Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was assigned in a contemporary lit class I took, and I read it during the break before classes started. It changed my life. Its author, Robert Pirsig, died Monday (while I was on a journey with my daughter across the Maritimes - although not on a motorcycle).
Perhaps it would be excessive to say that this is a great book, but it is certainly a powerfully original one – disturbing, deeply moving, full of insights. There is just the right mixture of madness and motorcycle maintenance, of the beauties on the road without and the travail of the mind within, of Pirsig and Phaedrus and Chris. If it is not quite great it is at least wonderful – as “wonderful” or nearly so as when Aristotle sees and roundly affirms that “God is a living being, eternal and supremely good, and that in God there is life and coherent, eternal being. For that is God.” This surely is the “underlying form” that both Mr Pirsig and Phaedrus had been looking for, Quality in machines and men.
Yes, it can be “round affirmed” that this is a wonderful book. And once we have admitted that it may perhaps not seem hyper-critical to add that the treatise on “gumptionology” (pages 302–325) is really a little too long.
The Times obit, which says he was a fellow Mainer: