WWW Wednesday, 26-July-2017

26 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


As a reminder, I’m on vacation this week so everything you see below is complete conjecture on where I think I’ll be. I’ll let you know next week if I was right!

Currently reading: A few pages here and there with Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi. I’m going to guess it’s mainly while my husband plays Pokemon Go on our vacation and I need something to fill the gap. I don’t think I’ll finish it soon, but I’ll keep working on it.
I’m going to start the audiobook for I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum. I got this book at the library used book sale but I’m going to listen to it so I can get through it faster.
My physical book is whatever you all picked for me last week and as of now, I’m not sure what that is! Whatever you chose, I’m sure I’m enjoying it.

Recently finished: I (hope I) finished A Son of the Circus by John Irving during my travels. I decided to take it and sell it at a used book store while I’m away so I can buy more books without weighing down my suitcase.
I finished Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith AKA J.K. Rowling. This one I’m sure of because I finished it right before I left! I adored this book and I gave it a full 5 out of 5 Stars and I’m eagerly awaiting the final book in the series.
I should finish Commonwealth by Ann Patchett before this post goes up. I have about a disk left on my phone and I’ll be doing a few runs where I’ll listen to it. I’m adoring it so far and I hope to continue loving it.

Reading Next: Whatever I traded A Son of the Circus for. It’s hard to say at this point because I’m still reading it as I type this!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Leaving on a Jet Plane

20 Jul

By the time this post goes up, I’ll be on my way to Seattle! I’m taking time off to go on vacation with my husband. We’re spending a few days in Seattle visiting his college roommate and I plan on hitting up the used bookstore down the street from his apartment. Space Needle and Pike Place Fish Market are of course on the docket as well!

Then we take a bus up to Vancouver where we plan to climb Grouse Moutain. Honestly, I don’t have much else planned for this leg of the trip besides exploring the beautiful city.

Lastly, we’ll take another plan to Portland where my friend’s sister has graciously agreed to put us up. Of course, Powell’s is in the plans! I hope to spend a whole day there, haha. I’ve been dreaming of visiting this places for ages so look forward to a post on it! Voodoo Doughnuts is a must for us while there, too. I’m beyond excited.

So I’m out all next week. Check out my Instagram to follow all the fun things we get to see.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 19-July-2017

19 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: I got back to A Son of the Circus by John Irving! I know, it’s been a while. It’s taken me a bit of time to get back into the swing of it and remember everything that’s happening but I’m so excited to be reading it again and I’m really loving it.
A mild step forward Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi this week. I plan on going through this slowly so no problem that it’s taking a while.
Things are starting to really ramp up with Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith AKA J.K. Rowling. I hope I can finish this before I head off on vacation because I’ll hate having to leave it behind and not know how it ends for a week!
I was able to transfer Commonwealth by Ann Patchett to my phone easily so I’m working on this as an audiobook now. It was weird going from me ‘reading’ the book in my head to listening to a narrator do it, but I’m over that hump now and still loving this story!

Recently finished: I finished The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde during my run last Thursday and it feels really good to have finished a book! It was really funny and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The review went up on Monday.

Reading Next: So, here’s the thing. I want to take a book or two on vacation with me but I want to take ones that I wouldn’t mind leaving behind. The plan is for them to be sold at used book stores when finished and new ones purchased. This is hard for me because I love keeping all the books I read, even if I don’t like them very much! However, I’m determined not to pay for a lot of bags. I hate to say it, but I likely won’t bring A Son of the Circus because it’s huge and I’m almost done with it. So, I picked out four choices and I want you guys to vote and tell me which to bring!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

My Big Book Dilema

18 Jul

My big West Coast trip is coming up fast! I’m beyond excited and starting to put together my baggage. I’m having some serious bookish struggles, though. I need your help, Readers!

I posted this on Instagram yesterday and I’m still struggling with what to do. I have about 150 pages left in this book and I’ve been reading it forever because it’s quite the chunk! I love Irving and I’m finally into the book and enjoying it so I hate to put it aside for a trip, but it’s so big! It’s going to take up a lot of precious space! Especially for only 150 more pages, I’m wondering if it’s worth it.

The other side to this is that I plan on selling the books I finish to a used book store while I’m on my trip. I’ll then buy some more so it’s kind of like recycling, right? So, if I take this book, I won’t bring it home. This makes me sad because I love John Irving and I won’t be able to add this one to my collection (which is a measly 4 right now despite how many of his titles I’ve read). Not bringing it home is making me teary.

