Basing a new book on a much loved (or at least best selling) original is always going to pose some problems. How far can an author go in his "homage" to a book before the new work becomes plagiarism or worse, parody? In this regard the author of Now and Zen sails very close to the wind in the opening sections of his book. Both books start early in the morning - 8.30 in the original, 9.30 in the new - on hot days, both books say that it's not a problem on a motor bike and within the first two pages both riders have seen red-winged blackbirds. Some of the phrases used in the new are so redolent of the old that they caused me to pause mid-paragraph - "Change, not good, not bad. Just change." It seems that the author is straining to use a voice that is not his own, and in the first section of the book at least, the rhythms and structure of the original seem to overwhelm anything he has to say.
As the book progresses this becomes much less noticeable - this may be due to the authors forced deviations away from the path of the original "Zen Journey" cased by change, and also be a growing understanding that many parts of the original book were changed for "rhetorical purposes". You cannot be a slave to a pathway that in fact did not exist.
Many of the characters from the original book are visited along the way, although the Persig's themselves are only present through the letters they have written. The death of Persig's son Chris, killed in a street assault, robs the book of a valuable witness to the original journey. It is the second half of this book which rescues it from the concerns mentioned above. The more the book progresses the better it becomes. In the end we are given a much clearer vision of both authors - Richardson and Pirsig. Three stars feels overly critical here, Four stars a little generous - so I'll go with generosity.
If you have not read either of the books published by Robert Persig this book may act as a gentle introduction to them both, but I think it is far more likely to appeal to those who have already discovered the books and are looking for more information on their broader context and history.
If you read the original zen book then this may prove fascinating reading. Following the trail of the original zen journey is the sort of Sentimental thing I'd be prone to do, I don't live in USA so this is the next best thing for me.great reading about him meeting the very people who mr pirsig met on his original journey. Book have an interesting insight to the personality of Mr Pirsig too, who turned out to have a seemingly different personality to the one I thought he had from my reading of the original over 20 years ago.
I bought this as a companion to the original novel, to help me gain an insight into WHY, and it was handy for the paper I was writing. From the beginning to the end, you can't put it down. Twists abound...
A solo trip following Persig's journey which had the author doing some of his own seeking in turn. Journeying "alone" for long periods can ask a lot of oneself, as anyone who has undertaken a long trip on a motorbike may recognize - I personally having gone through substantial portions of my life while on the road on a bike.
This form of travel remains a form few will undertake; Erica Jong said once "Solitude is un-American" (make that un-Western), and may well be, when combined with the art of solo motorcycle riding and our own social nature, tough in ways that may surprise.
Pirsig and many others have dealt with this mode of solo travel for the restive mind. I believe that for each of us the experience of such travel is different, possibly a reflection of our unique selves. This form of travel allows some of us to get to know ourselves better, something that is not always easy, but a good thing nevertheless. Mark Richardson too seemed to find himself following in the tracks of the journey chronicled by Pirsig all those years ago.
I enjoyed it, finding echoes of similar and different trips, solo and with my lady, and a life with more questions than answers. It may not be everyone's cup of tea but for those who enjoyed Pirsig's trip it's more than a little interesting.