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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

17 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

Not Only for Buddhists and Mechanics

The first of Robert Maynard Pirsig's two books, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is neither primarily focused on zen nor motorcycle maintenance but is a nonfiction account of the author's search for truth. More symbolic of the manifestation of Pirsig's philoso...
The first of Robert Maynard Pirsig's two books, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is neither primarily focused on zen nor motorcycle maintenance but is a nonfiction account of the author's search for truth. More symbolic of the manifestation of Pirsig's philosophies, the concepts of zen and motorcycles are used to demonstrate the author's theories so that the reader can better visualize his ideas. Serving as the book's main organizational device, the motorcycle trip lasts for seventeen days beginning in Minnesota and ending in California. This quest motif seems to be representative of the author's larger search for truth, for identity, and for quality. Interspersed throughout the story of the author's journey through the mountains are what he likes to call Chautauquas: philosophical thoughts pertaining to life, human nature, humanity's relationship with technology, and the ever-elusive concept of quality, which is the book's main focus. The philosophical aspects make the book worth your time and somehow more sophisticated. The narrative aspects provides interest and gives you a break from all the deep concepts presented. The autobiographical aspects cause a relationship between the author and yourself to form. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance can be a perplexing book and a struggle to get through. In the beginning of the book, before you've adjusted to this unusual style of the author, you can't help but wonder as what this book's purpose is, be confused at this structure which you had never seen before, and even question the sanity of the author. Then, as a reader you become accustomed to Pirsig's writing style. You begin to look at things differently, where you don't look so much as to what the words are but what they mean. And after becoming accustomed to his unusual style, you learn to appreciate it. His use of narrative structure makes it seem as if the author is just now experiencing all of these thoughts and discovering all of these truths. Pirsig portrays himself to be in the act of philosophizing, in the act of his experiential struggles, not simply telling the reader afterward when the action is finished and the thought has ceased. As a reader, you feel as if you are experiencing these revelations in concurrence with him. Pirsig invites you to step into the next level of thinking but still allows you to formulate your own personal viewpoints and opinions. He doesn't write above the level of the average person, yet manages to not oversimplify things as if he's addressing ignorance. Before reading this book, I perceived the concepts which he discusses to be way above my level, perhaps because they simply are too complex for me or perhaps because I lack the patience to really sit down and examine them. Somehow, Pirsig made these topics more understandable. However, this is not to be confused with effortless. He does not make the topics easy and simple, but he makes them more accessible to an ordinary person like myself. He allows you to have the opportunity to look at and dissect these things, to relate them to your own thoughts and life, to have its own profound impact on you. There is still much confusion, times of frustration, endless hours of thinking about these concepts that just go around and around in your mind. There is still all of this, but there is no confusion as to what these topics are, just the marvelous confusion of what these topics mean. Personally, my perception of the theme was that changing your concept of the world and of life can change the world and life itself. Looking at things from a different point of view, a point of view not tainted by sociey's perception of right and wrong and normal, a point of view not tarnished by structure and routine, a point of view completely new and fresh, can do wonders. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is the type of book that stays with you long after you've finished reading it.

