Pirsig, million-selling 'Zen' author, dead at 88

Pirsig, million-selling 'Zen' author, dead at 88

Pirsig, million-selling 'Zen' author, dead at 88

Pirsig's death came after a "period of failing health", his publisher William Morrow & Company said in a statement. The cause was not disclosed.

The semi-autobiographical novel told the story of a father-son motorcycle trip across the western United States. Pirsig, whose novel “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” became a million-selling classic after more than 100 publishers turned it down, died at his home in South Benwick, Maine on Monday, April 24, 2017.

Part road-trip novel, part treatise, part open letter to a younger generation, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" unfolded as a fictionalised account of a cross-country motorcycle trip that Pirsig took in 1968 with his 11-year-old son Christopher and two friends.

Author Robert Pirsig works on a motorcycle in 1975.

But it also contained an erudite elaboration of a philosophical theory that Pirsig termed the "Metaphysics of Quality". What it is, is a philosophical discussion, referred to as Chautauquas in the book, a word that presumably has a fancier pronunciation than a mere phonetic one.Presented as an elaborately layered plunge into the author's mind, scattered across a motorcycle journey from Minnesota to Northern California, Zen and the Art... leaves an indelible imprint on, particularly, a motorcyclist's psyche. This is a gripping aspect of the book, but not necessarily a very cheerful one. "The book is brilliant beyond belief", wrote Morrow editor James Landis before publication. "It is probably a work of genius and will, I'll wager, attain classic status". "'There, he said, 'I won't be doing music, I will be being it.' Robert Pirsig now has become the Quality he so heroically failed to articulate in this world". Writing in The New York Times, Edward Abbey was unsure how to categorize the book.

His book jackets include no photo of the author. He rarely submitted to interviews. Each summer, current inhabitants of Pirsig's former office in MSU's Montana Hall report that they are visited by the pilgrims, who want to see where Pirsig worked. The book's path to the best-seller list was long and unlikely.

"I go on living, more from force of habit than anything else", Pirsig wrote.

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A native of Minneapolis, Pirsig was a prodigy who at age 9 scored 170 on an IQ test and six years later graduated from high school.

He later studied philosophy at the University of Chicago and at Banaras Hindu University in India and taught writing at Montana State University in Bozeman and the University of IL at Chicago, the Times reported.

"Here's to your next road trip across the heavens, my inspiration".

"Is "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" a novel or an autobiography?" he wondered. In 1978, he married Wendy Kimball.

Pirsig is survived by Wendy, two children and three grand-children.

It also blurred the line between fiction and nonfiction.

Sexson said Pirsig's writings have earned him comparison with Dostoyevsky and Melville.

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