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

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At its heart, the story is all too simple: a man and his son take a lengthy motorcycle trip through America. But this is not a simple trip at all, for around every corner, through mountain and desert, wind and rain, and searing heat and biting cold, their pilgrimage leads them to new vistas of self-discovery and renewal.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Mantenance is an elemental work that has helped to shape and define the past twenty-five ...
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Brand new copy. We offer quick shipping, careful packaging, full money-back guarantee and a personally selected range of books on self-help, health, healing, ... homeopathy,relationships, metaphysics, art,Buddhism and eastern wisdom traditions at fabulous prices. Please browse our wonderful selection. Read more Show Less

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Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A. 1995 Paperback New 0553277472. FLAWLESS COPY, PRISTINE, NEVER OPENED-380 pages. "A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and ... his son, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance 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." Read more Show Less

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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Overview

At its heart, the story is all too simple: a man and his son take a lengthy motorcycle trip through America. But this is not a simple trip at all, for around every corner, through mountain and desert, wind and rain, and searing heat and biting cold, their pilgrimage leads them to new vistas of self-discovery and renewal.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Mantenance is an elemental work that has helped to shape and define the past twenty-five years of American culture. This special audio edition presents this adventure in a compelling way - for the millions who have already taken this journey and want to travel these roads again, and for the many more who will discover for the first time the wonders and challenges of a journey that will change the way they think and feel about their lives.

The extraordinary story of a man's quest for truth. It will change the way you think and feel about your life The cycle you're working on is a cycle called 'yourself,' Robert M. Pirsig says. The study of the art of motorcycle maintainence is really a study of the art of rationality itself. Working on a motorcycle, working well, caring, is to become part of a process, to achieve an inner peace of mind. The motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon. The book details a cross-country motorcycle trip by a man and his 11-year-old son, as well as his quest for truth.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Profoundly important... full of insights into our most perplexing contemporary dilemmas... It is intellectual entertainment of the highest order.
New York Times
New Yorker
It lodges in the mind as few recent novels have... The book is inspiredoriginal... As the mountains gentle toward the sea—with father and child locked in a ghostly grip—the narrative tactthe perfect economy of effect defy criticism... The analogies with Moby Dick are patent. Robert Pirsig invites the prodigious comparison... What more can one say?"
Village Voice
It's a miracle.. sparkles like an electric dream. Freshnessoriginality... that seduces you into loving motorcyclesas tender in their pistons as the petals in the Buddah's dawn lotus.
New York Times
Profoundly important... full of insights into our most perplexing contemporary dilemmas... It is intellectual entertainment of the highest order.
The New York Times
Profoundly important... full of insights into our most perplexing contemporary dilemmas... It is intellectual entertainment of the highest order.
The New Yorker
It lodges in the mind as few recent novels have... The book is inspired, original... As the mountains gentle toward the sea--with father and child locked in a ghostly grip--the narrative tact, the perfect economy of effect defy criticism... The analogies with Moby Dick are patent. Robert Pirsig invites the prodigious comparison... What more can one say?"
The Village Voice
It's a miracle.. sparkles like an electric dream. Freshness, originality... that seduces you into loving motorcycles, as tender in their pistons as the petals in the Buddah's dawn lotus.
New York Times Book Review
Profoundly important... full of insights into our most perplexing contemporary dilemmas... It is intellectual entertainment of the highest order. -- The New York Times
Time
“An unforgettable trip.”
Baltimore Sun
“It is filled with beauty. . .a finely made whole that seems to emanate from a very special grace.”
The New Yorker
“The book is inspired, original. . . . The analogies with Moby-Dick are patent.”
New York Times
“Profoundly important...full of insights into our most perplexing contemporary dilemmas.”
The Village Voice
“A miracle . . . sparkles like an electric dream.”
Time Magazine
"An unforgettable trip."
From the Publisher
"Profoundly important ... intellectual entertainment of the highest order." — The New York Times

"Brave wanderings, high adventures, extraordinary risks ... A horn of plenty." — Los Angeles Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553277470
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/1/1984
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 380
  • Lexile: 1040L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 4.24 (w) x 6.88 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert M. Pirsig was born in 1928 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He studied chemistry and philosophy (B.A., 1950) and journalism (M.A., 1958) at the University of Minnesota, pursued graduate work in philosophy at the University of Chicago, and attended Benares Hindu University in India, where he studied Oriental philosophy. He is also the author of a sequel to this book, Lila.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

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. The wind, even at sixty miles an hour, is warm and humid. When it's this hot and muggy at eight-thirty, I'm wondering what it's going to be like in the afternoon.

