Woodstock, New Brunswick
I've just finished reading "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" for the umpteenth time.
At the age of 30 I thought the book was brilliant, right up there with " Grapes of Wrath", "Catch-22" and "Naked and the Dead".... provocative and insightful. Maybe I was smoking too much illicit substance back then? We did some stupid things in those days, like loading our one-year old on a motorcycle between us and taking him out on the Tallahassee highways.
The parts about putting yourself in the right frame of mind to fix mechanical problems have been very useful to me...but maybe I focused too much on that part of the book (and all the "quality" philosophical stuff) at the time and ignored the sad relationship he was describing with his son Chris. So here goes the ghost of Phedrus, running down the road lecturing about tappet noises and stripped bolts and apparently unwilling to even begin to face the problems of a failed marriage and a frightened child. Maybe that was the whole point and I just missed it on the first fifteen readings?
In real life, Chris was stabbed to death at age 22 while Pirsig was living on a sailboat in England.
After 30 years, I'm viewing the book with a more jaundiced and possibly more mature perspective. Understanding the scientific method, reconciling the classical and romantic view of reality and being able to fix machines are all OK...but having a loving, trusting relationship with your own son and watching him grow to become a good man and successfully raise his own children might be the subject of a much more useful book titled "Zen and the Art of Fatherhood".
All in all, it's just a very sad book chronicling a brutally honest personal failure with some good tips about adjusting tappets and tensioning and lubricating motorcycle chains.