22 December 2005

I just finished Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, and it left my head swimming like few books have before. Some thoughts:

1. Why didn't anyone ever tell me this book was about electroshock therapy? I would have read it years ago instead of viewing it as some standard new-agey text on self-awareness.

2. I think they mention zen about twice in passing in the whole book. My guess is that the only reason the word zen is in the title is because they feared they wouldn't sell any copies if it was entitled Insanity and the Quality of Motorcycle Maintenance or How Plato Stole Your Soul and How to Win it Back.

3. Some classicists may be able to help me on this, but has anyone else ever advanced the thesis that Plato is singlehandedly responsible for shoddy neon signs?

4. What makes this book great is that it perfects the two-books-in-one style. It consists of a philosophy text and a human drama, and over the course of the book the philosophy sections grow and grow while the human sections get shorter and shorter, using human suspense to drive you through the dense philosophy. All the other books that I've seen that use such a technique throw the ideas out the window in the last third of the book to focus on the human suspense, but Pirsig just builds suspense by talking about something else. It's wonderful.

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