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 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 legions 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.
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