In the wind are pungent odors from the marshes by the road. We are in an area of the Central Plains filled with thousands of duck hunting sloughs, heading northwest from Minneapolis toward the Dakotas. This highway is an old concrete two-laner that hasn't had much traffic since a four-laner went in parallel to it several years ago. When we pass a marsh the air suddenly becomes cooler. Then, when we are past, it suddenly warms up again.

I'm happy to be riding back into this country. It is a kind of nowhere, famous for nothing at all and has an appeal because of just that. Tensions disappear along old roads like this. We bump along the beat-up concrete between the cattails and stretches of meadow and then more cattails and marsh grass. Here and there is a stretch of open water and if you look closely you can see wild ducks at the edge of the cattails. And turtles. . . . There's a red-winged blackbird.

I whack Chris's knee and point to it, "What!" he hollers.

"Blackbird!"

He says something I don't hear. "What?" I holler back. He grabs the back of my helmet and hollers up, "I've seen lots of those, Dad!"

"Oh!" I holler back. Then I nod. At age eleven you don't get very impressed with red-winged blackbirds.

You have to get older for that. For me this is all mixed with memories that he doesn't have. Cold mornings long ago when the marsh grass had turned brown andcattails were waving in the northwest wind. The pungent smell then was from muck stirred up by hip boots while we were getting in position for the sun to come up and the duck season to open. Or winters when the sloughs were frozen over and dead and I could walk across the ice and snow between the dead cat-tails and see nothing but grey skies and dead things and cold. The blackbirds were gone then. But now in July they're back and everything is at its alivest and every foot of these sloughs is humming and cricking and buzzing and chirping, a whole community of millions of living things living out their lives in a kind of benign continuum.

You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it's right there, so blurred you can't focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.

Chris and I are traveling to Montana with some friends riding up ahead, and maybe headed farther than that. Plans are deliberately indefinite, more to travel than to arrive anywhere. We are just vacationing. Secondary roads are preferred. Paved county roads are the best, state highways are next. Freeways are the worst. We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on "good" rather than "time" and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes. Twisting hilly roads are long in terms of seconds but are much more enjoyable on a cycle where you bank into turns and don't get swung from side to side in any compartment. Roads with little traffic are more enjoyable, as well as safer. Roads free of drive-ins and billboards are better, roads where groves and meadows and orchards and lawns come almost to the shoulder, where kids wave to you when you ride by, where people look from their porches to see who it is, where when you stop to ask directions or information the answer tends to be longer than you want rather than short, where people ask where you're from and how long you've been riding.It was some years ago that my wife and I and our friends first began to catch on to these roads. We took them once in a while for variety or for a shortcut to another main highway, and each time the scenery was grand and we left the road with a feeling of relaxation and enjoyment. We did this time after time before realizing what should have been obvious: these roads are truly different from the main ones. The whole pace of life and personality of the people who live along them are different. They're not going anywhere.

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First Chapter

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
An Inquiry Into Values

Chapter One

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. The wind, even at sixty miles an hour, is warm and humid. When it's this hot and muggy at eight-thirty, I'm wondering what it's going to be like in the afternoon.

In the wind are pungent odors from the marshes by the road. We are in an area of the Central Plains filled with thousands of duck hunting sloughs, heading northwest from Minneapolis toward the Dakotas. This highway is an old concrete two-laner that hasn't had much traffic since a four-laner went in parallel to it several years ago. When we pass a marsh the air suddenly becomes cooler. Then, when we are past, it suddenly warms up again.

I'm happy to be riding back into this country. It is a kind of nowhere, famous for nothing at all and has an appeal because of just that. Tensions disappear along old roads like this. We bump along the beat-up concrete between the cattails and stretches of meadow and then more cattails and marsh grass. Here and there is a stretch of open water and if you look closely you can see wild ducks at the edge of the cattails. And turtles. . . . There's a red-winged blackbird.

I whack Chris's knee and point to it, "What!" he hollers.

"Blackbird!"

He says something I don't hear. "What?" I holler back. He grabs the back of my helmet and hollers up, "I've seen lots of those, Dad!"

"Oh!" I holler back. Then I nod. At age eleven you don't get very impressed with red-winged blackbirds.