posted by Anonymous on January 13, 2003

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Takes time to warm up to

Right from the start I could tell Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was going to be one of those books with excessive detail that would sometimes be unnecesary. I knew I would need much diligence in reading this book. One of the major themes of the story is find...
Right from the start I could tell Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was going to be one of those books with excessive detail that would sometimes be unnecesary. I knew I would need much diligence in reading this book. One of the major themes of the story is finding a sense of indentity. The narrator struggles with this and finds himself at opposition with Phaedrus, his other personality. Phaedrus is very detached, detailed and stubborn and finds it his desire to seek the truth. The novel is divided into four parts in which the story unfolds. It is the story of a forty year old father and his eleven year old son who take a motorcycle trip from Minnesota through the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and California. They are accompanied for some time by the narrator's friends, a married couple, John and Sylvia Sutherland. Throughout the trip, the narrator feels that it is the perfect time to give these lectures he calls Chautauquas in which he explains such an overwhelming amount of philosophical ideas and analyzes those ideas,. By giving these Chautauquas, the narrator provides us with more and an understanding of how Phaedrus thought and what he thought about. The topics he chooses to talk about are: technology, classical versus romantic understanding, quality, deductive versus inductive logic,caring and attitude, 'gumption', and of course motorcycle maintenance. John and Sylvia are the narrator's victims in his talk about technology. He explains how the effect of technology makes one feel "alienated" and "a stranger in your own land" and how John and Slylvia hate technology and so try to run away from it. The narrator talks about quality but is never able to define it and just states that to achieve quality one must have clarity of mind and the right attitide. He also explains that gumption is encouragement and he provides not only gumption traps but the solutions to those traps. Of course these are very simple explanations of the many topics he has in-depth analyses of. Also, the narrator tends to be in the middle of his Chautauqua and suddenly cuts off to talk about the current motorcycle trip he and his son are taking that the story is supposed to be about. Aside from this inconsistency, he goes into great detail when he analyzes each subject and the book gets a bit confusing to understand and to follow. The flow of the book was not very well planned.One example of unnecesary detail found in the novel as I explained before is in chapter four where the author makes an extensive list of valuable items that should be taken on a motorcycle trip. In doing so he takes up the first half of the chapter giving information that does not directly have to do with what the plot of the story is about. I would not consider this as a book meant to be read by anyone below the college level. The book's 400 pages are packed with complex information that needs a lot of time to fully grasp and appreciate.

posted by 9425749 on August 18, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2011

    Takes time to warm up to

    Right from the start I could tell Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was going to be one of those books with excessive detail that would sometimes be unnecesary. I knew I would need much diligence in reading this book. One of the major themes of the story is finding a sense of indentity. The narrator struggles with this and finds himself at opposition with Phaedrus, his other personality. Phaedrus is very detached, detailed and stubborn and finds it his desire to seek the truth. The novel is divided into four parts in which the story unfolds. It is the story of a forty year old father and his eleven year old son who take a motorcycle trip from Minnesota through the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and California. They are accompanied for some time by the narrator's friends, a married couple, John and Sylvia Sutherland. Throughout the trip, the narrator feels that it is the perfect time to give these lectures he calls Chautauquas in which he explains such an overwhelming amount of philosophical ideas and analyzes those ideas,. By giving these Chautauquas, the narrator provides us with more and an understanding of how Phaedrus thought and what he thought about. The topics he chooses to talk about are: technology, classical versus romantic understanding, quality, deductive versus inductive logic,caring and attitude, 'gumption', and of course motorcycle maintenance. John and Sylvia are the narrator's victims in his talk about technology. He explains how the effect of technology makes one feel "alienated" and "a stranger in your own land" and how John and Slylvia hate technology and so try to run away from it. The narrator talks about quality but is never able to define it and just states that to achieve quality one must have clarity of mind and the right attitide. He also explains that gumption is encouragement and he provides not only gumption traps but the solutions to those traps. Of course these are very simple explanations of the many topics he has in-depth analyses of. Also, the narrator tends to be in the middle of his Chautauqua and suddenly cuts off to talk about the current motorcycle trip he and his son are taking that the story is supposed to be about. Aside from this inconsistency, he goes into great detail when he analyzes each subject and the book gets a bit confusing to understand and to follow. The flow of the book was not very well planned.One example of unnecesary detail found in the novel as I explained before is in chapter four where the author makes an extensive list of valuable items that should be taken on a motorcycle trip. In doing so he takes up the first half of the chapter giving information that does not directly have to do with what the plot of the story is about. I would not consider this as a book meant to be read by anyone below the college level. The book's 400 pages are packed with complex information that needs a lot of time to fully grasp and appreciate.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2002

    I wanted to like this book...

    I almost went insane from the madness of detail in this book. I didn't feel any emotions for the characters or their situations. I felt obligated to finish the whole book and I suffered the whole way through. A very intelligent, eccentric friend of mine recommended this book to me. Therefore, I do admire those who can appreciate this book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 18, 2011