I’m so lost and having some serious bookworm problems, Reader. What should I do? Help a girl out.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (5/5)

17 Jul

I’d seen the play, but never read the screen play of this work. A few years ago, someone recommended this to me as an 1800s read for the When Are You Reading? Challenge. I’d already found something for the time period, but I added it to my TBR anyway. I needed a nice short audiobook recently and chose this one. At two hours, it was a great length. And the full cast narration was a delight.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Summary from Goodreads:

Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gewndolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack’s ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack’s country home on the same weekend the “rivals” to fight for Ernest’s undivided attention and the “Ernests” to claim their beloveds pandemonium breaks loose. Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day!

Strangely, my strongest recollection of this story was the cucumber sandwiches in the first act. I just remember the actor eating all of them and thinking it was hilarious. This whole play was really funny and it made me forget how terrible running can be for a little while. Listening also made me want to see the show again.

The characters are such awful exaggerations of society that it’s very easy to laugh at them. Only Jack seems to be somewhat collected and even he has times of being a bit ridiculous. I don’t think Wilde could have made fun of society with relatable or down-to-earth characters so it was a wonderful choice.

Algernon was my favorite character in the play. He was absolutely ridiculous and made me laugh in every scene he was in. At first, I thought he was terribly clever and out maneuvering Jack but I soon realized how vain he was, along with everyone else of course, and that his remarks were not witty but oblivious and narsacistic. I still loved him.

I didn’t relate to any of the characters, but I think you should all question me if I had. Not being able to relate to a character isn’t an issue for me in a comedy like this one. It’s hard to laugh at someone who reminds you of yourself.

I loved all the backhanded comments about things being in fashion. Thinks that ‘one must’ or ‘one must never’ do were great and made for many of the best lines in the play. Wilde had a great way of pointing out how ridiculous some of the customs of his society were and I loved hearing about it in this format.

As terrible as it sounds, I was disappointed that things worked out for everyone in the end. It wouldn’t have been very funny if things had gone poorly, but I think it would have been appropriate for them to flub a few things up in the end. These weren’t the smartest people, after all. But things working out the way they did was funny and I guess that’s what you’re going for as a comedy writer.

The full cast production was wonderful. This is a play with few enough characters that each voice was distinct enough I could tell them apart without having to be told who was speaking. It was fun to listen to it like a conversation. The narrator for stage direction barely spoke expect to announce arrivals and departures. I think this is the best way to listen to a play. I prefer it to the single-narrator version of The Tempest I listened to last year.

I liked Wilde’s way of talking about how ridiculous he found some of the practices of his society. He especially seemed harsh on marriage and family ties. It makes me want to read more into his life and see why he might have felt this way. I do remember reading he was arrested for homosexuality though he was married and maybe felt trapped in a marriage he had a poor opinion of. I’m just speculating but I can see how that might lead someone to have slighted feelings against societal pressures.

Writer’s Takeaway: What I really loved about this book was the witty one-liners. There’s a great list on Goodreads and a favorite was from Aunt Augusta: Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon. Only people who can’t get into it do that. I enjoyed the quick chuckle and I think lines like this, frequency dependant on the genre, are always welcomed and can help lighten a heavy mood, even in a dark book.

I really enjoyed this read and recommend the full cast audiobook highly. Five out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
‘The Importance of Being Earnest’: Bright, but Shallow | Washcult

‘A Hologram for the King’ Movie Review

13 Jul

Movie Poster via Wikipedia

When I read A Hologram for the King, I wasn’t expecting much. I’d read an Eggers book before but the topic was so vastly different that I didn’t see how the same man could have written both books. I adored Hologram but couldn’t articulate well why. It reminded me a bit of Waiting for Godot but set in Saudi Arabia. That doesn’t instill much confidence, does it? I was excited when the movie came out but it didn’t get much hype. I took it up north to my parents’ cottage to watch with them and hubby and everyone seemed to like it though it had a meandering plot similar to the book.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

The King’s Metropolis of Economy and Trade. Description of the city is one thing, but seeing it on-screen was incredible. I kept having questions about how there was water and electricity in that remote part of the desert, but that’s beside the point. It was crazy to see the city rising out of the desert and even crazier to know it’s based on an actual city! The novel used the real name, King Abdullah Economic City.

