommend it. While I don't agree with Pirsig's entire viewpoint, most of it rang true and even that which didn't was still an excellent impetus for introspection.

I got a copy at a used bookstore (I'm pretty sure it was this one) on a trip up to San Francisco with my girlfriend and a mutual friend. At first I had been browsing, and had found a cool coffee table book on phrenology which the lady at the counter chatted with me for a little bit. Encouraged by the chatting, I asked her if they had a book I had been looking for, The Secret Teaching of All Ages by Manly P. Hall, which is an encyclopedic reference about the occult, masonry, astrology, etc. (although it is reprinted in paperback, the original book had lots of charts, illustrations, etc that would not fit in the smaller paperback format and had to be abridged, so I was looking for the original, which I am told is something of a collector's item in certain circles).

At this point, the warmth drains from her face. There is an ominous, beginning-of-a-movie-like silence, and she informs me, "No. I don't sell that book. I'm a Christian." When I ask for further clarification, she says that the book contains "a secret spell to undo the universe" and that she didn't want any part in helping anyone undo the universe, so she would not sell the book even if she had it.

Well, things got kind of awkward at this point, and while trying to avoid eye contact with her, I saw a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in a stack of books waiting to be shelved, and tried to help myself. My friend Ian H had told me it was really good and I figured I'd check it out. She swatted my hand away and sent someone to get me a copy off the shelf. She told me that it was by far the most popular title that they sold.

I didn't get around to reading the book until almost a year later, when me and Vinny were on our rail trip to and through Hokkaido. The book got really water damaged during our ill-fated hike up and down Rishi-fuji-zan right around when I was reading Pirsig's mountain climbing allegory. A lot of the stuff about how when "you can't move forward, you move sideways" and etc. resonated with my at times aimless wanderings over the past couple of years.

So, in summation, you'll really like this book, unless you instead think it's interminable, rambling, and obtuse like this review.
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message 1: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim This is really a great book with many things to offer to many different people who are looking for what the author explores.


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