Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is an intense and philosophical read that went on to become a huge best-seller. Robert M. Pirsig penned it in an apartment on Lake Street and Chicago Avenue, just above the former Roberts' Shoe Store in Midtown.
Last night Pirsig's publishing house, William Morrow, confirmed that the author had died in his home in Maine after suffering from failing health. He was 88 years old.
His debut book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, was published in 1974 after being rejected over 100 times. The book is based on a road trip Pirsig took in the '60s with two friends and his son, Chris, from Minnesota to the West Coast. Along the way, the author contemplates the meaning of quality, nature versus machine, and father-son dynamics in the face of recovering from a schizophrenic breakdown.
The book went on to sell millions of copies. It was a success that Pirsig wasn't always comfortable with, and he eventually left his Minneapolis home to reside on the East Coast on a boat and in other less-populated areas, eventually settling into South Berwick, Maine, for the last three decades of his life. In the mid-'90s, he penned a sequel to Zen, titled Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals.
His son, Chris, who was featured in Zen, also struggled with mental illness, and died in the late '70s after being stabbed by a mugger outside of a zen center. Pirsig is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.