Robert M. Pirsig, who inspired generations to road trip across America with his "novelistic autobigraphy," Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died Monday at the age of 88.
Pirsig only wrote two books, but his Zen became an iconic title in the motorcycle world after being rejected by 121 publishing houses. A 1968 motorcycle trip across the West with his son Christopher was his inspiration.
"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."
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt reviewed Zen for The New York Times in 1974. "[H]owever impressive are the seductive powers with which Mr. Pirsig engages us in his motorcycle trip, they are nothing compared to the skill with which he interests us in his philosophic trip," he wrote. "Mr. Pirsig may sometimes appear to be a greener‐America proselytizer, with his beard and his motorcycle tripping and his talk about learning to love technology. But when he comes to grips with the hard philosophical conundrums raised by the 1960's, he can be electrifying."