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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.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has several story lines that intertwine to create a synthesis of thought and experience:

- a father and young son take a motorcycle trip from the Midwest to California

- the father has an internal dialogue with himself about what he observes about the people around him and their engagement with life and technology

- the father attempts to reconstruct the ideas and perspective he had before being treated as a mental patient (which treatment destroyed and distorted his memory and personality)

- the father looks at the great philosophers of western and eastern civilization and attempts to integrate their thoughts into an aesthetic built around our ability to know quality when we see and experience it

- the father deals with the incipient signs of mental instability in his son and himself.

The book is almost impossible to characterize, but let me try anyway. Perhaps the closest book to this one is Hermann Hesse's Siddharta. At the same time, there is also a strong flavor of Zen and the Art of Archery. On the Road by Jack Kerouac covers some of the same intellectual and emotional territory. John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men considers some of the same questions of personal perspective. In terms of challenging the constrictions of society, there is also an element of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit here.

What is most remarkable about the book is the way that it pinpoints the spiritual vacuum in the pursuit of more and shinier personal items. Unlike many books from this time, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance upholds a concept of nobility and worth connected to pursuing material progress in ways that reflect eliminating low quality and replacing it with high quality. Think of this as being like the joy of craftsmanship, compared to the dullness of the assembly line. By setting high standards, expanding those standards, sharing those standards with others, and inspiring people to experience life more fully, we can move forward spiritually as well as intellectually. The motorcycle maintenance details connect these abstractions back to the practical issues of every day, as we roll along across country with the author and his son dealing with the realities of keeping our bike running where the repair and parts options are very limited.

The book's afterward is particularly interesting, in which Mr. Pirsig opines about why this book has had such great and lasting appeal and tells you what happened after the book ends.

Ultimately, I felt uplifted by the high respect that Mr. Pirsig has for his readers. He takes us very seriously, thinks we are intelligent, and pays us the compliment of believing that we can learn to fundamentally change all of our perspectives and experiences.

After you finish this book (if you decide to read it), I suggest that you think about where you disengaged from the challenges, tasks, and people around you. Then, pick out one area and get deeply involved. As you master that one, take on another. And so on. Soon, you will have new and greater respect for yourself . . . and more rewarding relationships.

Get your hands dirty!
11 Kommentar| 15 Personen fanden diese Informationen hilfreich. War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?JaNeinMissbrauch melden
am 22. Juli 2000
A review of this book by me, or even a thoughtful critique,could add nothing to what has been so well-said in the numerouseloquent essays among the 200 below. Among the decisively best dozen, reviewer Barron T. Laycock, only a few reviews below, describes "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" about as well as it need be done. Another finely-drawn perspective is provided immediately below by reviewer Cicha1994, who gets to the bottom of Pirsig's magic of delivering an incredibly complex synthesis with timely spoonfuls of sugar thusly:
"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 ..."
Not daring to venture into the rarified air of the erudite reviews already here, I humbly offer a more fundamental observation, one that is "down-to-earth as fertilizer," as we say.
How I came to read this book the first time -- of how many? -- I can't imagine. I have no interest in Zen, never owned a motorcycle and so needed no advice about keeping one humming. What I found I did have very strong interests in was everything Persig had to say.
"Zen and the Art..." was an immediate best-seller when it was published 26 years ago. That couldn't have inspired my interest in it, for I have instinctive misgivings about best-sellers. But I did read it and have been all the better for it. Every subsequent reading has opened a little door or niche missed before.
Call any used book store and mention of "Zen and the Art..." and you'll get immediate recognition of it, often a comment like, "Oh, yeah. That Robert Persig book. No, we can't keep them." Still selling like crazy, after all these years.
There is a positively bone-chilling aspect about "Zen and the Art...". The millions who have read this supreme intellectual and artistic masterpiece -- many, many of whom, like me, were profoundly enriched by it -- came perilously close to being denied the experience. If memory serves, Persig's manuscript was rejected 122 times before William Morrow picked it up (probably after having also rejected it a few times). That says volumes about the dismal state of publishing back then, an industry that is in even blacker depths today.
0Kommentar| 10 Personen fanden diese Informationen hilfreich. War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?JaNeinMissbrauch melden
am 4. Oktober 2014
dieses buch schafft - wie ich finde - den spagat zwischen massen(-markt-)tauglichkeit und (wenn man will) leichter konsumierbarkeit und (so man sich darauf einlässt) tiefgründigkeit und denkanstößen zu durchaus auch schwerer verdaulichen fragestellungen grundlegender philosophischer natur. bemerkenswert fand ich die art und weise, in der der autor es schafft, eine neue sichtweise auf dinge zu beschreiben, ohne dabei suggestiv zu wirken. es war für mich gefühlt eine reise durch eine andere anschauungswelt, bei der immer mitgeschwungen ist, dass das _eine_ mögliche idee ist, diese dinge zu betrachten - es wurde nie der anspruch auf absolutheit erhoben.

