Thursday, March 27, 2008

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

by Robert Pirsig

I had first read this book the summer after I graduated from college while riding trains backpacking through Europe (1985). My husband (boyfriend at the time) read it that same summer while backpacking the Appalachian trail. We both loved it. And now, many many years later I just re-read it for book club and absolutely hated it although it did make for an interesting discussion. The story, to the extent that there is one, is the classic road trip. A boy and his father set out on a motorcycle for a holiday. It is gradually revealed that the relationship between the boy and his father is strained perhaps partly because the father had a mental breakdown and had been hospitalized for quite a while. The main thrust of the book however is to provide “Chautauquas” on the author’s philosophy regarding quality. It is remarkable how little I actually remembered of the book and I was expecting the philosophy, given the title, to be much more Eastern - which it was not. I had to force my self to read it by putting a book I was actually looking forward to reading on the coffee table which I would not allow myself to start until this one was finished. I did finish Zen but my husband didn’t get very far into it even though it was his book selection for book club.

While I don’t often reread books, I have never had such different reactions to the same book. Is it a book that only spoke to its specific era or generation (it was written in 1974) or does it particularly resonate with people at a certain stage of their life? A friend that is about the same age as I am commented that when we graduated from college Zen was a book that anyone who wanted themselves to be considered an intellectual had to read. I don’t remember being that pretentious but perhaps that was part of it. I suspected that it was a book of its time but while nobody at book club liked the book one person did say that a friend of his last year read it just after graduating college while hiking the Appalachian trail and loved it. All I know is that this go around I had no patience for its discussions of romantic versus classical approaches to motorcycle repair or the Greek philosophers. For those interested, a short recap of Pirsig’s philosophy be found at Wikipedia.

If the book put more focus on Eastern philosophy I may have found it more interesting. I enjoyed the story line of the father’s descent into madness and would have liked that story line to have been developed, but the entire plot seemed to be a mere afterthought. Perhaps I am just to the point in my life that I don’t want to waste time on something that I don’t find enjoyable just because others think it is important.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

More Books

Darkmans, Nicola Barker
Three Days to Never, Tim Powers
Flower Confidential, Amy Stewart - NF
Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
The Bestiary, Nicholas Christopher
Intruders, Michael Marshall
An Ocean of Air, Gabrielle Walker NF
The River’s Tale: A Year on the Mekong, Edward A. Gargan - NF
The Children’s War, J.N. Stroyar - SF
Probability Broach, L.Neil Smith - SF
Light, M. John Harrison - SF

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Some Sci Fi

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by John Joseph Adams
Recommended by Stainless Steel Droppings

Halting States by Charles Stross
Recommended by Stainless Steel Droppings

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

Brasyl by Ian McDonald

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Wish List

Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
Tiger Force - Michael Sallah - S
Heartless Stone - Tom Zoellner
Baby Merchant - Kit Reed
Stolen Child - Keith Donohue
Pale Blue Eye - Louis Bayard
King of Lies - John Hart - S
Hard Way - Lee Child - S
Lambs of London - Peter Ackroyd
In Persuasion Nation - George Saunders - S
Jpod - Douglas Coupland
Cellophane - Marie Arana
Eagles Throne - Carlos Fuentes
Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser - S
Sex Lives of Cannibals - J. Maarten Troost
Caliph’s House - Tahir Shah
Field Notes from a Catastrophe - Elizabeth Kolbert
End of Story - Peter Abrahams
Digging to America - Anne Tyler
Challenger Park - Stephen Harrigan
Sea of Fertility - Yukio Mishima (Spring Snow 1 of 4)
Borges and the Eternal Orangutans - Luis Fernando Verissimo
Lempriere’s Dictionary - Lawrence Norfolk
Quincunx - Charles Palliser
Bangkok 8 - John Burdett
Spin - Robert Charles Wilson
Accidental - Ali Smith
Rainbows End - Victor Vinge
Quantum Zoo - Marcus Chown
Special Topics in Calamity Physics - Marisha Pessl
House of Paper - Carlos Maria Dominguez
Ex-Libris - Ross King
Sixpence House - Paul Collins
A Reading Diary - Alberto Manguel
Ex-Libris - Anne Fadiman
The Master - Colm Toibin
Next- Michael Crichton
Blindsight - Peter Watts
Mysteries -
Thailand - John Burdett - Bangkok 8 series
Laos - Colin Cotterill - The Coroner’s Lunch
China - Qiu Xiaolong - Death of a Red Heroine
Israel - Daniel Silva - The Kill Artist
Japan - Akimitsu Tagaki
Natsuo Kirino - Out
Italy - Michael Dibdin - Ratking
Patricia Highsmith - The Talented Mr. Ripley
After Dark - Haruki Murakami
The Savage Detectives - Roberto Bolano
Angelica - Arthur Philips
My Holocaust- Tova Reich
The Raw Shark Texts- Steven Hall
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union - Michael Chabon
What the Dead Know - Laura Lippman
Brasyl - Ian McDonald - SF
Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
Baby Merchant - Kit Reed
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman - Haruki Murakami
Fragile Things - Neil Gaimon
Right Livelihoods - Rick Moody
Ghostwalk - Rebecca Stott
Garden Iden - Kage Baker - SF Company Series - first one
The Meaning of Night - Michael Cox
End of Mr. Y- Scarlett Thomas
Tree of Smoke - Denis Johnson - S
Fieldwork - Mischa Berlinski
God is Not Great-Christopher Hitchens -S
Yellow-Lighted Bookshop - Lewis Buzbee
Foreign Babes in Beijing - Rachel DeWoskin
Probability Broach - L. Neil Smith
Bridge of Sighs - Richard Russo-S
Cheating at Canasta - William Trevor - S
Theory of Clouds- Stephane Audeguy
Elephanta Suite - Paul Theroux
Caspian Rain - Gina B. Nahai
Gentlemen of the Road - Michael Chabon - S
Uncommon Reader - Allen Bennett
Pirates Daughter - Margaret Cezair-Thompson
Quiet Girl - Peter Hoeg
Mister Pip- Lloyd Jones
Three Days to Never - Tim Powers
Against the Day - Thomas Pinchon-S