Yousef. The quirky and mischievous driver was more fun in real life. He was really funny and I can’t remember how much of that humor was present in the book. My favorite line was when he found out Alan was late and said, “If you’re in a hurry, we should be going this way,” and did a complete 180 in the taxi.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Seeing Mecca. I don’t remember that part from the book at all. It was fun to have it thrown in, adding a little more adventure to Alan’s trip to Yousef’s home. It was clear the images were stock, which was the only thing that bothered me. I think they could have been worked in a little better but it was a fun scene to add.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why

Communication with Kit. Alan was writing to Kit all the time in the book. His inability to provide for her as a father was a major motivator for him to stick around in Jeddah and wait for the King to show up. It was clear she was part of his reason and motivation, but I think it was more stressed in the book.

Things That Changed Too Much

The ending. This was the only thing that really bothered me. I remember the ending of the book is annoyingly vague. Alan was going to stay but wasn’t sure what he would do or where he would live. Nothing was going well with Dr. Zahra and he was very alone. All of that was different in the book. He was selling housing units at KMET, he was living with Zahra, and he seemed really happy. One of the things I loved about the book is that it didn’t wrap up in a nice little bow but the movie did. It was 20 seconds at the end, but it was too much for me.

I was sad to hear this was a box office flop. I guess other people don’t enjoy movies about waiting as much as I do. Reader, have you seen the A Hologram for the King movie? What did you think?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 12-July-2017

12 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: Nothing with A Son of the Circus by John Irving but I have a plan! I’m hoping to switch Commonwealth to audio soon and that will give me time to finish this one! If everything lines up perfectly, I’ll take this one to Portland with me and sell it at Powell’s and buy another book there! Nerd dreams!
I got through a bit of Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi during lunches and waiting for the chiropractor, but nothing major. This book is pretty long and I think I’ll be reading it the rest of the summer at least.
I’m enjoying Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith AKA J.K. Rowling and have convinced my husband to let me do all the driving so I can listen to it in the car while he plays games on his phone. It seems to be a win-win situation for us.
I’m loving Commonwealth by Ann Patchett so far. Her writing is amazing and the characters are drawing me in. I have the CD audiobook as well and I’m thinking of ripping it to my iTunes and putting it on my phone so I can finish it there when I finish Earnest. I have a multi-step plan to finish all of these, I assure you.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is a fun listen. The full cast is helping it read more like a play than the last time I listened to a play on my phone. It’s quite short and I should be finishing it up shortly.

Recently finished: Nothing this week! I seem to have an all-or-nothing record with finishing books. I suspect at least one here next week!

I did get some reviews up, this week. First was a review of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig that I published on Monday. I’ve already posted my book club reflection of the book but I had a bit of my own insight that I wanted to be sure to share as well.
I also published my review of Abraham by Bruce Feiler. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as Feiler’s other book that I read a few years ago so if you’re interested in his religious books, I recommend Walking the Bible.

Reading Next: I’m going to worry about starting a new book until I get through my current reads first! It’s a big slog of them and I hope to minimize the number before I leave for my big trip at the end of the month! I know I haven’t posted much about it here, but I’m VERY excited! Don’t worry, WWW Wednesday will not be interrupted!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: Abraham by Bruce Feiler (2/5)

11 Jul

This book has been on my shelf for some time. I read Feiler’s book Walking the Bible about four years ago and subsequently had a book club discussion of it and met Feiler himself. I decided to buy this book because I enjoyed Walking the Bible so much and unfortunately it has languished on my shelf ever since. I realized there was an audiobook copy of it narrated by Feiler and was able to enjoy that recently.

Cover image via Goodreads

Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler

Other books by Bruce Feiler reviewed on this blog:

Walking the Bible

Summary via Goodreads:

Both immediate and timeless, Abraham tells the powerful story of one man’s search for the shared ancestor of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Traveling through war zones, braving violence at religious sites, and seeking out faith leaders, Bruce Feiler uncovers the defining yet divisive role that Abraham plays for half the world’s believers. Provocative and uplifting, Abraham offers a thoughtful and inspiring vision of unity that redefines what we think about our neighbors, our future, and ourselves.