    Falls short of expectations

    Any novel that advertises itself as a ".provocative, profound, and deeply affecting modern classic that has inspired millions" certainly establishes high expectations first and foremost. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry of into Values should be applauded for its rich, in-depth information in the broad field of philosophy. However, author Robert M. Pirsig fails to deliver his message in a way that the general public can easily understand. Pirsig's attempt to explain the idea of quality takes several confusing and often frustrating turns.
    The unnamed narrator, presumably Pirsig himself, struggles with a dormant personality, whom he refers to as "Phaedrus." The opposing viewpoints that the narrators contrasting personality's envelope often leave the reader wondering which viewpoint is in fact being preached. Pirsig's obvious purpose in writing this novel is to offer advice to the reader on how to live a better life. The endeavor is an utter failure. Pirsig dedicates countless pages towards the explanation of various philosophical concepts that fail to enlighten the average reader. Concepts including quality, romantic and classical modes of thinking, rhetoric, dialectic, and gumption are just a few that the author touches base on. While Pirsig dedicates the majority of the novel to these concepts, the reader likely fails to completely comprehend their true meanings. The letdown happens for one of two reasons. The first may be that Pirsig goes into such detail in just a short span of writing that new ideas are presented before the reader understands the basics. Moreover, after penetrating the surface of each concept, the author repeatedly goes on tangents that may further perplex the already timid reader.
    Another frustrating facet of the novel is the failure to establish credibility on the narrator's part. Granted, the narration clearly displays extensive knowledge on every philosophical concept discussed. Also, it would seem as though a college professor would know exactly what he is talking about. However, it becomes evident that the main character struggles with mental illness, as evidenced by his references to double personalities, extended hospital stays, loss of memory, social ineptness, schizophrenia, and depression. How can a narrator who terms himself as a victim of insanity provide "An Inquiry into Values." The idea is laughable.
    Despite the author's failure to get across to most readers, he may be applauded for his endeavor. The brilliant use of metaphors in nearly every explanation is an intelligent way to help relate to the reader. The prose manner in which the narrator dictates his ideas also helps to deter the overwhelming of the reader. The reader also has the privilege of numerous breaks from philosophy as Pirisg describes the cross-country journey. Romantic descriptions of various settings including the mountains, lowlands, and oceans of the west faintly suppress the monotonous nature of the novel. The most useful aspect of this novel may be Pirsig's step-by-step instructions of how to avoid mental-blocks. He lays out a clear guideline, which, humorously enough, can be used to help finish reading the novel.
    Numerous institutions, such as Time, The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, and The New Yorker promise a novel will be a helpful guide to living a better life. However, after reading this book, I say with confidence that the time it takes to read and understand this novel should be directed to

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2011

    Decent, but missing a major scene.

    I discourage people from reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for two main reasons: the monotony of the more factual passages, and the disconnection of the abstract philosophical passages with the real, concrete world. Throughout the novel, Pirsig intersperses long passages describing tangible, real experiences with various long philosophical abstractions. The purpose of the more concrete passages becomes painfully apparent, as Pirsig tries to correlate his conceptual philosophy with seemingly down-to-earth experiences. To the reader, these passages just become pages and pages of different mechanical components of a motorcycle or, on occasion, sights in rural western America. Although interesting to a person heavily involved in a chop shop, to whom I recommend buying this book as soon as possible, it becomes merely a dreadful focal point with which any other profession struggles. Moreover, after subjecting the reader to so many pages of painful tedium, Pirsig fails to even connect the two seemingly independent stories that he is developing. The resulting novel is, for all practical purposes, two separate, individual, and most of all unrelated stories. One of abstract philosophical thought, and the other of concrete listing, almost like reading an IKEA manual that explains all possible issues one may encounter when attempting to put together a chair.
    Therefore, the most disappointing aspect of the book is the massive separation from the real and the abstract. Pirsig switches between both of these in an almost schizophrenic manner, the transitions coming more and more often until the two stories 'merge' which unfortunately never completely occurs. After one reads the fruition of all of Pirsig's abstract rambling, an intellectual climax of sorts, they understand that the deficient descriptions of the motorcycle trip were just there to support his 'life-changing' philosophical discovery. But at the real climax of the book, when both stories should merge, Pirsig falls extremely short of his mark and the entire book becomes disjointed and obsolete. The want and need of this merge is so great as one travels throughout the book, and its disappearance in the novel is sorely noted. These theoretical passages that are difficult, confusing, and require painstaking re-reading and without a tie to the practical world, which Pirsig promises again and again, they conclude with no real purpose in helping society. The entire book loses all of its meaning and no longer helps people, but only has a claim to be a 'fun' read, which it is not. Even in the title, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig puts two contradictory ideas in a sentence and there is an implication that at some point in the novel the complex ideal and the concrete practice will come together in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, it never happens. The premise, theme, meaning, and promises of the novel drift into obscurity and leave the reader with an unsatisfying end that calls for an explanation of why he or she has wasted the last few weeks of their time. If the climax occurred and the abstract philosophy had an implication in everyday life, then the book might be worth reading. In its current state, however, it is not.

