The world is a much different place than in 1974, the year of publication for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, Robert M. Pirsig’s surprise hit philosophical novel. But the outpouring and variety of articles and posts in the wake of Pirsig’s death in April, at 88, show how relevant the quirky and unusual book remains, and will remain for years to come.


Examples:

Life Advice From the Late Robert M. Pirsig, by Emily Temple, Literary Hub
Putting off the important things? It’s not for the reasons you think; by Oliver Burkeman, theguardian.com
Remembering Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; by Kevin Patterson, The Globe and Mail
Robert Pirsig Wrote the Truly Great Road Trip Novel: In remembrance of Robert M. Pirsig and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Luisa Rollenhagen, GQ.com
What Reading Robert Pirsig Taught Me About Writing (And Life), by Bernadette Murphy, Literary Hub
Zen and the Art of Quality, by Brad Stulberg, Science of Us, NYmag.com
Zen and the Art of Software Maintenance, by Grzegorz Ziemoński, DZone

There are some interesting back stories in these pieces. For instance, Bernadette Murphy, a former book critic for the Los Angeles Times, is the author of the terrifically-titled Harley and Me: Embracing Risk on the Road to a More Authentic Life; as well as Zen and the Art of Knitting. Patterson is a doctor and author of The Water in Between, about his own arduous journey as a sailing novice, in the North Pacific Ocean.

Whether or not you’ve read Pirsig’s classic, it’s worth reading the chapter distilling its essence, in Tom Butler-Bowdon’s 50 Spiritual Classics. Also recommended is Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Mark Richardson, a veteran journalist who had been a motorcycle columnist and Wheels section editor for the Toronto Star.

Although he wrote only two books, we can gain further insight into Pirsig’s thinking elsewhere. For instance, this is from his back-cover endorsement for Tracy Kidder’s 1981 award-winning The Soul of a New Machine: “a superb book, one that computer engineering has deserved for a long time. I wonder if anyone but another computer hardware writer will ever see all the skill that went into it. All the incredible complexity and chaos and exploitation and loneliness and strange, half-mad beauty of this field are honestly and correctly drawn here. I didn’t think a book like this could be done.”

And in 2007, Pirsig wrote the foreword to a little-noticed book by philosophy professor Donald R. Moor, Coffee With Plato. Pirsig concludes with this: “Today when we study Plato what we are most likely to see are his differences from our modern way of thinking, and it is normal to think that he is wrong and we are right. But one can benefit greatly by following his advice to keep an open mind. Try to see what forces caused him to reason the way he did. And perhaps speculate on what people will think of our own beliefs and customs 2,400 years from now.”