One of the best-selling philosophy books to date, Zen and the Art follows an unnamed narrator on a cross-country motorcycle trip with his son. Published in 1974, this novel took me through a cult-classic journey packed with more wisdom and intellectual exploration than I had expected when I first picked it up. I found myself diving deeper not only into the messages of the book, but the culture surrounding it: the narrator's journey has inspired thousands across generations to re-trace the roads of the book, to hop on their own motorcycles and vehicles and undertake their own metaphysical journeys. Without knowing it, I think that's what drew me to the book in the first place- at a time where graduation is quickly approaching and my next steps are undefined, I was looking for answers to some of life's biggest questions.
To say this book is thick would be an understatement. While my copy consists of 566 pages, the real weight of this novel is carried in its ideological exploration. Pirsig takes on the idea of existence, of the ego, of where perceptions of life form and why. I found myself riding down the back roads of the west, hands scuffed with grease, hair still dripping from a sudden rainstorm, just as easily as I found myself in the middle of an upper-level collegiate philosophy course trying to wrap my head around the concepts the professor was evoking.
I can't think of a way to convey the messages in Zen other than to advise you read it. I've brought up some of the questions Pirsig begs to my friends and everyone seems to have a different take on his explanations and different answers of their own. The narrator grapples with his past self- a concept I'm sure many can relate to on a number of levels. Maybe it's because of my untrained background with these ideas, but some sections of the book seemed to drag; I had to push through. Others admittedly began to go over my head and I had to consult the internet for clarification. Getting through the difficult sections of the book with my comprehension in tact has made me feel like a stronger reader and more expansive in my repertoire.
If you're looking to challenge your views and go on a multi-leveled literary journey, this book is a historical classic and a fantastic place to start. Pirsig's compelling narration takes you out of your reality for a moment and into the hum of motorcycles and fresh grass along breezy mountain roads. Be prepared to be confused, to stare of into the distance questioning your life, and to start craving a cross-country road trip of your own.