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20th August 2003

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M PirsigZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is not a book for the faint hearted; neither is it an airport-lounge holiday yarn or a coffee break 'pick me up and put me down' paperback. A good read? Well, it has worn an affectionate niche on many bookshelves, been discounted by many that 'didn't get it' and repeatedly enjoyed by those who did.

Zen has been around for twenty five years, - the book, not the philosophy, which dates from 6 b.c for those that needed to know - and has been sold to, and read by, millions. It is a book that will either grip you firmly, shining a bright light into the ether of your own life, or it will leave you stone cold and wondering whether you could have better spent your money on a hot water bottle to put you to sleep.

Robert Pirsig explores Zen, the philosophy, as he takes a summer road-trip across America accompanied by his young son and two friends on their bikes. Carrying the narrator (the book is told in the first person) and his companions on their journey, the bikes are ridden and maintained with detailed affection and used throughout the book as an additional analogy for exploring life, the universe, and everything.

Each day spent and each mile ridden is an exploration; a look at individual perceptions and an understanding of life as it passes by. Pirsig's relationship with his son and friends is set into the wider landscape of examining his own existence; fighting with himself, as much as with his son, to understand the agonies and conflicts of the world around him.

Have you ever felt like starting your bike and riding into the distance - just because the road was there to be ridden? Then I defy you to read Chapter One and not want to dedicate yourself to finishing the book. Have you ever known someone that would sit in the pub, staring into a pint glass, and come out with something like 'Life? Not just grains of sand, but a desert that doesn't know when it's going to rain.' Buy it and give it to them.

By the way, today's words of wisdom…. 'A Real Classic webpage that doesn't mention bikes is like a 1964 Honda SuperHawk and a BMW R60 without Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.'


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig
Published by Vintage, ISBN 0099322617.
Buy a copy from Amazon for £6.39


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