sehr empfehlen kann ich übrigens - am besten nach lektüre dieses werkes - das zweite buch des autors: 'lila - an inquiry into morals'. es knüpft an vielen stellen an die ideen, die in diesem buch entwickelt werden an, und führt sie noch viel weiter (ich glaube, dass der autor selbst die ursprünglichen ideen weiter verarbeitet und die ergebnisse dann beschrieben hat).

so oder so - klar kaufempfehlung - zumindest, wenn man ein über die gewöhnliche unterhaltungsplörre hinausgehendes werk sucht.
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am 20. Juni 2000
Despite the book's title, Pirsig's journey is primarily one through the history of Western philosophy, from the pre-Socratics through Plato, Aristotle, the 18th century empricists, and 19th century idealists. On this level alone, the book succeeds in being one of the most accessible and reliable treatments of the field. But the text is also a critique of the whole Western "logocentric" tradition, with its emphasis on reason, or "dialectic." Like Kant ("Critique of Pure Reason") or Kierkegaard ("Concluding Unscientific Postscript"), Pirsig uses reason to expose the limitations of reason. And what does he replace it with? Not Eastern mysticism or Zen riddles but rhetoric. More than the classic rhetoricians that Pirsig exhalts or the 20th-century structuralists and post-structuralists (Barthes, Derrida, Foucault) for which Pirsig's narrative is practically an illustration, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" makes the case for language as the basis for all reality, for all that we think, experience and perceive. It's this conflict between dialectic and rhetoric that drives the narrative, realized in plain yet compelling prose that's capable of staying with the attentive reader for the rest of his or her lifetime. After reading the book twice, I was unable to look at the self, the world, at all things constructed by language in quite the same way. The least successful parts of the book, it seems to me, are the narrator's protracted discussions of the nature of "reality" as a moment inaccessible to human intellect and his somewhat naive, 1960's-style musings on the nature of "quality." Supposedly his English composition students were immediately able to know it when they saw it, thereby making it unnecessary for him as a teacher to talk about "standards" or to establish criteria. (The suspicion arises that Pirsig hasn't had a great deal of experience teaching students how to write.) Nevertheless, even when a cylinder occasionally misfires, this is a book worth reading carefully and more than once. Unfortunately, because of its "cult" status, many people seem to purchase the text but never finish it. Robert Redford owns the screen rights, but a reader would be ill-advised to wait for the movie version. The "visual" elements of the text--the motorcyle odyssey and troubled father-son relationship--are minor metaphors compared to the ambitious and largely successful intellectual quest.
0Kommentar| 3 Personen fanden diese Informationen hilfreich. War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?JaNeinMissbrauch melden
am 16. Februar 1998
this book tries so blatantly to be metaphorical that it really ends up being quite shallow. The ironic thing is that if one has this opinion, dissenters simply say "you merely don't understand it". This angers me. I have spent much time studying Zen, and can find no correlations between this book and actual Zen tenents. If you disagree, please email me with your comments
0Kommentar| 3 Personen fanden diese Informationen hilfreich. War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?JaNeinMissbrauch melden
am 11. Juni 1999
Many, many people have recommended this book to me as "life changing" etc and there certainly is a big enough following to the book to hype it.
There are some good ideas in this book: the ideas on quality versus quantity, some dialectic stuff, etc. However, all the ideas are kind of like ornaments on a Christmas tree. They're decorative and sparkle, but the tree they're hung on is drab and uninteresting. The novel never does much with these ideas other than toss them out at you like confetti.
As a piece of fiction, there's not much of a story and I really didn't care much about the "philosopher" at the center of the book. He comes across like a windbag - repeating the same ideas at the drop of a hat.
I suspect that anyone who comes to this book full of new-age angst will bring with them all the post-modern spirituality epiphanies they need and attribute them to reading this book. For the rest of us though, it would be better to either read a good fiction novel or purchase a serious book on philosophy.
