10 months ago
Right up there in the wanderlust canon with Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider, Robert M. Pirsig’s sublime 1974 book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was a masterwork. The book has remained a must-read for the road-tripping set ever since.
Pirsig died Monday at age 88.
Taking the reader on a both a physical and metaphysical journey, Motorcycle Maintenance would be an instant bestseller—and teach a whole new generation about the power of Buddhism and philosophical thought (not to mention motorcycles). It was based on a real-life father-son trip Pirsig took with his own son, Chris.
According to NPR, Motorcycle Maintenance was initially rejected by 121 publishers before being picked up by William Morrow & Company. “The book is brilliant beyond belief,” Morrow editor James Landis before its publication. “It is probably a work of genius and will, I’ll wager, attain classic status.” Needless to say, Landis had the right instincts.
A famous recluse, Pirsig wouldn’t publish his follow-up, Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals, until 1991. He spent the final years of his life at his home in South Berwick, Maine.
Below, listen to an interview the BBC did with Pirsig.