You have to get older for that. For me this is all mixed with memories that he doesn't have. Cold mornings long ago when the marsh grass had turned brown and cattails were waving in the northwest wind. The pungent smell then was from muck stirred up by hip boots while we were getting in position for the sun to come up and the duck season to open. Or winters when the sloughs were frozen over and dead and I could walk across the ice and snow between the dead cat-tails and see nothing but grey skies and dead things and cold. The blackbirds were gone then. But now in July they're back and everything is at its alivest and every foot of these sloughs is humming and cricking and buzzing and chirping, a whole community of millions of living things living out their lives in a kind of benign continuum.

You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it's right there, so blurred you can't focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.

Chris and I are traveling to Montana with some friends riding up ahead, and maybe headed farther than that. Plans are deliberately indefinite, more to travel than to arrive anywhere. We are just vacationing. Secondary roads are preferred. Paved county roads are the best, state highways are next. Freeways are the worst. We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on "good" rather than "time" and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes. Twisting hilly roads are long in terms of seconds but are much more enjoyable on a cycle where you bank into turns and don't get swung from side to side in any compartment. Roads with little traffic are more enjoyable, as well as safer. Roads free of drive-ins and billboards are better, roads where groves and meadows and orchards and lawns come almost to the shoulder, where kids wave to you when you ride by, where people look from their porches to see who it is, where when you stop to ask directions or information the answer tends to be longer than you want rather than short, where people ask where you're from and how long you've been riding.It was some years ago that my wife and I and our friends first began to catch on to these roads. We took them once in a while for variety or for a shortcut to another main highway, and each time the scenery was grand and we left the road with a feeling of relaxation and enjoyment. We did this time after time before realizing what should have been obvious: these roads are truly different from the main ones. The whole pace of life and personality of the people who live along them are different. They're not going anywhere.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
An Inquiry Into Values
. Copyright © by Robert Pirsig. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
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.

Topics for Discussion

  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is at once the story of a motorcycle journey across the country; a meditation on values and the concept of Quality; and an allegorical tale of a man coming to terms with his past. Discuss which aspects of the novel you found most compelling, and why.
  • Discuss Pirsig's Author's Note. What does he mean when he says "much has been changed for rhetorical purposes?" Is he saying the book is fact or fiction? How does his use of a first-person narrator make this a complex question? What is the relationship between author and narrator?
  • Discuss ZMM's epigraph: And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good -- Need we ask anyone to tell us these things? How does this query resemble a Buddhist koan -- a paradoxical or nonsensical question that emphasizes the process of meditating on the question rather than the answer? Why do you think Pirsig chose this excerpt to introduce the book?
  • At the beginning of their trip, the narrator and John have a conversation in which the narrator refers to education as "mass hypnosis," citing as an example the fact that Newton's law of gravity is nothing more than a human invention, as are laws of logic, mathematics, and ghosts. Why doesthis dialogue take place at the outset of the novel, as opposed to somewhere in the middle or the end of the trip? How is Pirsig preparing the reader for the novel's future scenes?
  • In setting out the topic for his Chautauqua, Pirsig compares the current consciousness to a stream overflowing its channels, causing destruction and havoc as it searches for new ones: "There are eras of human history in which the channels of thought have been too deeply cut and no change was possible, and nothing new ever happened, and 'best' was a matter of dogma, but that is not the situation now. Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, losing its central direction and purpose. . . . Some channel deepening seems called for." (p. 16). Can you explain this metaphor? What sorts of change is he referring to? What does he mean by "channel deepening?"
  • As a writer of technical manuals, the narrator decries the current situation in which the idea of who a man is has become separated from what he does. He claims that in this separation are clues to "what the hell has gone wrong with the twentieth century." How does this concept fit in to what you know of Zen Buddhism, which celebrates the oneness of the universe? Do you feel at one with your occupation? Explain why or why not. If not, what is keeping you from feeling connected to what you do for a living? Would you feel more satisfied, or be a better worker, if you did feel that connection?
  • The narrator divides human understanding into two categories: romantic and classical. Discuss the distinction between the two. How do you fit into either of these dichotomies? Give examples that illustrate the tendencies that make you, personally, either classical or romantic.
  • How does Pirsig introduce and develop the character of Phaedrus? Can you rely on the narrator to offer an accurate picture of Phaedrus's insanity? Do you think Phaedrus really was insane?
  • What do you think of the narrator's son, Chris? Does he seem troubled, or merely a typical boy impatient with his father's behavior? Who do you think is a better father to Chris -- Phaedrus or the narrator?
  • Why do you think the narrator refuses to complete the trek up the mountain, despite Chris's disappointment that they won't be reaching the top? Is the threat of a rock slide real? Is he afraid to "meet" Phaedrus? Is he making a statement about ego relative to Zen philosophy? What is happening in the Chautauqua at this point in the book?
  • Discuss the climactic scene -- a confrontation between Chris and the narrator that takes place on a foggy cliff overlooking the ocean. Where is Phaedrus? What does this scene reveal about all three characters? How does this scene change your interpretations of the events that have lead up to it? What is the significance of Chris and his father removing their helmets for the remainder of the journey?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 251 )
Rating Distribution