0Kommentar| 5 Personen fanden diese Informationen hilfreich. War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?JaNeinMissbrauch melden
am 12. Juli 2000
I first read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as a college senior twenty-five years ago. I remember then being frightened by how this man's determination to pursue a philosophical idea to its conclusion, even if it were against the grain of established conventions of thinking, drove him insane. I was afraid deeper study and questioning might do the same to me. I know now, however, that I'm not insane. I also know that twenty-five years ago this story of a man and his son travelling by motorcycle from Minnesota to the Pacific Ocean took deep residence in my soul.
I've been a teacher now for twenty-three years, long enough to forget some of my initial influences. But, as I read this book all these years later, I realized that my philosophical view points, examples I use to illustrate ideas with my students, what I believe the purpose of an education is, and several other bits of pedagogy and ideology originated in Pirig's story.
I highly recommend this book, maybe especially if you are unread in philosophy and would like a readable, enjoyable, and provocative entree into the history and vocabulary of philosophy.
It's a deeply moving, intellectually stiumlating story. Its devotion to story-telling and philosophical inpuiry is indeed most rare.
0Kommentar| 2 Personen fanden diese Informationen hilfreich. War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?JaNeinMissbrauch melden
am 21. Mai 2000
It is with much trepidation that I disagree with the clear majority of readers and at the risk of being considered "a cynical drapchode" (expression in previous review), I think this was one bad book. The book has two three subplots: (1) the author and his son take a motorcycle trip across America (2) the author inquires into the philosophical underpinnings of Western civilization (3) the author goes totally insane his career as a college professor goes into freefall and he must have his personality expunged by court-ordered electroshock treatment. The book is chocked full of whining narcissism and self-involvement. We, the readers, have to be subjected to the author's vendettas against faculty committees, rhapsodies about screws and washers and how they relate to philosophy, and his cutting remarks to and about his son whenever the poor child interrupts (as children often do)his book-length loveletter to himself. This book has been published and republished to continual oohing and ahhing and acclaim and it probably is the duty of every sentient human being to get a copy and read it with an open mind. That being said, I plowed through the second half more from a sense of duty than from any enjoyment, and I really couldn't care less whether the author lived or died.
0Kommentar| 7 Personen fanden diese Informationen hilfreich. War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?JaNeinMissbrauch melden
am 8. Juli 2016
I love this book and wanted to have a paperback version of it. However, the quality of the book that was delivered is deplorable. I have a strong feeling that the item sent is a pirated version. I have never come across an original paperback with such poor paper, print and cover quality. The line spacing in the pages is uneven.Something that was quite a shocker for me.
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am 1. April 2000
I tried to read ZAMM years ago and didn't get past the first chapter. My mindset was impatient and I wasn't prepared to think about the issues he was raising. One of Pirsig's classic gumption traps, I guess.
Something told me to try it again, so I checked out a copy of the original edition from the library. I just finished the book and now I'm buying my own copy. Prisig is one of those rare authors who can express emotions so subtly and naturally that you actually feel them rather than just read about them. He also has a remarkable way of blending the past, the present and the deep thoughts of two distinct points of view into one smoothly flowing narrative. Just when things might start to drag he switches gears (no pun intended) and lets us all just ride along for a while.
This isn't the type of book that everyone will read straight through, or that everyone will appreciate right away. And there's really no reason to force it: Put it down, come back later, read back over the part you didn't quite get. There's no hurry. And when you finally arrive at the destination, the end of that cross-county motorcycle ride, and contemplate the remarkable ideas you've picked up along the way you'll smile, think back, and realize how much you enjoyed the trip.
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