Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

On the Trail of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle MaintenanceZen and Now is the story of a story that will appeal to the 5 million readers of the original and serve as an initiation to a whole new generation.

Since its original publication in 1968, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values has touched whole generations of readers with its serious attempt to define “quality” in a world that seems indifferent to the responsibilities that quality brings. Mark Richardson expands that journey with an investigation of his own – to find the enigmatic author of Zen and the Art, ask him a few questions, and place his classic book in context. The result manages to be a biography of Pirsig himself – in the discovery of an unknown life of madness, murder and eventual resolution – and a splendid meditation on creativity and problem-solving, sanity and insanity.

Read Chapter 1

Praise for Mark Richardson’s ZEN AND NOW

“Like Pirsig’s, his is a book of its time…Richardson interweaves a broad outline of Pirsig’s troubled and fascinating biography…Richardson is a motorcycle guy.  He’s best describing the gear or the feel of the bike… It’s a nice travelogue that occasionally abandons Pirsig’s austere path.  ‘That’s not for me,’ Richardson writes…The journey through what Pirsig called ‘the high country of the mind’ need not entail outdoor camping or bad coffee…”
The New York Times Book Review

“Zen and Now” serves as a primer for both long-time devotees and newcomers to the Pirsig cult. It is also a harrowing account of the toll that the making of one man’s masterpiece exacted not only on himself but on those around him… What gives the book’s narrative its drive is the reporting Mr. Richardson does when he puts down the wrench and fills in the details of a familiar backstory… During his years of research, Mr. Richardson encountered many people who say that the book has changed their lives. “When I open the covers and begin riding back into the country,” one man says, “the tensions begin to disappear along the old roads.” “Zen and Now” is a reminder of how much pain it can take to make so many people feel better.”
The Wall Street Journal

“I was hooked immediately… Hallelujah, brother pilgrim of the open road…Mark Richardson also has a journalist’s training and instincts, and stops often along his way, talking to people and collecting their stories. He describes those characters with humor, compassion, and insight, even while he satisfies his own quest—which, like all journeys worth taking, turns out to be altogether different than he expected.
A central tenet of the philosophy Robert Pirsig illuminated in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is as simple—and as complicated—as, “If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.”
Richardson applied that same philosophy to his road trip, and then to his account of it, and here comes that blurb the publisher asked me for, offered with pleasure and a nod of my motorcycle helmet: “Zen and Now is a story worth telling, about a journey worth sharing—an entertaining, inspiring, and rewarding read.”
-Neil Peart, drummer for RUSH and author of The Masked Rider,  Ghost Rider,  Traveling Music and Roadshow

“Toronto Star motorcycle and auto editor Richardson takes a compulsive road trip poised on the pillion seat with Phaedrus at the handlebars…That cult classic {Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance] has given birth to websites, a handbook and a bit of academic inquiry; obsessive fans, known as Pirsig Pilgrims, frequently follow the Great Thinker’s original route on their bikes…We learn in much detail and full Zen mode just how the Suzuki’s oil was drained and its tires changed, just how the tool kit, the camera and the change of clothes, the palm pilot and lap top were carefully stowed. Heavy traveling joined with hagiography: a bit more motorcycle maintenance than Zen.”

Photos from the road

I took more than a thousand photos during my ride west, and here's a selection of them,