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(99)

4 Star

(67)

3 Star

(38)

2 Star

(25)

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(22)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 252 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2003

    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 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.

    17 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    It's worth the read

    Reading the novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was overall an enjoyable experience. The novel is about the narrator's journey on his motorcycle with his son. The narrator describes everything he sees in detail throughout his trip, which does get quite boring and repetitive. Although the description of his journey may be boring, it gives the reader a feeling of truly being in the mind of the narrator. You feel as if what you're reading is a part of your own thought. One second you're just observing terrain, and the next second a thought emerges, which leads you to another thought and another thought. In his thoughts, the narrator begins to take apart what you know as truth, and concepts and ideas you would never think to question. He makes you wonder if everything you've ever know to be real is just a figment of your imagination. Because I've never studied or read philosophy, I found these topics new and exciting. The idea that the concepts of science are actually modern day ghost that we have come to believe in open my eyes to the idea that everything is only in the mind. The idea of ghosts seems silly to us now, but when the narrator explains it you really begin to understand that everything we believe in is as realistic as a ghost. Everything we believe in is only in our mind, whether its ghosts or science. As the narrator takes you through his thought process you begin to make connections, and you feel that you're studying philosophy yourself. The narrator also goes into Buddhist ideals. He talks about how everyone needs peace of mind to accomplish anything. He also says that before you can fix any exterior problems, like the fixing of a motorcycle, you must work on yourself first. You must resolve all your inner problems and then move on to your external problems one by one. If you have internal problems they will reflect onto your external problems and you will accomplish nothing. Although the philosophy is entertaining, certain parts are unclear and confusing. At some points you're unsure of whether the narrator has just contradicted himself, or if you have just missed something he has stated. The narrator's thoughts also get frustrating at times. After a long explanation of thought, the narrator sometimes refuted his own argument and had to start a new argument from scratch. Although it is frustrating, this only adds to the feeling that the novel is a trail of your own thoughts. As a person who is new to the concepts of philosophy, I feel that someone who has studied philosophy would not find this book as interesting as I had. Although the philosophical concepts may not be as thorough as a philosopher might like, it is interesting to see how one man evaluates his surroundings, and to see what conclusions he makes through his observations. The novel allows you to see many ways of looking at and evaluating life. The novel makes you think about things you would have never realized could even be questioned. Overall the novel was fun to read because you feel as if you're trying to figure out these rhetorical and logical flaws as the narrator does in his novel.

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2013

    Solid Introspective Read

    I agree with everyone else: the details are extensive. That, in my opinion, is where the greater understanding lies. If you're looking for a quick, easy read, this isn't it. Read it like a conversation with an old friend, or like you're listening to a grandparent tell a story about their twenties. The seemingly mundane details make the book that much better if you stop and actually pay attention to them.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Best book I've ever read!

    I read this many years ago when I was in High School when it came out. It touched me in many ways from traveling with a motorcycle cross country to understanding how God is beyond definition in words. I had memorized Goethe's Der Erlkönig month's before finding this book and many more "coincidences" that led to such a strong epiphany that I had wanted to travel West to meet Pirsig. Unfortunately that never happened.

    This is powerful read that may confuse some or help congeal different thoughts into meaning or a path to meaning. To the reader that said defining "Quality" is a waste of time, that's actually the point... The sound of one hand clapping... It's meaningful nonsense because you are trying to define something inside your current world, with your current lexicon, and not stretching to a new paradigm, which is a non action and just "letting it in".

    There are things in our world we can not define although we can glimpse them every now and then. Some things we can not quantify such as a pet's intelligence, gravity, love, deja vu, quantum entanglement... Yet this is all part of our real universe.

