Before I dive into my review of Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (henceforth abbreviated ZMM), I must make two small confessions. Firstly, I struggled to finish reading this book. In fact, I stopped at one point around page one hundred and forty, and allowed one week to pass before I picked it up again and regained momentum to finish it. Secondly, my expectation going into reading ZMM, due to its recent popularity (or hype) was quite different than how I experienced the book. I had naively expected a more spiritual, self-help type tome as opposed to a philosophical treatise. With that out of the way I will now get on with my review of ZMM.
ZMM by Robert M. Pirsig is an intriguing, deeply philosophical exploration into the art of how to live one’s life. It’s main subject matter is the dichotomy between a classical, rational approach to life and a romantic, less rational path. The intense philosophical discourse in ZMM is woven together with a fictional, cross-country motorcycle trip that the author undertakes with his son, Chris, and a couple, who are close family friends. Their experiences on this journey from Minnesota to the West Coast of the United States provide anecdotes which punctuate Pirsig’s story and subtly illustrate many of the insights he tries to bring across. Ultimately ZMM highlights a breakthough that the author has made in linking the two seemingly diametrically opposed rational and romantic viewpoints on life together. The crux of Pirsig’s thesis lies in the definition of the concept of quality, which consumes the better part of one hundred and fifty pages in ZMM. What I enjoyed most about this book was the last fifty odd pages, in which Pirsig delves more deeply and straightforwardly into his phiolosophy. I found the build up to this point too longwinded and dreary. I felt he didn’t get to the point quickly enough to hold my attention, which is one of the reasons why I stopped reading ZMM roughly half way through. Another contributing factor for me personally struggling with reading ZMM is Pirsig’s writing style. It took me considerable time get used to his rough-around-the-edges, unrefined prose peppered with long run-on sentences. One might even argue that the quality concept that Pirsig expounds on at length in ZMM is ironically lacking in this opus to a certain extent. Nevertheless, I do believe that the message that Pirsig tries to convey comes across. Although I am unsure how accessible ZMM is to the average reader since Pirsig goes quite deep into fundamental philoshophical concepts, which I can imagine are unfamiliar to many readers. So in sum, ZMM in my view is not a book for everyone. However, I would recommend it highly if you are looking for a new way to think about living life and are open to immersing yourself in complex philosophical concepts.
Have you read ZMM? What was your most insightful takeaway? Please feel free to share your thoughts in a comment below. Thanks as always for stopping by! Also, if you would like to receive more updates about my writing please consider joining my newsletter mailing list by subscribing below.