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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (Mass Market Paperback)
by Robert Pirsig (Author) "I can see by my watch, without taking my hand from the left grip of the cycle, that it is eight-thirty in the morning..." (more)
Key Phrases: Church of Reason, University of Chicago, Navy Pier (more...)
(481 customer reviews)    

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Editorial Reviews
Arguably one of the most profoundly important essays ever written on the nature and significance of "quality" and definitely a necessary anodyne to the consequences of a modern world pathologically obsessed with quantity. Although set as a story of a cross-country trip on a motorcycle by a father and son, it is more nearly a journey through 2,000 years of Western philosophy. For some people, this has been a truly life-changing book. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

George Steiner, The New Yorker
It lodges in the mind as few recent novels have...The book is inspired, original...the narrative tact, the perfect economy of effect defy criticism. The analogies with Moby Dick are patent. Robert Pirsig invites the prodigious comparison. What more can one say? --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

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Inside This Book (learn more)
First Sentence:
I can see by my watch, without taking my hand from the left grip of the cycle, that it is eight-thirty in the morning. Read the first page
Key Phrases - Capitalized Phrases (CAPs): (learn more)
Church of Reason, University of Chicago, Navy Pier, Great Books, Isaac Newton, Miles City, Plato's Good, South Dakota, Absolute Mind, Big Mistake, Dialogues of Plato, Immortal Truth, Klamath Lake, United States
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Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover | Surprise Me!
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First tag: gave to edward ("danthemaninafryingpan" on Dec 17, 2005)
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210 of 236 people found the following review helpful:

Over 2000 Years of Wisdom in 373 Pages, May 2, 2000
Reviewer:"cicha1994" (Schenectady, NY United States) - See all my reviews
In my (1/e)*100 years on this planet, during which I devoured at least ten times as many books, I have read only two more than once - "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" is one of them. In this monumental 1974 work, Robert Pirsig has achieved what few others have managed before him and, to the best of my knowledge, nobody else has accomplished since: a perfect unification of philosophy, adventure and mystery. His "Chautauqua," or traveling tale, takes the reader on a profound tour of ancient Greek philosophy, the steppes of Montana, and even a little bit of Zen Buddhism, with endless surprises and much original if not truly inspired thought along the way. Through his self-portrayal by means of the unforgettable and eerily enigmatic character Phaedrus, Mr. Pirsig shares his far-reaching search for the meaning of life, and himself. His fundamental concern is with the following seemingly simple but in effect infinitely complex question: "How can one distinguish "good" from "bad?" The question is posed and addressed in many different forms throughout the book, and in the process the concepts of truth, value and quality are dissected, reassembled, and again dissected and reassembled many times. Mr. Pirsig has an uncanny sense of timing, and he never allows the heavier passages to labor on too long. This is avoided by craftily interspersing his philosophical discourse amongst very down-to-earth and charming observations made during a motorcycle trip that takes the narrator and his seemingly troubled son Chris from the American Prairies to the Pacific, and forms the prevalent background for the entire "Chautauqua." "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" is a totally unique creation. Not being one to lend himself easily to corny clichs, I nevertheless believe that this is one book that definitely could dramatically change your life, whether or not you believe in Zen or have ever sat on a motorcycle. If you love somebody, buy them this book

88 of 119 people found the following review helpful:

philosophical time capsule, February 3, 2004
Reviewer:Eric J. Lyman (Roma, Lazio Italy) - See all my reviews
I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for the first time a couple of years after it was published, when the eye-catching pink paperback cover was new to bookstores (I remember my parents talking about that bold color while we were on our own long trip of some kind). At that time, I was more or less the same age as the son of the book's narrator, Phaedrus, and of course I could not help but interpret the story from the younger man's perspective: this was an adventure story about a cross country trip, a boy learning about his father, an introduction to a life led by beliefs rather than instinct.

Now, as an adult, I see things through Phaedrus' eyes -- which is to say author Robert Persig's eyes, since in terms of concepts (if not geography) it is considered autobiographical -- and I can recognize many of Phaedrus' musings and thoughts as those of a man who is at once confident of and also seeking his place in the world.

The book is best known as a tribute or sequel to Henry David Thoreau's Walden, which Phaedrus refers to at several points. Others have pointed out, for example, that the protagonist's long (and not too interesting) discussion of what he carries in his knapsack recall Mr. Thoreau's own endless lists of the materials used to build his lakeside shack or the seeds he planted for his sustenance.

But there is much more to this book than that. The provocative blend of Eastern and Western thought, the way he generalizes regarding his philosophical predecessors (and gets some things wrong), the conclusions he draws and the way he sometimes fails to follow his own advice -- they blend to create a picture of an intelligent, complex, and flawed character. Not unlike many of the book's readers.

Maybe that is a key to the book's lasting impact -- at least to this point. Like Walden, the book has practically become an icon in the decades since it was published. A quick scan on Amazon reveals dozens of books using the title Zen and the Art of something ... of knitting ... of making a living ... of archery ... of falling in love ... of poker ... of day trading ... even of the actual maintenance of motorcycles.

But unlike Walden, I think the high water mark for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has come and gone. It was an interesting and compelling re-read for me -- as it would no doubt be for others -- but as I worked through it I started to realize that much of its appeal was as a philosophical time capsule, a glimpse at a time when the globalization of ideas was still new, when East and West were further apart than they are today. Take that away and most of what is left is an adventure story about a cross country trip, a boy learning about his father, an introduction to a life led by beliefs rather than instinct. And that's not so hard to find elsewhere.

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profoundly changed my life..., February 20, 2007
Reviewer:Kerry O. Burns - See all my reviews
when the student is ready the teacher will come into your a most crucial time period of my life I read this book, many years ago. What I learned from it has stayed with me in many ways. I don't believe I can add anything that others haven't already said but I just wanted to add my 2-cents worth...books, words and thoughts can change your life or at least open many roads that you could not see before..

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful:

Overrated, February 8, 2007
Reviewer:K. Jennings (NY United States) - See all my reviews
In maintaining an active interest in philosophy I was quite eager to tackle this somewhat enigmatic work. This title is one of thos that you oft hear mentioned and rarely discussed. What I encoutnered was a pseudo-biographical work that presents it's ideas and concepts slowly, poorly and seemingly as condescendingly as possible. I would only advise those well versed in classical greek philosophy to even consider this text. The areas of the text pertaining to Zen Buddhism are very welcome and far to short ... even if the points made are rudimentary and well known today.

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

It's Amazing, February 8, 2007
Reviewer:Flautist47 - See all my reviews
For a long time, I struggled with finding religion. I wasn't raised as anything, Christian Jew or otherwise. Eastern religions have held the most appeal for me, since I am an intellectual type. However, this book is good for reasons beyond the mundane. If you enjoy thinking about abstract concepts, and second-guessing deep-rooted beliefs about what life is and why we're here, this book is for you.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

Philosophic talk easy to understand, January 15, 2007
Reviewer:José Antonio Morales "Jose Antonio Morales" (Slovenia) - See all my reviews
This book will become one of my favorites very soon. I'm just finishing to read it.
It is amazing how easy the writer drives the story and gets in to deep topics and conflicts of our daily life. That makes the book a great source of common sense and wisdom and makes easier to understand the reality.
If you are a person interested into find out the source of many problems or conflicts this book can be very helpful.If you would like to expand your criteria for analysing different realities this book can be helpful.
It is a bit too long but it is so easy to read... For sure I will read it more than once to find details I couldn't keep before.
I'm even using the book for supporting my work like manager. It helps me to make evident some kind of problems and supports very good the process of finding solutions.

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