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Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values Paperback – 6 Jun 1991

273 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (6 Jun. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099786400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099786405
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (273 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert M. Pirsig was born in 1928 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He holds degrees in chemistry, philosophy, and journalism and also studied Oriental philosophy at Benares Hindu University in India. He is the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila.

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Review

"Mr Pirsig has written a work of great, perhaps urgent, importance. Read this book" (Observer)

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is an unforgettable trip" (Time)

"Disturbing, deeply moving, full of insights. This is a wonderful book" (Times Literary Supplement)

"The book is inspired, original...the narrative tact, the perfect economy of effect defy criticism.The analogies with Moby-Dick are patent" (New Yorker)

"Profoundly important-full of insights into our most perplexing contemporary dilemmas" (New York Times)

Book Description

'A brilliant and original book... Everybody should read it' Guardian

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

280 of 294 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 May 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Before reviewing Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, let me mention that most people will either love or hate the book. Few will be indifferent.
Those who will love the book will include those who enjoy philosophy, especially those who are well read in that subject; people who ride and maintain their own motorcycles; readers who are interested in psychology, particularly in terms of the mass hypnosis of social concepts; individuals who are curious about the line we draw between sanity and insanity; and people who want to think about how to deal with troubling personal situations, especially as a parent. As someone who has all of these interests and perspectives, the book fit my needs very well.
Those who will dislike the book are people who like lots of action in their novels, dislike the subjects described above, and who want easy reading. This book is very thick with concepts, ideas, metaphors, and layering which reward careful reading and thought. Most text books are considerably easier to read and understand. Few modern novels are any more difficult to read from an intellectual and emotional perspective.
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90 of 95 people found the following review helpful By M. Asher on 17 Oct. 2004
Format: Paperback
A father taking his son on a motorcycling trip begins a discourse - he calls it a 'chautauka' - on the nature of 'quality' - that is, human values. What is good and what is bad? How do we know the difference? He examines the two ways that human beings look at the world - the Classical and the Romantic. The Classical divides the motorcycle (for instance) into its components. The Romantic only sees the complete and finished motorcycle. These two ways of looking at reality are both typically human, but are entirely incompatible. We gradually learn, though, that within the motorcyclist's journey there is a deeper journey. He has also come to look for Phaedrus - the character he used to be as a young post graduate student. As the story and the discourse unfold on different levels, we discover that 'Phaedrus' became obsessed with the idea of reconciling these two sets of values - a quest that took him deep into philosophy and eventually to such strange paths that he stepped outside the 'Church of Reason' and was considered insane. After treatment in a mental institution, his Phaedrus personality was removed, leaving him with only the relics of what he used to be and know, like archaeological ruins in a field. The journey, on a third level, is not only to rediscover Phaedrus but also to piece together from these 'ruins' the conclusions he came to. Finally he presents us with an entirely new 'third' way of looking at reality. Whether you accept his conclusions or not (the moral philosopher Mary Midgley gives the idea very short shrift)this book is a brilliant achievment - sad, funny, wise, moving, uplifting, enlightening - it works on many different levels. It is certainly the book I would want to take with me on a desert island.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Olly Buxton on 13 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
Many years ago a chap, who I am glad to report is now my brother-in-law, was prescribed this book as a Stage 1 Engineering pre-read. He took one look at the cover and gave it to me, at that point a pubescent teenager grappling with the existential difficulties of the world which suddenly were presenting themselves (I'm still grappling with them now, come to think of it).

"Here," he said, "you might have more use for this than me". He probably meant it as a joke.

Well, I had a go - I would guess this was about 1983 - and I still recall Robert M Pirsig's vivid account of the bright, hot sweep of the prairies from the saddle of motorcycle, his ruminations on how to tell if your tappets need realigning, and him rabbiting on about travelling circuses called "chautauquas" and this mysterious Phaedrus character.

I can't have got the whole way through because, as the journey arcs across the midwest to San Francisco, the personal story becomes more intense and the philosophy far more technical than a hormonally confused 13 year old could reasonably have stayed with.

Recently I've found a copy and re-read it. Pirsig's fascination with the orient feels a little dated (if not glib) but it's still a clever, original and thought-provoking book, though mostly for the narrative structure rather than the philosophical content. As we read on we are presented with uncomfortable chapters in Pirsig's history. We find that Phaedrus is in fact an earlier rendition of Pirsig himself; a child genius and a tenured academic at an early age who, spurred by his own existential search for "quality", drove himself mad. He had a psychotic episode and was only brought out of it with electro-shock therapy.
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