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  • Posted August 18, 2011

    More painful to read than it probably was to write.

    Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a novel overflowing with easily valued insight and deep understandings of the complexity found within the structure of society. Although especially fascinating, these elements are discussed in a rather unorganized and ineffective manner. Many enthusiastic readers would appreciate the context of the novel and how Pirsig dares to search for the solution to the problem by contemplating and understanding the most convoluted aspects of the Universe, but his lack of literary structure and conciseness in doing so makes this novel fairly arduous for the reader to understand. As Pirsig takes the reader along with him on his motorcycle trip across America, he also takes the reader on a trip through his mind, which primarily allows the reader to observe and judge the intellectual suicide he is experiencing. Pirsig addresses an extensive assortment of topics throughout the novel that fail to lack a specific commonality, adding to the disarray of the novel. While he explores the validity of science, he is also focuses on the validity of ghosts and while he focuses on the grading and educational system, he also focuses on the causes and effects of technology in the modern world. Certainly, these popular topics are interesting to investigate and understand, but having to comprehend such an array of topics is difficult. Pirsig should have spent more time creating a novel that not only expresses his cherished inner thoughts, but also expresses them with precise organization. This precise organization could provide the reader a legitimate opportunity to understand and in time, analyze the novel with the absence of any uncertainties and confusion. It is a personal belief that an author's job is to create a story that will help a reader see something that the author sees or to further the reader's understanding of a topic that the author feels strongly about. In essence, writing a book should be a utilitarian action where the author has two intentions: to please himself and to please the reader. In the case of Robert M. Pirsig, this was not so. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was not written for a utilitarian purpose, but instead was written for the independent purpose of benefiting the author alone. This novel allows Pirsig to relieve himself of a certain nuisance or pain he was experiencing. By putting hist story into words, he was able to work out the muddled struggle occurring within his mind and has now released his troubles out into the world. Fundamentally, Pirsig told his story because he wanted to, not because he felt he should share his story with the world. By doing so, readers are only observers, not participants. If a reader is interested in gaining a better grasp on the mind and journey of someone who is mentally ill, this book would be rather accommodating to them. If a reader is fortunate enough to have an absurdly high intelligence quotient, they too would find this novel obliging to read and simple to understand, yet for the majority of readers, this novel is not only far too unorganized and complex to fully comprehend, but it also lacks the presence of productive benefits to the reader.

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  • Posted August 18, 2011

    Utterly Disappointed

    In short, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is not a book I would recommend. I believe that the book is unnecessarily long and does not provide a clear idea of what the author's purpose is. The author, Robert Pirsig, combines two stories throughout the book. One story tells of the narrator's journey across America with his only son, while the other mentions the narrator's struggle with an internal conflict. He must battle with one aspect of his personality, a man named "Phaedrus" who ultimately represents the aspects of the narrator that used to prevail in the past. Phaedrus symbolizes the personality of the narrator prior to his stay in the mental facility where he dealt with shock-therapy treatment. Pirsig spends most of the story providing the reader with redundant details concerning the varied scenic backgrounds as the trip progresses, in addition to, as the title addresses, motorcycle maintenance. The narrator demonstrates a Zen-like mindset in his view which is described at length. The largest issue that the author stresses is the multitude of definitions concerning concepts like "Quality" and "Truth". He mentions the narrator's struggles with rhetoric as well. Frankly, I lost interest after completing the first couple hundred pages of the book. I felt that the book offered an initially interesting philosophical perspective, but I lost focus as the author began to ramble on. For the most part, I do not mind reading books which exceed four-hundred pages, if the length adds to the greater effect of the piece. Nevertheless, that was not the case with this particular novel. For example, I believe that the author became repetitive when describing the issues of Quality and Good. I feel he could have synthesized the material while still presenting his message thoroughly. My biggest frustration with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is that Pirsig does not clearly state his point. Instead, he gets wrapped up in filling the text with exhaustive metaphors that end up leaving the reader more confused than enlightened. I found myself rereading a number of passages as I lost track of where the origin of the story began. However, the one redeeming quality I found in the book was the father-son relationship. Personally, I enjoyed reading about the connection between the narrator and his son, Chris. Although I am a female reader, I was able to relate to the character of Chris. He illustrates distaste for spending excessive amounts of time left alone with his thoughts. In addition, like any teenager, I can relate to Chris's hesitation to truly and whole-heartedly communicate with his parent. More than anything, I admired the narrator's quest to obtain closeness between him and his son. I felt an emotional connection to the story anytime that the author would mention a single aspect of their bond. That said, I did not feel that the few instances demonstrating their connection could salvage the overall plot. Simply put, the book was incredibly repetitive and not worth the time and effort put forward.

