All roads lead to “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”
By Jay Caspian Kang, October 25, 2022
Every writer I know has memories they return to in their work over and over again. There is rarely much logic to the choices, nor do such memories tend to align with the sorts of significant events that traditionally make up the time line of one’s life.
My point of fixation, one that’s appeared a few times in my writing, occurred during a solo cross-country road trip I took at the age of nineteen. I was driving to Seattle, where I knew nobody, and was planning to stop for the night in Billings, Montana. It was already late, and I had been keeping myself awake with a non-stop chain of cigarettes and vending-machine coffee I’d dutifully bought at every rest stop along the way. I had a pile of books on tape on the passenger’s seat.
About an hour outside of Billings, I put in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” which, coincidentally, starts out on a road trip to Montana. The first line—“I can see by my watch, without taking my hand from the left grip of the cycle, that it is eight-thirty in the morning”—had a hypnotic effect on me. I blew through Billings that night, and for the next six hours I listened to Robert M. Pirsig’s barely fictional meditation on fatherhood, Chautauquas, Zen, tools, and the idea that quality—the main conceptual preoccupation of Pirsig’s life—lay in the repetition of right actions.
Editor’s Note: Read more, see link below for original item…