Lyft Industrial Deals HPC Enlightenment Now Red Shoes We Love nav_sap_plcc_ascpsc Shawn Colvin All-New Fire 7, starting at $49.99 Only: $49.99 Grocery Handmade Gift Shop Home and Garden Book a house cleaner for 2 or more hours on Amazon TheTick TheTick TheTick  Three new members of the Echo family Introducing All-New Fire HD 10 with Alexa hands-free $149.99 Kindle Paperwhite GNO Shop now TG18SW_gno

on March 13, 2017
In high school I would have told you this is my favorite book. I just re-read it 2 decades later. And I realize that I grasped about 20% of it at the time. Maybe. Something about the meandering philosophical flow captured my imagination at the time. But reading it now, as a father, I grasp the concepts underneath. I don't readily admit this but I wept at the end. Then I read the afterward and totally lost it. Beautiful, courageous work.
0Comment| 92 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on September 9, 2015
Looking at the reviews here, this book is loved by hundreds and reviled by a small percentage. I wonder what causes so much passion? It's wonderful that we have, among those who gave the book just one star, so many people who are so far above it intellectually -- too familiar with philosophy, too personally enlightened, perhaps -- to find any value in it. But I would like to point out to the subset of our best and brightest, those who tell everyone else not to waste their time reading it, that just because you got nothing out of the book doesn't mean no one else will.

One of the complaints I see here is that there isn't much of the title's Zen nor much motorcycle maintenance, either -- and I note that the author says something about this in his introduction, so it must be true, right? -- yet I believe there is plenty of both. If the reader is expecting an introduction to Zen or a How To manual on motorcycle maintenance, those will not be found. It's not even the author sharing his enjoyment of either of the two fields with his audience. But the themes that run throughout the book explore many of the same ideas the Buddha did, and several concepts important to motorcycle maintenance that will not be found in manuals are discussed throughout the work. But the title really represents the duality that Pirsig puts under his microscope: Zen represents the hippie "go with the flow" attitude that is contrasted to the "slice and dice" schemes of technology, via motorcycle maintenance. And in the end, the title doesn't say just motorcycle maintenance; it's the "Art " that's critical, because one thing the book is aiming for is to show us that the science of technology is an art -- or at least should be an art -- and that the two ways of looking at life don't need to be in opposition, but can be quite naturally blended, to the benefit of all concerned.

It might seem like the novel is caught in its time, with language about those who see things as "groovy" vs. "the squares" but the dichotomy between the two has been under discussion in various forms for centuries: romanticism vs. empiricism, passion vs. logic, science vs. religion. The same split is found today underlying two sides of the debate over climate change. If the book is not approached as being literally about Zen and motorcycle maintenance, but as using these as stand-ins for concepts that can be much larger -- or even much smaller -- there is a lot to be gained here.

Another complaint is that the protagonist is not sympathetic, but that's because this isn't a novel written from the romantic side, nor, really, the empirical side -- it's not even a novel, though it reads a lot like one -- it is a true-enough tale of relationships between two related men, and a father and a son, and a road trip that carries with it time for plenty of slow discussion of philosophy. The book takes its time putting the pieces together, and the author isn't trying to win our love -- if you can approach the book on its own terms rather than with a whole load of expectations about what it should do and how it should do it, you may get something out of it -- but to truly enjoy it, you've got to go with the flow, you know?

I know I get a lot out of it every time I read it. I love road stories, and this one is paced just like a real long-distance trip, with long stretches of time to think things through interspersed with short breaks for taking care of the business of life. That what's going on in the environment, relationships, and other encounters reflects what's being thought through in the long stretches is a small bonus. The writing is clean and evocative, enjoyable. For the most part, the carefully constructed introduction to all the elements needed to understand the philosophy is gentle enough to be clear and not overly taxing, at least until the deepest parts, which can be hard to follow (and for good reason). The elements of psychological mystery captivate me each time.

I first read ZAMM the year it was released, in the mid-70s, and have read it at least every five years since then, and each time I thoroughly enjoy it. The first time through, I could not follow the philosophy all the way down into the descent into madness it brought on. Five years later -- with time for the ideas to be examined through my own life -- I got it, even agreed with it. This time, this reading, is the first time I ended up doubting the validity of the greatest philosophical insights the story offers. Ironically, it's my deepening understanding of Buddhism that changed my mind.

