‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ by Robert M. Pirsig is often found on reader’s lists of favorite 20th century books. The identifying stamp inside the front cover of my copy indicates it was purchased from one of the used bookstores I frequented while living in Tallahassee from 1978 to 1984. As with many books I own it has moved with me over the years yet remained unread. That is until today. Sort of. Loading up the CD player with the Chant, Chant II and Chant III CDs to establish “mood”, I settled onto the couch with a big homemade iced mocha drink and began reading. After the first few chapters I began to wonder when the author would begin enlightening me or at least tell me something I hadn’t already learned in life. As much as I hate it when other people say it, I found myself repeating “I knew that, I knew that”.
Taking a break I picked up and read Marshall McLuhan’s ‘The Medium is the Massage’ cover to cover(it’s an easy read) then went back to ‘Zen’. Still nothing. Skimming ahead I noticed the book’s previous owner(s) had highlighted paragraphs and added a notes in the margins. So I read just those portions and will now either trade it in the next time I go to the used bookstore or put it back in the box. Maybe I’ll give it to my 13 year old nephew whose mind might be more receptive to the message.
‘Horizon’ was (I don’t think it still is) a hardbound “magazine of the arts” published quarterly in the ’60s and ’70s. Along the way I picked up one edition (Spring 1970) because of the feature article on Hieronymus Bosch. Included as a supplement was a true fold-up version of Bosch’s famous triptych, “The Garden Of Earthly Delights”(printed on heavy paper and “suitable for framing” as they say). Among the other interesting articles was an essay by Alvin Toffler based on his then yet to be published book, ‘Future Shock’. Back in the ’70s, while still in high school, I enjoyed reading ‘Future Shock’ when it came out. Not that long ago I read the Horizon Toffler essay and thought it would be a good idea to reread his entire book. Wrong. Almost immediately I was bored to the point of abandoning the idea. Yet I still think his essay is intriguing. Does that mean the book is fluff and filler or is my attention span too short these days for anything but the condensed version?
With ‘Zen’ and ‘Future Shock’ paperback versions the covers were not uniform in that both books were available in various colors. Bright blue, green, yellow or orange if I remember correctly. Maybe I should only try to read books that don’t vary their covers.