I was a little disappointed by this book only because I think Walking the Bible is far superior. While WtB had a journey and that plot dominated the Biblical exploration and enhanced it, I felt Abraham was more of a textbook with references to academics and readings that I hadn’t studied. Even though Feiler was in Jerusalem and other important landmarks, he didn’t write about the experience of being there. The audiobook copy I had contained 40 minutes of WtB at the end, which only reminded me how much more I enjoyed that book.

The many faces of Abraham was a big focus of Feiler’s writing. It made it hard to believe any single interpretation of him because each religion and faction believed their interpretation so vehemently. As a Christian, I’m inclined to believe the Christian interpretation, but that conflicts very strongly with the Jewish interpretations which are hard to reconcile. For a single man, he has a lot of lore and facts that contradict each other.

 

Feiler did a good job working his own disbelief and a bit of his bias into the story. He admits at the beginning to his Jewish upbringing and bias toward the Jewish Abraham. He begins with this man and sets him up as a basis for the Christian and Muslim man to be compared against. I liked that he was open about his own bias due to his upbringing and I appreciated that.

I enjoyed the parts that, like Walking the Bible, were told like Feiler’s journey through the Holy Land. I enjoyed hearing about his visit to the holy sites associated with Abraham. The description of soldiers and travel to these places was fascinating and almost hard to believe by someone who’s never visited the region.

Some of the historical reflection on interpretation textbooks and historical texts bogged the story down in my mind a bit. I felt there was more of this than his travels and it made the book a little slow for me. I was listening to it while cooking and my husband asked me if it was the Bible! I thought that was a good reflection of how little it sounded like a non-fiction book.

Feiler himself narrated the audiobook. I like when authors do this because I think it makes the book sound more ‘real,’ having inflection where it’s intended. I did notice Feiler’s New England accent on a few words which likely wouldn’t have been there with a professional narrator, but it made it more real to me. I think he has a good voice for narration.

Feiler’s purpose in this book was to bring the three monotheistic religions together with their single founding father, Abraham. I’m not sure he accomplished this goal. He found that Abraham was very different depending on who he was speaking with. Some things, such as the son he intended to sacrifice, conflict with each other. There are some things similar between each Abraham, but I don’t think Feiler was successful in identifying a man to unite three faiths, rather pointing out the discrepancies between them.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’ve read a fair amount of non-fiction and this format was one that didn’t work for me. I wanted to read more of a story of Abraham and how he changed but what I got instead was too much of a textbook, quoting scholars and old texts. I was really hoping this book would be more like Walking the Bible and I think that’s part of the reason I was disappointed in this book. It wasn’t what I expected based on my experience with the author.

This book was informative, but maybe overly so. Two out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Abraham Study- week 3 “Birth” | Rev. Sharon’s Blog
Book Review: Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths | Edge Induced Cohesion
‘Abraham’ by Bruce Feiler (Book Review) | Perfect Chaos

Book Review: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig (3/5)

10 Jul

This is a book I wasn’t overly excited to read but at the same time, I was really looking forward to. It’s a book I had the feeling I needed to read and couldn’t say explicitly why. It was just one I needed to read. I’m glad my book club picked it so I finally had a reason to.

Cover image via Goodreads

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

Summary from Goodreads:

One of the most important & influential books written in the past half-century, Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a powerfully moving & penetrating examination of how we live, a breathtaking meditation on how to live better. Here is the book that transformed a generation, an unforgettable narration of a summer motorcycle trip across America’s Northwest, undertaken by a father & his young son. A story of love & fear–of growth, discovery & acceptance–that becomes a profound personal & philosophical odyssey into life’s fundamental questions, this uniquely exhilarating modern classic is both touching & transcendent, resonant with the myriad confusions of existence & the small, essential triumphs that propel us forward.

There were many times I felt what I was reading was going over my head. I’m sure a reread would help me understand it better, but I’m not one for rereading books. I followed the trip and I followed Phaedrus’ history, it was the philosophy that I didn’t always follow. I found the history and story fascinating. I don’t think I could travel as far as Chris and Robert did. I’d get too bored and restless. I also found it fascinating how different Robert and Phaedrus were from one another. It was hard to believe they were the same physical person.

