Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Books on Tape

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Books on Tape

Article excerpt


By Robert M. Pirsig (6 hours, abridged, Audio Renaissance, $22.95)

In the late '60s, when the author had an idea for this book, he contacted 121 publishers. Of those, 22 responded favorably. During the 4 1/2 years that it took him to write the book, only one stuck with him, and that one did not really believe the book would be a success.

But when "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" was released in 1974, it not only received rave reviews but also became an international best seller. More importantly, it established the former teacher of philosophy and rhetoric as someone whose ideas deserved consideration and study.

So in a way, it is surprising that it took this long for an audio publisher to put the book on tape. But it was worth the wait, inasmuch as this production with Lawrence Pressman as the narrator is done well. Because of the myriad of ideas offered by Pirsig, this is one that you will probably want to listen to more than once.

The author offers his thoughts in the form of a story in which he, his 12-year-old son, Chris, and two friends travel by motorcycle from their home in Minneapolis to the West Coast.

Pirsig is the narrator, but much of what the book deals with involves a mythical character called Phaedrus, a seeker of truth and intellectual honesty. Phaedrus is a name that Pirsig obtained from Plato's dialogues.

Phaedrus and Pirsig pursue some definition of quality, some way to rise above the bland and out of the mainstream of accepted intellectual gospel. Phaedrus becomes so vivid that it takes a while before a listener grasps that he and Pirsig are one and the same, the person the author was before his mental breakdown.

The listener also learns that part of the reason for the trip is that Chris has been detected as having potential mental problems, too. By the end of the book, Chris has been stabilized, but Pirsig seems to have recreated within himself this need to again reach out for the truth.

In the afterword, Pirsig relates that Chris was murdered in San Francisco in 1979 as he left the Zen Center where he was a student. But t he story doesn't end there. Life goes on and, in 1991, Pirsig's "Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals" was published. …

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