0205 | Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig

Context: Finished this off at our friends’ place in the Arabian Ranches, Dubai.

REVIEW
Heard, as many of you will have, about this book for years and never met anyone who’s read it. So, when I saw it in a charity shop, I thought I’d remedy that by reading it myself. It’s one strange book and an intriguing one at that.

The narrator is on a motorcycle road trip with his son and a couple of friends when the book begins. To start with, there are lengthy and not unenjoyable descriptions of this road trip. Occasionally, the narrator digresses, it seems, to reflect on some aspect of life (Zen) and mechanics (motorcycle maintenance).

But as the book progresses two things happen. Firstly the philosophical digressions become more and more involved, lengthy and numerous until the road trip is just an aside almost. Secondly, and more importantly, the narrator starts to tell you the life story of a guy named Phaedrus, a character who eventually and rather unexpectedly comes to dominate the book.

I found some of the philosophical stuff very interesting and some of it fairly pointless. I enjoyed the descriptions of how a motorbike should be cared for; I kind of felt like I was listening to someone talk about something they cared deeply about and, irrespective of the subject matter, this was enough to fascinate me.

It took me a while to develop ideas about what the book was about and what the writer was trying to achieve. I can’t really say what that is here because it would spoil it if you should read it, but if you really want to know, click show

If this is what Pirsig was attempting, I think he’s pulled it off pretty well and the book should be more widely read for this. But it’s hard to say with certainty that this is what he intended.

I enjoyed it and think it’s a book that should be more widely read than it is. If you’ve read it, it would be good if you could comment and say what you thought of it. Don’t give the story away though!

FIRST LINE
I can see by my watch, without taking my hand fromt he left grip of the cycle, that it is eight-thirty in the morning.

CLOSING LINE
You can sort of tell these things.

RATING
rubbish | poor | mediocre | okay | good | very good | excellent | superbHear

  • cipriano September 27, 2009, 1:03 am

    Thank you for this review Arukiyomi. I too have meant to read this book for a long time, and have just not gotten around to doing so, for one reason or another. As recently as a few weeks ago I was looking at it in the bookstore and nearly walked up to the cashier with it.
    I’m going to a massive used booksale soon though, and shall keep an eye out for it at a hugely reduced price. In other words, [as you did] maybe I can find an old copy of the motorcycle book with some mileage on it.
    As far as these “religio-philosophy” type books go, I recently DID purchase The Story of B, by Daniel Quinn and plan on reading it soon.

    Reply

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