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  • Posted August 18, 2011

    Not a Page Turner

    In the first few chapters of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance written by Robert M. Pirsig, my hopes were high that it was going to be a good book. The story interested me as it seemed that it would be a fun motorcycle trip in the United States with excitement or action further into the plot. As I continued further into the book I became even more interested when the subject of "ghosts" came up in a conversation among the characters. At this point the book was going at an interesting pace keeping me from putting it down. However, the dialogue between the characters slowly faded away as it became a book more about the narrator's philosophies and less about the trip on the motorcycles.
    The different philosophical discussions or "Chautauquas" as they are referred to by the narrator, are very in-depth and long. I tried to understand them but the complexity and length of them made it a struggle for me to concentrate. I found myself praying for the break in the paragraph that meant the tedious discussions would end and the narrator would go back to the trip on the motorcycle.
    I thoroughly enjoy reading books for entertainment, but the monotonous tone of this book prevented me from finding any enjoyment. Reading about the narrator's son Chris struggle to be happy and connect with his father depressed me. The narrator also never failed to mention anything that depressed him, which depressed me more. I also found myself becoming angry with the narrator for his inability to be a good father for Chris. I felt terrible for Chris who did everything he found interesting on his own while the author relates to the reader more of his Chautauquas. He spends the majority of his day thinking about these and about 10 minutes talking to his son.
    I think the point of the novel was to give insights to a man trying to find his old self and become a better person through a higher understanding. I think the way this was done was more complicated and longer than it could have been.
    One thing I can say positive about the book is that it definitely provoked emotion from me. It is said that different forms of art, which provoke emotion whether good or bad, is successful.
    I am sure this book is popular for a reason and there is a certain demographic it appeals to best. However, I do not imagine that teenage girls were the target audience the author was trying to reach. I do not feel I walked away from this book with a greater philosophical understanding, and this very well may be that I am not philosophically inclined. Nevertheless, This book may be excellent for someone who enjoys deep philosophical discussions and would enjoy reading about motorcycle repair.

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  • Posted August 18, 2011

    Interesting premise but ultimately flawed

    Interesting in its premise but flawed in its execution, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance ultimately fails in demonstrating to the reader why "Quality" is such an awe-inspiring concept that will reunite logic with emotions and save humanity from its problems. Pirsig throughout his novel tries to explain his metaphysics of Quality but early on resigns to the fact that Quality is impossible to define. Instead, Pirsig elusively describes Quality as "what makes one essay better than another," "the event at which the subject becomes aware of the object," and "the track that directs the train of human mythos." Throughout the novel, Pirsig gives varying explanations about exactly what he means by Quality, but his descriptions are disjointed and never succeed in solidifying around one unified idea. Just as I felt I was about to finally understand this mystical concept and see my surroundings as manifestations of Quality, Pirsig would further morph his thoughts, causing me to lose my grasp of the overarching idea. Perhaps Pirsig is simply too abstract and vague for my concrete and logical mind, as at times I felt I was being drowned by the seemingly boundless and formless sea of Quality. To step aside from the philosophical aspect of the novel, Zen offers a very interesting premise for its plot. A father and a son travel across the Northwestern United States on a motorcycle, completely exposed to the elements and surrounded in the beauty of nature. Unfortunately, Pirsig fails in developing both the plot and the characters to their fullest. As the novel progresses the plot is quickly overshadowed by essay-like "chautauquas" through which Pirsig explains his philosophies. Eventually, the story of the motorcycle road trip is reduced to the occasional mention of a restaurant or passing animal. The characters are developed only when doing so is necessary to further the philosophical discussion. As a result, they appear flat and disposable, vanishing from the plot once they are no longer necessary to further the point being made. Pirsig tries to justify his lack of character development by stating that "they're friends, not characters," but this acknowledgement does nothing to improve the enjoyableness of narrative. Pirsig should have not written Zen as a novel if he had no intention of ever giving the plot or the characters focus. I must admit that Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was a book that made me think, as it raises thought-provoking questions about modern society's overreliance on cold and emotionless rational thinking. However, reaching these moments of Quality-inspired contemplation requires one to sift through vast amounts of dull monologue while maintaining a strong suspension of disbelief to avoid completely dismissing Pirsig's ideas as overly idealistic and unreasonable. I would recommend this book only to individuals who have a strong interest in philosophy and who can easily follow abstract streams of thought. On the other hand, readers who come to the novel expecting a well developed narrative will be sorely disappointed. Readers should not expect to learn anything about Zen Buddhism or motorcycle maintenance either.