    The other day I threw a ball perfectly to another person and it happened without forethought of the trajectory calculus involved. It was just there and real.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2011

    This book changed everything for a highschool student in NJ.

    This book had a profound effect on the way that I saw the world after reading it in highschool. It has had an effect on everything that I have done in the 15 years since. The book provokes the reader to ask questions about what we value in our lives and why without turning into some Dr Phil rhetoric about feelings. The story of the author and his son is compelling on its own and a perfect back drop for his inquiry into quality. I highly recomend it to anyone that hasnt read it before.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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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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  • Posted August 18, 2011

    Great Plot, But Very Confusing Read

    Although well written, I felt that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance presented it's ideas in a very confusing manner. This novel covered a larger array of topics than I ever recall noticing in other books. Pirsig is so passionate about his philosophical musings, that it comes off as rambling, which unless you are as interested as the author is, becomes very repetitive very quickly. I think I now understand the numerous rejections this novel had to endure before it was finally published. Perhaps he should have narrowed down the number of points of interest, so as to not confuse the reader. One "chautauqua," which was meant as a small philosophical discussion (resembling more what I imagine a college classroom lecture would be like), would consist of fifteen pages dealing with the split between classical and romantic reasoning. After about a paragraph of relief when the narrator goes back to describing the real story of a cross country road trip, he would begin yet another philosophical outpouring of ideas on a completely different topic. As a reader, I found myself continuously flipping back and forth throughout the story. Unfortunately not in a nostalgic way, but in an effort to understand how the two topics could possibly be related. If Pirsig actually believes that every topic discussed was absolutely necessary to get his message across, the term "less is more" was most likely a concept that he rejected. The fact that so many topics were discussed so thoroughly, and sometimes without a break in between, made this book a very slow read that required patience and a willingness to reread certain lines, passages or chapters. If it was the author's intention to use his ramblings as an example of the workings of a damaged mind, then he succeeded.
    When I first heard the title of the book, I assumed it was allegorical, but instead found it to be a depressingly accurate description of what to expect. Sometimes I found the motorcycle analogies to be helpful when deciphering the author's message. For example, 'gumption traps' would have been a more difficult concept for me to understand if not for the association to boredom and frustration which get in the way of a mechanic's enthusiasm when repairing his cycle. However as someone totally unfamiliar with motorcycles, I found it especially difficult to stay focused on the theme when the author went into such tedious detail about specific machinery and tools.
    On a more positive note, I found the actual story of Chris and his father to be fascinating (and brief!), especially with the conflict of Phaedrus trying to resurface and connect with his son. This was the first time I found myself relating to someone with a mental illness of this sort. Usually our brain is thought of as the way out of a problem, and this story made me wonder, "what if sometimes our minds are the problem?" My favorite part was the last time the narrator mentioned his recurring dream, because that marked the point where Phaedrus finally overcame himself and re-emerges.
    All in all, with such an interesting plot, this novel would be less overwhelming if it was equal parts philosophy and actual storyline.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2011

    Worth the read

    This book introduced me to the idea of quality as a goal when I was a small boy. I found this book in a lemon and orange orchard in Ventura, CA as a 9 year old. I read the book until the cover fell off. Besides being a great way to introduce logical thought (because of the way the idea is presented) it is simply a good read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2011

    Far too much

    Quick into reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance, I realized that the narrator enjoyed rambling. When discussing his journey he made sure to provide the reader with ample detail, however I did not personally like that. The immense amount of details seemed to sidetrack me from the philosophical understanding of the text. He went too far into details with the scenery that he saw, the weather, the mood, etc. With the excessive amount of detail, I was easily bored while reading and unfortunately, it would cause me to put the book down for periods of time, thus losing connection to the author. The whole idea of "repairing motorcycles" was distracting as well. As a female reader, the idea of repairing motorcycles does not interest me, therefore I lost any sense of connection through the random talk about the repair of them. I realize it was all for the narrator to get his points across about the relations of motorcycle repair to scenarios in life, but he could have simply showed the symbolism between the two and omitted all the extra unnecessary details. I found the conflicts within the book to be interesting and relatable to a more general audience though. There is the idea of reconciling with one's past as well as a father's lost connection with his son. These issues are all a result of the narrator's insanity. He must search for ways to find peace not only within himself, but also with those around him, especially his son. The only times I was able to feel connected to the text was during the philosophical discussions, mainly those of Phaedrus' beliefs, before the author would sidetrack back to describing his journey on the road to through the West. At this point the narrator discusses compelling philosophical insights that the reader is actually able to learn from. He discusses topics such as the classic-romantic split and stresses the importance of the unity of the two. The idea of "caring" was very common throughout his text as well. In order to be successful at something, one must care for what they are doing in order for their performance to reach its full potential. The narrator showed he cared about motorcycles by constantly mentioning them and through his knowledge to fix them without the necessity of a manual. He wanted to pass this knowledge to his son, but since there was no connection between them and Chris did not care, this was difficult for him to do. Finally, defining "Quality" was a major aspect in this novel. The author came to the conclusion that quality is the source of all objects and subjects and therefore cannot be defined. This book was assigned to me, had it been optional, I would not have chosen it. The overall message that the book portrayed about finding one's identity was very intriguing. Without the excessive detail, I think the book would have been pleasant to read in regards to the philosophical aspects that the author touches upon.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2006

