Friday Favorites 3/28/2014
The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling ― Robert M. Pirsig
Muri and I have always loved hardcover books, although we have gradually switched to trade paperbacks because of price. In fact, Muri has started using the public library and more and more I’m reading on my Kindle or Kindle app. But when a book really moves me, there is something fitting about having a hardcover version to tuck away on that special shelf in the library to be revisited someday. Yes, that someday doesn’t always come. But sometimes, it does. I have been back to visit my favorite passages in Alice Hoffmann’s Second Nature and laugh along with Yossarian at the inanity of the war in Catch Twenty-Two. Lately, I’ve been running across quotes from Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, one of the unvisited hardcovers languishing on our bookshelf. Here’s what I remember about it. It was the story of a man and his son traveling across the country by motorcycle. It was told in the first person by the father, a professor who became obsessed with understanding what constituted good writing and more, Quality in general, an obsession that eventually drove him insane and required electroshock therapy. During the trip, he reconnects with his son and his pre-mental breakdown self, who he refers to as Phaedrus.
I also remember that it was a difficult read, full of philosophical tangents wrapped around taking care of the motorcycle and his observations of life during the trip. I remember that the book had a profound influence on me when I read it in my perhaps materialistic thirties. I think it may have been my first exposure to the notion of mindfulness and Zen, although Pirsig cautions in the introduction the book that it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles, either. When I consulted Goodreads on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I found that although it sold over five million copies, it is either loved or hated by readers. People find it either brilliant or pretentious (as if it can’t be both!). So, I recommend it with trepidation but it is this week’s Friday Favorite … after all, how many books actually change you? It’s now officially on my list for a revisit. Anyone care to join me?