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Wednesday 4 March 2020

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle

Zen and the Art of Apple Pie

For a generation of 'Boomers', Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was 'right up there' with Kerouac's On the Road and Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider as one of the quintessential road trip references for cultural insights into the evolution of post war American society.

The novel was more about trying to make sense of the changing world around him and prescient analysis of the effect of machines and technology it was than simply the joys of the open road and wind in your hair. More Stockhausen than Steppenwolf!
The 1966 Honda Superhawk that featured in his book is to find a final resting place in the Smithsonian Collections certainly made me feel nostalgic - specifically in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Published in 1974 and subtitled as "An Inquiry into Values," the book featured a round trip Pirsig made from Minneapolis/St Paul to San Francisco and back with his then 11 year old son Chris in 1968.
The restored bike is being gifted to the Smithsonian by Pirsig's widow Wendy, along with Pirsig’s leather jacket, maps, shop manual and other gear from the 1968 ride, a manuscript copy and signed first edition of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Pirsig’s favorite toolboxes with tools for maintaining his bike and other vehicles as well as tools he made himself.
As someone who has done his own fair share of the 'hard miles' criss-crossing the United States, my abiding take-away from the book is Pirsig's account of how the portions of apple pie got bigger, nicer and less expensive the further west he travelled!