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  • Posted August 18, 2011

    Insightful but not Recommended

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, is not a novel that I can say inspires millions as stated on the front cover. After having read the novel, I do not recommend it for readers unless they are interested in a more serious, slow paced and philosophical subject matter. Despite my dislike of the text, the novel successfully portrays a connection between motorcycle maintenance and Zen, but with Phaedrus's tangential and analytical discussions the reader can easily become lost and uninterested. In addition to his ongoing analytical discussions, I find Pirsig's writing style to be overly descriptive which often times overwhelms the reader. What further complicates matters is that there are two stories occurring simultaneously within the novel. One story deals with the narrator traveling across the country with his son, Chris, and them trying to fix their strained relationship. At the same time, Phaedrus is attempting to unveil the true nature of reality despite his lunacy.Not only is the narrator overly detailed, but Pirsig is also extremely unorganized when placing his thoughts in a logical manner. One page can be about the narrator's Chautauqua regarding the relationship between quality and caring in life and then the next page can suddenly jump to his motorcycle journey with his son, Chris. What can attribute to this shift in the direction of the discussion can be a result of the protagonist constantly being preoccupied by thinking which results in him questioning his place in the world. The narrator also believes in a classic mindset, meaning that he searches for answers that one cannot easily obtain. This contributes to both the reader and society not understanding him. This unusual structure of the novel and its long philosophical passages causes difficulty for numerous students including myself.The themes of a genuine search for the truth, the importance of spiritualizing everyday life, classic vs. romantic mindset, and living with the advancement of technology are rational, but Pirsig's struggle with insanity and Greek Philosophy are too vague. The novel fails to provide a solid foundation in reference to Greek philosophy, which is necessary to understand important motifs in reference to Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. On the other hand, the conflict of the narrator struggling with lunacy and not being understood by others in society can easily be identified. After having read Hamlet, I feel as if I am able to comprehend Phaedrus's struggle with insanity. Throughout the play, Hamlet like Phaedrus struggle's with craziness and as a result they both damage relationships with their loved ones. I was indifferent as to reading about the author repairing his motorcycles, but I did understand his stance on wanting his friend, John Sutherland, to know how to repair his cycle. The narrator does not want John to refrain from technology and merely depend on a mechanic. In the book, Pirsig clearly explains that the title represents the author's ability to portray deep philosophical thoughts into ordinary objects such as motorcycle maintenance. I enjoyed reading the way in which he related this maintenance to life scenarios. Therefore, I was able to become more knowledgeable in deeper life lessons. For instance, when the narrator states "the place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there" it truly puts everything I do into perspective. However, the narr

