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Robert M. Pirsig (1928 - 2017)

William Morrow via AP

Robert M. Pirsig (1928 - 2017)

Robert M. Pirsig, the author who wrote the classic philosophical novel "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," died Monday, April 24, 2017, according to multiple news sources. He was 88.

Pirsig's publishing house, William Morrow, announced that he died at his home in South Berwick, Maine.

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" was published in 1974 and fit the 1970s aesthetic well with the story of hitting the road on a motorcycle on a quest for knowledge. In the introduction of the novel, Pirsig explains that, despite the book’s title, "it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It's not very factual on motorcycles, either."


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Pirsig’s novel was a personal story based on a motorcycle trip he took in the late 1960s with his 12-year-old son, Chris. They rode from their home in Minnesota to the Dakotas. The book reveals the author’s struggles with schizophrenia. While on the trip, many philosophical discussions take place.

Critics hailed "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" as a brilliant blending of narrative story and philosophy.

The book took Pirsig four years to write and was rejected 121 times by publishers until William Morrow took on the book. The book has sold millions of copies worldwide.

In 1979, tragedy befell Pirsig when Chris Pirsig was killed by a mugger in San Francisco. Subsequently, Pirsig added a touching tribute to his son in the afterword of the book.

"I think about him, have dreams about him, miss him still," he says now. "He wasn't a perfect kid; he did a lot of things wrong, but he was my son ..."

Pirsig wrote a follow-up book in 1991 titled "Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals," in which he developed a value-based metaphysics that he called Metaphysics of Quality.

Pirsig is survived by his wife, Wendy; his other son, Ted; a daughter, Nell Peiken, and her husband, Matthew Peiken; and three grandchildren.

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