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    • Imported from USA.

    In his now classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,
    Robert Pirsig brings us a literary chautauqua, a novel that is
    meant to both entertain and edify. It scores high on both counts.

    Phaedrus, our narrator, takes a present-tense cross-country
    motorcycle trip with his son during which the maintenance of the
    motorcycle becomes an illustration of how we can unify the cold,
    rational realm of technology with the warm, imaginative realm of
    artistry. As in Zen, the trick is to become one with the
    activity, to engage in it fully, to see and appreciate all
    details--be it hiking in the woods, penning an essay, or
    tightening the chain on a motorcycle.

    In his autobiographical first novel, Pirsig wrestles both with
    the ghost of his past and with the most important philosophical
    questions of the 20th century--why has technology alienated us
    from our world? what are the limits of rational analysis? if we
    can't define the good, how can we live it? Unfortunately, while
    exploring the defects of our philosophical heritage from Socrates
    and the Sophists to Hume and Kant, Pirsig inexplicably stops at
    the middle of the 19th century. With the exception of Poincaré,
    he ignores the more recent philosophers who have tackled his most
    urgent questions, thinkers such as Peirce, Nietzsche (to whom
    Phaedrus bears a passing resemblance), Heidegger, Whitehead,
    Dewey, Sartre, Wittgenstein, and Kuhn. In the end, the narrator's
    claims to originality turn out to be overstated, his reasoning
    questionable, and his understanding of the history of Western
    thought sketchy. His solution to a synthesis of the rational and
    creative by elevating Quality to a metaphysical level simply
    repeats the mistakes of the premodern philosophers. But in
    contrast to most other philosophers, Pirsig writes a compelling
    story. And he is a true innovator in his attempt to popularize a
    reconciliation of Eastern mindfulness and nonrationalism with
    Western subject/object dualism. The magic of Zen and the Art of
    Motorcycle Maintenance turns out to lie not in the answers it
    gives, but in the questions it raises and the way it raises them.
    Like a cross between The Razor's Edge and Sophie's World, Zen and
    the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance takes us into "the high country
    of the mind" and opens our eyes to vistas of possibility. --Brian
    Bruya

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