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  • Posted August 18, 2011

    A Merry-Go-Round to Read

    Robert M. Pirsig's, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", has remnants of what is a very well-developed piece. The concepts surfaced and discussed in the piece are undoubtedly those of a higher level of thinking. However, between the outbreaks of brilliance, the book contains tedious rants about the intricacies of nature and, not surprisingly, motorcycle maintenance. The novel completely submerges the reader in to the mind of the narrator, which unfortunately drags into pages upon pages of deep thought. Moreover, to the dismay of those who seek solidified endings, the narrator's tiresome reasoning results in no forward movement or conclusive statements. When the reader does stumble upon a semi-conclusive truth, it in turn is merely a pause in the speaker's thought, and soon unravels to produce only more questions. This book is anything but a casual read. In the midst of the Pirsig's monotonous rants, comes the age-old criticism of society. The narrator, once a college professor, repeatedly tells stories of how he attempted to achieve "quality" in a classroom setting. In essence, the narrator's constant search for a better understanding of quality - and many of his other philosophical endeavors- eventually lead him to mental illness. The most disappointing feature of the novel is not the misery that surrounds the speaker, but the way in which he handles himself. In moments of deep thought the narrator criticizes "institutions of the system", in which he highlights the "fake" lifestyles of those who do not value, or do not recognize, topics which require in-depth contemplation. He brutally tries to uproot the commonly accepted standard of living, and encases himself in a bubble of what he believes to be a deeper understanding of existence. If everyone else lives falsely and thus is unable to achieve true happiness, then why is the narrator the one who lives miserably? It seems as if the speaker himself misses the point of what it means to be in acceptance and at peace with his own existence. Therefore, destroying the validity of his own values and obliterating his personal goal of inner peace. It cannot be overlooked that "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" is a fascinating read. To those who enjoy deep thought of all things which exist, the book would most likely be quite pleasurable. And even to those who do not enjoy such profound thinking have hope, if they skip a few chapters. The end of the book moves quickly and has a certain element of activity that most of the book lacks. Whereas the majority of the book is founded on deep thought and elaborate details of nature, the last few chapters of the piece are concise; focusing on the movement of the characters and communicating their personal stories rather than their stagnant mental dilemmas. Nonetheless, the book is not ranked in my personal top twenty of must-reads, nor is it something I would recommend to most of the people I know. If any one fragment of knowledge is to be taken from this piece, it would be that what a reader considers 'quality' work is absolutely relative.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2010

    More depressing than inspiring

    I do not know why this book became so popular. I found it rather dreary.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2004

    Ehhhh...?

    honestly, i read the book through recomendation - so many people told me that i would LOVE Pirsig's book. so i read it and was dissapointed. the story and philosophy behind the book is great - its definately one of those books you appreciate AFTER you read it. however, throughout the whole reading process, the emphasis on philosophy was completely forced, and Pirsig seems to TRY to FORCE the underlying (though in this book, not really UNDERlying) meaning to the forefront of the reader's perception. Other books such as 1984, Brave New World, Ishmael, and Lord of the Flies contain explicit emphasis on philosophy, yet it is embedded within a story that is identifiable only by a perceptive reader - not the case with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance... the abstract that makes up most books is concrete, and preachy on behalf of Persig. i would recomend the book, because the efforts and explanation is wonderful, its just not an enjoyable read - though an enjoyable afterthough and comparison.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2003

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

    Zen is not a book for those looking for a nice bedtime story. The book is not one that can be breezed through. Much of the book consists of Persig rambling on and on about the philosophical views he has jumbled in his mind. Although it was a hard read, it is full of insight into life and the 'quality' of it. Persig tried his best, but he did not pull out a winner this time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2003

    Confusing and Very Frustrating

    What is Quality? Just kidding. This book was, in my point of view, too in depth. Everything was analyzed and evaluated. It was too hard to grasp the points the author was trying to make. I had a very difficult time trying to understand anything the author was trying to say. I suppose it would be hard to understand the mind of someone who is unstable, but it would have been a lot easier if the book were more about Pirsig's connection with his son, Chris, instead of how he was searching for things that didn't exist during the time of someone who was completely made up. It was difficult to follow what was going on since there were so many things happening at once. This character obviously had quite a few issues that needed to be worked out with his son that I think he neglected to fix. All the struggles during the story seem to work themselves out too easily. I believe that in many ways this book was very hypocritical on some subjects. I would probably not recommend this book to many people just because I don't fully understand it; it just wasn't too fun to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2002

    amazingly...

    a weird title but i guess the book was okay. my soft back cover was pink in color so didnt go to well with the guys.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2001

    overrated

    it's fair. it's ok. it starts out very well but after about the halfway point, definitely takes a downhill spiral as the author tries to sneak in a sophie's world rendition of the history of philosophy. if you've studied any philosophy, you'll be annoyed with it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2010

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    Posted November 22, 2012

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    Posted August 2, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2011

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