Dreadfully Ever After Sale
 
 

Recently Viewed clear list


Interviews | September 2, 2014

Jill Owens: IMG David Mitchell: The Powells.com Interview



David MitchellDavid Mitchell's newest mind-bending, time-skipping novel may be his most accomplished work yet. Written in six sections, one per decade, The Bone... Continue »
  1. $21.00 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    The Bone Clocks

    David Mitchell 9781400065677

spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$7.95
Used Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
2 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

by

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values Cover

ISBN13: 9780060958329
ISBN10: 0060958324
Condition: Standard
All Product Details

Only 2 left in stock at $7.95!

 

 

Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to live. The narrator's relationship with his son leads to a powerful self-reckoning; the craft of motorcycle maintenance leads to an austerely beautiful process for reconciling science, religion, and humanism.

Topics for Discussion

  1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is at once the story of a motorcycle journey across the country; a meditation on values and the concept of Quality; and an allegorical tale of a man coming to terms with his past. Discuss which aspects of the novel you found most compelling, and why.

  2. Discuss Pirsig's Author's Note. What does he mean when he says "much has been changed for rhetorical purposes?" Is he saying the book is fact or fiction? How does his use of a first-person narrator make this a complex question? What is the relationship between author and narrator?

  3. Discuss ZMM's epigraph: And what is good, Phaedrus, And what is not good — Need we ask anyone to tell us these things? How does this query resemble a Buddhist koan — a paradoxical or nonsensical question that emphasizes the process of meditating on the question rather than the answer? Why do you think Pirsig chose this excerpt to introduce the book?

  4. At the beginning of their trip, the narrator and John have a conversation in which the narrator refers to education as "mass hypnosis," citing as an example the fact that Newton's law of gravity is nothing more than a human invention, as are laws of logic, mathematics, and ghosts. Why does this dialogue take place at the outset of the novel, as opposed to somewhere in the middle or the end of the trip? How is Pirsig preparing the reader for the novel's future scenes?

  5. In setting out the topic for his Chautauqua, Pirsig compares the current consciousness to a stream overflowing its channels, causing destruction and havoc as it searches for new ones: "There are eras of human history in which the channels of thought have been too deeply cut and no change was possible, and nothing new ever happened, and 'best' was a matter of dogma, but that is not the situation now. Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, losing its central direction and purpose. . . . Some channel deepening seems called for." (p. 16). Can you explain this metaphor? What sorts of change is he referring to? What does he mean by "channel deepening?"

  6. As a writer of technical manuals, the narrator decries the current situation in which the idea of who a man is has become separated from what he does. He claims that in this separation are clues to "what the hell has gone wrong with the twentieth century." How does this concept fit in to what you know of Zen Buddhism, which celebrates the oneness of the universe? Do you feel at one with your occupation? Explain why or why not. If not, what is keeping you from feeling connected to what you do for a living? Would you feel more satisfied, or be a better worker, if you did feel that connection?

  7. The narrator divides human understanding into two categories: romantic and classical. Discuss the distinction between the two. How do you fit into either of these dichotomies? Give examples that illustrate the tendencies that make you, personally, either classical or romantic.

  8. How does Pirsig introduce and develop the character of Phaedrus? Can you rely on the narrator to offer an accurate picture of Phaedrus's insanity? Do you think Phaedrus really was insane?

  9. What do you think of the narrator's son, Chris? Does he seem troubled, or merely a typical boy impatient with his father's behavior? Who do you think is a better father to Chris — Phaedrus or the narrator?

  10. Why do you think the narrator refuses to complete the trek up the mountain, despite Chris's disappointment that they won't be reaching the top? Is the threat of a rock slide real? Is he afraid to "meet" Phaedrus? Is he making a statement about ego relative to Zen philosophy? What is happening in the Chautauqua at this point in the book?

  11. Discuss the climactic scene — a confrontation between Chris and the narrator that takes place on a foggy cliff overlooking the ocean. Where is Phaedrus? What does this scene reveal about all three characters? How does this scene change your interpretations of the events that have lead up to it? What is the significance of Chris and his father removing their helmets for the remainder of the journey?

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

lila, January 25, 2008 (view all comments by lila)
I'm surprised to not see any reader reviews. I first read this book when I was 19 years old (let's just say the book was still fairly new at that time...). Much of it was over my head, but I remember spending a lot of time thinking about it - so much that it took me forever to get through it!

Since that time, I have read this book every year for the last ten years. It still provokes thought and a lot of it is still over my head...but it has been a good friend.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(6 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780060958329
Subtitle:
An Inquiry into Values
Author:
Pirsig, Robert
Author:
Pirsig, Robert M.
Publisher:
Perennial
Location:
New York, N.Y.
Subject:
General
Subject:
Self
Subject:
Emotions
Subject:
Essays & Travelogues
Subject:
Zen
Subject:
Parental Memoirs
Subject:
Fathers and sons
Subject:
Adult
Subject:
Eastern - General
Subject:
Eastern - Zen
Copyright:
Edition Description:
1st Perennial Classics ed.
Series:
Perennial Classics
Series Volume:
106-945
Publication Date:
20001001
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Pages:
464
Dimensions:
8.01x5.29x1.17 in. .86 lbs.

Other books you might like

  1. Slaughterhouse-Five
    Used Mass Market $4.95
  2. Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals
    Used Mass Market $3.50
  3. Ishmael
    Used Mass Market $4.95
  4. Of Human Bondage (Bantam Classic) Used Trade Paper $4.00
  5. Stonewall's Gold: A Novel of the...
    New Trade Paper $16.99
  6. The Red Tent
    Used Mass Market $5.95

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Featured Titles
Humanities » Philosophy » General
Travel » Travel Writing » General

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 464 pages Perennial (HarperCollins) - English 9780060958329 Reviews:
spacer
spacer
  • back to top
Follow us on...




Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.