There really is a lot of Buddhism in this book, and not specifically Zen, either, but the deepest themes common to all forms of Buddhism. The questions about the wisdom of dividing the world up into a duality of the physical vs. the mental, of seeing ourselves as somehow separate from everything else, these were explored by the Buddha, too, though the framework he used to discuss these ideas was -- obviously -- nothing to do with motorcycles. In Dependent Arising he, too, considers how it comes to be that we split the world in two. "Name and form" he calls this split, and later thinkers have described what he was talking about as the same subject-object division that Pirsig is mulling over in ZAMM. The Buddha, though, says that it is "desire for existence" -- not quality -- that, to borrow Pirsig's phrase, "is the generator of everything we know". I tend to agree with the Buddha because I can see in our lives, and through our sciences, what that desire for existence is and why it drives us to divide the world up the way we do, and exactly how it leads us into trouble. I can't say the same for Pirsig's metaphysics, but that doesn't stop me from deep enjoyment of the book. I hope to have another half-dozen five-yearly reads, if I'm lucky, and -- who knows -- maybe I will come around again to see it the way he does.
11 comment| 128 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on November 2, 2016
This is a road trip, an examination of philosophy, thinking, planning, quality and value. And, in addition to that are the steps needed to maintaining your motorcycle. It is broad and it is narrow. It is about mental illness and finding your way. And it is about a father and son and finally talking about what has not been discussed. My brother is a thinker and very detailed. That part of him was in this story. Though this book has been around over forty years, it still is pertinent today.
0Comment| 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on July 27, 2017
Couldn't read it. The print is so small it looks like you zoomed out to 40% in Microsoft Word.
Getting a refund was easy for me too. Why are they continuing to sell them with this problem? I guess it's so you can make notes or write another book in the margins. Maybe it's the Readers Digest condensed version??????
review image
11 comment| 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on September 7, 2017
This was a difficult book to get through. It’s not a quick, easy read and I found it overly analytical, verbose, and esoteric. But maybe that’s what Zen is. I enjoyed the actual story of the father and son on a motorcycle trip, which was interspersed with digressions on the metaphysics of Quality and the divide between “classic” and “romantic” views of the world among other detailed musings. Pirsig is obviously brilliant and this is interesting stuff but he belabors these points. Once I realized that this was based on the true story of his struggle with a mental breakdown, the story became more engrossing but I felt terrible for him and his son who had trouble dealing with his father’s sometimes split personality and tenuous mental stability. Overall, it was sometimes fascinating but others too repetitive and onerous.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
TOP 50 REVIEWERon October 14, 2017
“No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.” --Aristotle

Author Robert Pirsig would agree with that statement, having been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia between 1961 and 1963. Bits of that portion of his life is revealed in slivers, but “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” while acknowledging that part of his past, concentrates on the author’s struggle to define Quality. The background of the story describes a motorcycle trip from Minnesota to California that he took with his son Chris. It is almost as if Mr. Pirsig took two books and mixed them together, creating a thoughtful journal of a trip while addressing a philosophical question at the same time.

Somehow, it all works. I found myself fascinated with the relationships Mr. Pirsig had with son and friends, people who still worried that his moments of quiet thought might be harbingers of another schizophrenic period. This, of course, causes the reader to wonder the same thing, a potential situation Mr. Pirsig debates with himself throughout.

“Zen” is not a quick read. The author’s running discussion on philosophy and the question of Quality will cause you to have to engage your brain and think in order to follow what he is trying to say. This is not to imply that the book is boring or plodding, unless you have absolutely no desire to read one man’s philosophical thoughts; however, if you are interested in this sort of thing, the logical progression establishing his thesis is fascinating.

What was originally an opportunity to publish what Mr. Pirsig had created over the first part of his life turned into a bestseller. Though he passed away in April of 2017, the book still continues to sell, and deservedly so. Five stars.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on February 20, 2018
I have no fondest for motorcycles but found this book to be more enlightening in regards to mental illness and philosophy. I was upset that a mentally ill man would take his son on a cross country motorcycle trip only to revisit places where he had his mental breakdown. It seemed lacking in common sense and irresponsible to subject an already sensitive child to his fathers whims, but to read in the end how his son died was shocking and even more sorrowful after reading what both father and son went through. So this book is very logical but seems to be grasping at what the Quality of emotional intelligence is for in relation to nurturing our souls as well as our minds.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on December 7, 2017
I read this book when it first came out in 1974 and thought, Groovy! But, I lived through that era, had the conversations (still do to some extent – always thinking, analyzing my world) but now that it is 2017 and much life has transpired, with experiences, relationships and realities lived, the book held less interest to me and I found myself struggling to read to the end. I still enjoyed the ride, the wonder, and the son, but bend toward a different light.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on November 25, 2017
Amazing how Pirsig has the ability to put you into the mind of a schizophrenic, smoothly and gently, like you're on the journey with him. This book is deeper than I thought it was, and I'm thoroughly enjoying taking my time with it. Might have to update this review after I'm finished with it, but so far, it's highly recommended by me. Feels like one of those books I'll pick up again in 5-10 years. Outstanding so far!
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on October 8, 2017
I was nearly ready to put this book down because I thought the author was all,over the place but then I realized he was writing it from the perspective of his main character that in fact had mental health issues. After that point I was hooked and really enjoyed the book!
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse