Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, by Robert M. Pirsig

Second paragraph of third chapter:
John and I have discussed the situation in Breckenridge and decided to keep going until we have to stop.
I'd read this many years ago, of course, and what seemed to me like deep philosophical insights in my early twenties now seem like charmingly enough told philosophy lectures framed as a road trip. (Coincidentally, I've just been on a short road trip with my own son today. Pictures to come.) It's mostly a good read; I think it's still kind of grounding and helpful.

The difference between reading it now and reading it in the 1980s is that there is a whole host of internet fandom around the book that you can browse, including (in several places) photographs from the 1968 trip on which the story is based. Here's a particularly lovely one of the author and Chris on the famous bike (which itself is now in the Smithsonian).

The journey itself was way longer than I had realised, basically two-thirds of the way across the lower 48. (I still find it weird to think that Chicago is only a quarter of the way from East to West coasts.)

Bob and Gennie DeWeese, who the group stayed with in Bozeman, Montana, were very much real people who left a huge impression on the local artistic community. So were Jack and Wylla Barsness, who come to the DeWeese's party. John Sutherland died only recently but kept playing music to the end.

There are some references which are darker than the author first intended. I was struck by the description of the Church of the Minorites:
But the print, Feininger’s “Church of the Minorites,” had an appeal to him that was irrelevant to the art in that its subject, a kind of Gothic cathedral, created from semiabstract lines and planes and colors and shades, seemed to reflect his mind’s vision of the Church of Reason and that was why he’d put it here.
It is indeed quite a striking image:
But the sad fact is that by 1968, it was more than twenty years too late to see it in real life; the Barfüßerkirche in Erfurt was reduced to a shell by Allied bombs in 1944. I think Pirsig would have loved to use that metaphor if he's been aware of it, so I guess he just didn't know.

Pirsig's son Chris, as we are told in a sad afterword, died in 1979 just before his 23rd birthday, stabbed in the street in San Francisco.

Anyway, this was a good return journey. You can get it here.

This was the top book on my shelves that I had previously read but not reviewed online. Next on that pile is Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco.
Tags: bookblog 2020

Posts from This Journal “bookblog 2020” Tag

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