Zen & The art of Motorcycle Maintenance
by Robert M. Pirsig
Acclaimed as one of the most exciting books in the history of American letters, this modern epic became an instant bestseller upon publication in 1974, transforming a generation and continuing to inspire millions. A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to live. Resonant with the confusions of existence, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a touching and transcendent book of life.
About The Author
Pirsig was born on September 6, 1928 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Harriet Marie Sjobeck and Maynard Pirsig. He was of German and Swedish descent. His father was a University of Minnesota Law School (UMLS) graduate, and started teaching at the school in 1934. The elder Pirsig served as the law school dean from 1948 to 1955, and retired from teaching at UMLS in 1970. He resumed his career as a professor at the William Mitchell College of Law, where he remained until his final retirement in 1993.Because he was a precocious child with an IQ of 170 at age nine, Pirsig skipped several grades and was enrolled at the Blake School in Minneapolis. At 14, in May 1943, Pirsig was awarded a high school diploma from the University of Minnesota’s laboratory school, University High School (now Marshall-University High School) where he edited the school yearbook, the Bisbilla. He then entered the University of Minnesota to study biochemistry that autumn. In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, he described the central character, thought to represent himself, as being far from a typical student; he was interested in science as a goal in itself, rather than as a way to establish a career.While doing laboratory work in biochemistry, Pirsig became greatly troubled by the existence of more than one workable hypothesis to explain a given phenomenon, and that the number of hypotheses appeared unlimited. He could not find any way to reduce the number of hypotheseshe became perplexed by the role and source of hypothesis generation within scientific practice. The question distracted him to the extent that he lost interest in his studies and failed to maintain good grades. Finally, he was expelled from the university.At 18, Pirsig enlisted in the United States Army in 1946 and was stationed in South Korea until 1948. Upon his discharge from the Army, he returned to the United States and lived in Seattle, Washington, for less than a year, at which point he decided to finish the education he had abandoned. Pirsig earned a bachelor’s degree in 1950 from the University of Minnesota. He then attended Banaras Hindu University in India, to study Eastern philosophy and culture. At the University of Chicago, he performed graduate-level work in philosophy and journalism but he did not obtain a degree there. In 1958 he earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.