Reading this book was a classic proof of the well known rule of thumb not to have too high an expectation for anything. Truly, had I absolutely no expectations for this book, I'd probably enjoy it more. But, alas, I was told so much good things that I expected more than I eventually found.

ZMM (abbreviated book name) is a semi-autobiographic story. Pirsig tells about his "road trip" through the north-western part of the US with his son, Chris. (As far as I understood from digging the net, this story is quite true and has really happened). As I see it, the story is divided to two main lines (which are further sub-divided).

One line is the narrative of the trip - through which Pirsig tries to share his views on some philosophic issues - mainly Quality - what is it, how do we know it even exists, how to find it, how to recognize true quality when we do find it, etc.

The other line is pure philosophic detours, mostly into the same questions. Pirsig refers to those as "Chautauqua". He tells a lot about his "previous" character, whom he calls Phaedrus, after a Greek role from Plato's dialogues. Apparently (which also seems true, form a small research I did afterwards), Pirsig suffered a severe mental breakdown and disease that lasted a couple of years. He was treated with compulsory electric shocks to the brain to change his character. I didn't even know such things existed... but in the afterword, Pirsig said it's all true, and such treatments are no longer legal.

It's not an easy book to read. It swings between at least two separate periods of time, and on quite a few levels for the present time. Pirsig demonstrates the idea of quality with detours into motorcycle maintenance and rhetoric. The motorcycle maintenance stuff is easy to relate to for anyone with a creative job, and it's really inspiring, though not as much as I hoped. Actually, some people told me that reading this book changes one's attitude towards his work, but I probably already have the right attitude, so it didn't affect me this much.

I really liked the less philosophic parts of this book - the writing is beautiful. The details of US scenery, people, towns and Pirsig's taking care of his motorcycle and communicating with his son are a delight to read. When Pirsig steps into philosophy lightly it's also all very understandable. But some parts of this books are just too heavy for me. I guess I need more training in philosophy to really connect with those.

Well, this review started on a somewhat negative note, but I'll finish it on a positive one. ZMM is a good book. It's an unusual book, which is also important. It's probably not like anything I've read before, and I'm always happy about this, being exposed to vastly different ideas and styles. Some of it is too philosophic for me, so maybe I'll have to read it again some time.