Zen and Now
Zen and Now
On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307269706, 288pp.
Publication Date: September 9, 2008
Zen and Now is a vivid chronicle of a journalist’s heartfelt and determined journey to reconnect with a beloved American classic.
In 1968, Robert Pirsig and his eleven-year-old son, Chris, made the cross-country motorcycle trip that would become the inspiration for Pirsig’s book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a powerful blend of personal narrative and philosophical investigation that has inspired generations.
Among the millions of readers to fall under the book’s spell was Mark Richardson, who as a young man struggled to understand Pirsig’s provocative and elusive ideas. Rereading the book decades later, Richardson, now a journalist and a father of two, was moved by its portrayal of Pirsig’s complex relationship with Chris and struck by the timelessness of its lessons. So he tuned up his old Suzuki dirt bike and became a “Pirsig pilgrim,” one of the legion of fans who retrace the Pirsigs’ route from Minneapolis to San Francisco. In following this itinerary over the lonely byways of the American West, Richardson revisits the people and places from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, pondering the meaning of Pirsig’s philosophy and the answers it may offer to the questions in his own life. Richardson’s dogged reporting also gives new insight into the reclusive writer’s life, exploring Pirsig’s struggle with mental illness, his unwanted celebrity, and the tragic, brutal murder of Chris in 1979.
Published to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of Pirsig’s original trip, Zen and Now is a stirring meditation on a classic work and a passionate inquiry into the lessons it continues to teach us in the complex and bewildering world we inhabit today.
Praise for Mark Richardson’s Zen and Now:
“Zen and Now serves as a primer for both long-time devotees and newcomers to the Pirsig cult. It is also a harrowing account of the toll that the making of one man’s masterpiece exacted not only on himself but on those around him. . . . The appeal of Pirsig’s message–to make good time ‘with the emphasis on “good” rather than “time,”‘–seems to reverberate still. . . . Zen and Now is a reminder of how much pain it can take to make so many people feel better.” –Eddie Dean, The Wall Street Journal
“Assured and poetic. . . . A sort of Cliff’s Notes version of the dense original, and as much of a biography of Pirsig as Richardson was able to piece together. . . . An enjoyable read. . . . Richardson is quite meticulous in describing the thoughts, sensations, even the superstitions many motorcyclists experience while riding.” –Susan Carpenter, The Los Angeles Times
“Richardson’s strong narrative thread results in a page-turner that does right by the original. Zen and Now is sure to inspire a new generation of riders and readers to pick up Pirsig’s book and take to the open road in search of quality.” –Vince Darcangelo, Rocky Mountain News
“Fans of Pirsig’s cult classic should read Richardson’s book if they want the true story of the author. . . . Richardson digs deep to unearth the motives behind his tormented mentor’s search for quality while embarking on a search of his own. . . . [Zen and Now is] an engrossing tale recounted with a journalist’s attention to fact and an adventurer’s appetite for the enlightening surprise.” —Scott Driscoll, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Most notably for fans of the original, Zen and Now pushes the story forward, through Richardson’s correspondence with the interview-averse Pirsig, his editor, his ex-wife, and a second son, Ted, who has disavowed his relationship with his intense father.” –James Sullivan, The Boston Globe
“A good read. . . . Although Richardson is on the trail of Pirsig, this book is as much about his own status in the universe and who he is as a father and a human being. It is charmingly written, honest to a fault and as unpretentious as Pirsig’s book was the opposite. Zen and Now invites the reader along on several levels; Richardson’s research into Pirsig and his life is impeccable and the book is full of all kinds of interesting little nuggets.” –Ted Laturnus, Toronto Globe and Mail
“Zen and Now is a story worth telling, about a journey worth sharing–an entertaining, inspiring, and rewarding read.” –Neil Peart, bestselling author of Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road