Reviews

Praise for Mark Richardson’s ZEN AND NOW

"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

“Richardson is quite meticulous in describing the thoughts, sensations, even the superstitions many motorcyclists experience while riding, as well. Even more impressive, he's able to fluidly intertwine his own two-wheeled travails with those in the "Zen" story. The result is a sort of Cliff's Notes version of the dense, 373-page original…”
-Susan Carpenter, LA Times

“…fine and strangely moving…Richardson reconfirms what all serious readers of travel literature know: that the process of getting somewhere is more important than the destination.
 Zen and Now is a splendid travelogue…Richardson treats both the terrain and its prisoners with quizzical and nonjudgmental sympathy, expressing himself in deceptively straightforward prose whose tone teases us with understatement…he demonstrates his own talent as a writer…fast-paced yet also graceful and contemplative.”
-Quill and Quire (starred)

“You don't have to be familiar with the original book to enjoy Richardson's tale, nor do you have to know how to ride a motorcycle. . . . His descriptions of the scenery are steady and contemplative, much like the pace of a long motorcycle journey. It's difficult for any writer to capture the appeal of motorcycling, and Richardson does an admirable job.”
-The Ottawa Citizen

“Certainly any book featuring a 2,700-mile motorcycle road trip, if it's to appeal to a wide audience, has to dish up more than road grit. Zen and Now dishes up plenty…Mark Richardson digs deep to unearth the motives behind his tormented mentor's search for quality while embarking on a search of his own… … It’san engrossing tale recounted with a journalist's attention to fact and an adventurer's appetite for the enlightening surprise.”
-The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“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.”
-Kirkus

“By following the tire tracks of a book that changed his life, Mark Richardson has created a classic of his own.  As wise as it is well-written and as touching as it is compelling Zen and Now is a journey that’s sure to inspire a new generation of pilgrims to hop on their motorcycles and head west.”
-Tim Falconer, author of Drive:  A Road Trip though Our Complicated Affair with the Automobile

"Richardson riffs on Pirsig and produces a motorcycle travel book more satisfying than the original. Sleeping in a yurt in Montana, setting his pants on fire because of a badly mounted saddlebag, or meeting Jimmy Carter in Africa, Richardson's stories have a Zen quality of their own. A book worthy of space in your saddlebag."
-Ted Bishop, author of Riding With Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books

“Although Richardson is on the trail of Pirsig, this book is as much about his own status in the universe and who he is as a father and a human being. It is charmingly written, honest to a fault and as unpretentious as Pirsig's book was the opposite.
Zen and Now invites the reader along on several levels; Richardson's research into Pirsig and his life is impeccable and the book is full of all kinds of interesting little nuggets…A good read.”
-The Globe and Mail

“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

“…Richardson tells his story deftly, interweaving the Pirsig family’s biography with close observation of the road, his own life and the people he encounters on his travels.  Unless you are a complete couch zombie, his descriptions of a largely pristine rural America will have you longing for a road trip of your own…Even if you haven’t the time or inclination to tackle Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Zen and Now is still well worth your time – for the road trip, the sad biography of a troubled genius, and the wisdom still readily available on the open road.”
-January Magazine

“Most notably for fans of the original, Zen and Now pushes the story forward, through Richardson’s correspondence with the interview-averse Pirsig, his editor, his ex-wife, and a second son, Ted, who has disavowed his relationship with his intense father.”
-The Boston Globe

 “Multilayered. . . . Vivid and real. . . . Zen and Now feels like a work of love, written by a reverent child who sees his father for who he really is, flaws and all, and still loves him.”
-Winston-Salem Journal

 “Richardson does a good job of keeping the dual narrative of the bike trip and that of Pirsig’s on track. And he doesn’t shy away from the divorce, the madness and murder that surrounded his mentor’s seminal ‘70s work.”
-Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

“…Zen and Now illustrates both the joy and the banality of travel in thoughtfully written passages that make the reader want to ride along with him.  In his afterward, Richardson says that Zen and the Art “changed my life in numerous ways,” and hopes that readers of his book will take either a second look or a first attempt at Pirsig’s work.  In either case, Zen and Now is the place to start.”
-Cycle Canada

“I enjoyed it each time I picked it up and found it hard to put it down.  There were several nights when I heard a familiar voice saying, “How much longer are you staying up?  Can you turn that light out?” To which I’d say “I’ll just finish the page” and maybe read a couple more before turning the lights out for the night…If you’re planning to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance you’ll certainly understand it better having read Zen and Now first.  Even if you haven’t read Zen and the Art and have no plans to, Richardson’s book provides a very entertaining story and it centers on a motorcycle journey.  Any well written book with a motorcycle theme deserves a spot on my bookshelf.  This is a welcome addition to the collection.” 
-Canadian Motorcycle Rider

“The descriptions of riding in wet and windy conditions – plus cold in higher altitudes – will also bring a kindred feeling to those who have been similarly soaked and frozen, and his descriptions of conquering the Gardner and Bozeman Mountains, including Beartooth Pass at 10,947 feet, are engrossing. 
Yet perhaps the strongest argument for Zen and Now is Richardson’s tactical use of excerpts from Zen and the Art, and the excellent background information on Pirsig… From the original trail master to the apt pupil.  How very symmetrically Zen-like.”
-The Globe and Mail                         

“More than a sequel to the classic, it is its own multi-layered journey across the middle of America on the back of a motorcycle.   I don’t know Zen from Zip.  I don’t know a Harley from a pothole in the road.  But I do know good writing and there is plenty of it in this book.”
-Live Journal, Staircase Writer

 “Zen and Now, is an entertaining road story with a meditative quality that offers some intriguing insights into this enigmatic figure and the lessons his book continues to teach today.”                 
-Adrian Blake, host of Ride! radio show

"… Canadian journalist Mark Richardson retraced the route on his bike and has documented the journey in Zen and Now. In it, Richardson revisits the people and places that figured prominently in Pirsig's book and offers a more complete picture of the author... His ultimate hope is to introduce the classic work to a new generation of readers and riders.”
-The Rocky Mountain News

 

Memory Writers Network | Break the Rules! A Travel Memoir with a Twist of Zen

Ottawa Citizen | Maintenance, Zen and now

Montreal Gazette | Book Explorer - Zen and Now

Globe and Mail | Get your motor running

January Magazine | What is Remembered

New York Times | Motorhead

Owen Sound Sun Times | Books take you back to another time in your reading life (PDF)

Seattlepi.com | Journalist retraces the steps of the original 'Zen' author in an engrossing tale

Psybertron Asks | Zen And Now Live

Quill & Quire | Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Wall Street Journal | The Biker Read Hegel

Boston.com | Recycling: Forty years later, Mark Richardson spins a new tale out of 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'

LA Times | The author follows in the wheel ruts of 'Motorcycle Maintenance's' Robert M. Pirsig

Neil Peart | Bubba's Book Club, Issue 10, August 2008

Globe & Mail | Updating - and improving on - a classic

 

 

 

Chapter 1

Download and read the first chapter of Zen & Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Chapter 1 - Minnesota

About the Author

Mark Richardson, now 46 and married with two young sons, is the editor of the Wheels section of the Toronto Star newspaper.

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Contact

Write to me at mark@zenandnow.org

Zen & Now Available at