    An extraordinary read

    I just finished re-reading this gem of a book. When I first read it, some 22 years ago, it spoke to so much of what I was grappling with and had no words for as I came to grips with a culture and society that seemed at best disinterested, and at times, hostile to any notion of authentic self-expression and communication. In the intervening years, through the participation in a rigorous discipline, I have come to have a deep regard and appreciation for the language and distinctions he creates, which are as fresh and powerful now as they were then. What Pirsig shares with us, his readers, is an extraordinary journey to the heart of our humanity, played out in multiple layers. I cannot recommend this book too highly. For me, it is one for all ages.

    1 out of 1 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2000

    Illumination...

    I read this book in the early 80s - and have re-read it several times... it made me step away from myself and really look at what my life was. I have read many books, but this one is on top of my list. It will take you to a different level of understanding and introduce you to what the meaning of life really is. It is an existential view of reality. This book should be read by all.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2000

    Fascinating Look at a person's search for meaning

    Many great reviews have been written here and have said most of what I want to say and agree with. I only wanted to add that this book is an incredible take on modern metaphysics. I see it as one person's search for universal truth, the search for meaning beyond dichotomous concepts such as 'good' and 'bad', hence the long and fascinating journey into what 'Quality' really means. Pirsig attempts to convey something beyond a simple view of the world, just as many before him have, such as Lao Tzu in the 'Tao Te Ching' or other books on Eastern Philosophy. This book is definitely for thinkers and will give you plenty to process. Another fascinating book, which is more a book that you absorb than think about and which really allows a practical understanding of something beyond 'good/bad' and 'right/wrong' is Ariel and Shya Kane's 'Working on Yourself Doesn't Work'. Whether or not you liked Pirsig's book, if you have an interest in understanding life and its meaning for you, the Kanes do a brilliant and beautiful job of making life easy and truly understanding 'Quality'. I think Robert Pirsig would even like them and their book. 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' offers a conceptual framework of how one might search for meaning and 'Working on Yourself Doesn't Work' is like the How-To Manual for getting meaning and satisfaction out of life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 7, 2014

    DO NOT READ THE INTRO! Not only did the author provide spoilers

    DO NOT READ THE INTRO!

    Not only did the author provide spoilers for his own freaking book, he also spoils Turn of the Screw, which is both loaded on to my mp3 player to listen to this month AND I had it found in one of my classic collections of novels and had it all ready to read on my Nook just in case I preferred that format. It's October, a good ghost story would be awesome, and this book ruined BOTH. I can't believe the coincidence, obviously the fates have it out for me and are laughing at me somewhere. What author puts spoilers in the intro of his own book? Seriously? Now I have to wait a few years to read it, hopefully I'll remember to not read the intro but forget what he said.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2014

    Who Knew?

    Life altering in a quiet way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2013

    Xan

    Rode in with wolf

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2013

    The book is fantastic. The kids posting- looks like 5th graders

    The book is fantastic. The kids posting- looks like 5th graders are on vacation from school. Go to bed children.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2013

    Flameclaw

    Why do we have to move

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2013

    Bayhearth

    Bayhearth padded around boredly. He stiffened as a young tomcat with jagged stripes on his paws and 'bangs'. The tom also had one diamond shape on his back, just as Bayhearth has on his chest and both forelegs. "Yeildheart." The tom dipped his head.<br>"Father."

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2013

    Stormshadow

    He pads in

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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