I think Robert was very fair in how he portrayed his family and friends. I’m going to assume Robert is the narrator we follow, though it’s never expressly stated. Some of the things he wrote about Chris, I would find embarrassing if my father published in a book. I wondered how Chris felt about it and if he ever ended up suffering from mental illness like Robert did. I wondered how John and Sylvia felt about how they were described. Their dislike for technology comes off as negative n Robert’s eyes but I don’t think it was really a bad thing. I hope they were able to see it that way because it would be terrible if it affected their friendship. I also think it would be interesting to know how Phaedrus’ friends reacted to the book. The man has the same name but remembers nothing about his past. How strange it would be to read something by him and have it sound completely different.

It was hard to sympathize with a single character in this book. We don’t get a lot about any of the major players. Robert doesn’t reveal much about himself except that he’s introspective. Phaedrus and Chris are described very detachedly so that creates a barrier for the reader. It’s hard to say I had a favorite amongst them.

Related to that, I found it hard to sympathize or empathize with any of them either. As much as this book wasn’t about motorcycle maintenance, that was one of the major things about Robert a reader could connect with. Since I’m not a gearhead, I didn’t form that connection and I felt a bit distanced from the characters.

Robert Pirsig and Chris
Image via Levity

I liked reading about Phaedrus best. His story was fascinating and I was very curious how it would end. I think it was paced well through the novel. When I’d get a little bored with the trip or with philosophy, it would pop up again and it kept me reading. I’m glad there was a good bit of it at the end that made the last part of the book fly by.

I’m not really one for philosophy so those parts of the book were slow for me. I followed the discussion about quality well enough, but the beginning part about classical and romantic thought was a bit over my head. I understood it on the surface but the more Pirsig got into it, the more confused I was and the slower I read. It was hard for me to get into a book that distracted me so much at the beginning and I think that’s why it took me so long to read a book that, on the whole, I enjoyed.

I’ve heard several people say this book has changed their outlook on life or the way they think about things. I did not have a major revelation like this. I think this book gave me a new definition of quality but other than that, I don’t think it will have a lasting impact on how I view the world. One of my biggest takeaways was how mental illness can change a person. Phaedrus is so different from Robert that they’re no longer the same person and I couldn’t view them in such a way. I thought that was really insightful and it made it hard for Robert because he still looked like Phaedrus but needed to be viewed as a different person.

Writer’s Takeaway: I don’t think I’ll ever be a non-fiction writer, but I think weaving the three plots together the way Pirsig did made the book move along well without dragging on any one plot. A book that focused fully one only one of those plots would have been hard to get through, but all three together was a delight.

I’m not sure I was the best audience for this book. Three out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig | Cellar Door
Robert Pirsig and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | Richard’s Notes

Book Club Reflection: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

6 Jul

For only the second time ever, I went to my book club meeting without having finished the book. I was fairly confident this wasn’t a book where the ending could be ruined for me and it ended up fine. As I write this, I’m still finishing up the book but by the time this is posted, I’ll have it finished.

The book talks a lot about dialogue and another form of that is a dichotomy. The book was built around dichotomies. Robert and John are the first and most apparent. The way they view their motorcycles, through classic and romantic reasoning, set up the rest of the book. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was another dichotomy that permeated the rest of the book.

The book had three focuses: Self, trip, and quality. The first is Robert’s search to find himself and rediscover his past. The narrator and Phaedrus are at odds much of the time. Robert has trouble understanding why Phaedrus did things he did and how he reached certain conclusions about life and Quality. Robert strongly believed in preparedness and it seems Phaedrus didn’t follow this as well. Robert was always planning and he believed you had to understand how things worked to get unstuck. He talks about this in terms of motorcycle maintenance, but he was searching for the same understanding in himself. Robert seems intent on pleasing people, wondering how Chris is feeling about the trip and how John and Sylvia are holding up. Before, when he was Phaedrus, he destroyed anyone who didn’t agree with him. With the University of Chicago professor, he felt he was being attached and armed himself with the knowledge to attack back.

As for the trip, we wondered for a while why he picked Chris to come with him, not his wife or other son. I’ve been told this is somewhat explained in the end when Robert talks about the shock treatments he’s received and expresses that he’s afraid Chris will have the same issues with mental health that he’s had.

The search for quality was a huge part of the book and there were a few parts of it that we helped each other understand. The first was classic reasoning. Classic reasoning dealt with achieving the necessities of life: food, clothing, and shelter. On page 114, Pirsig talks about how since all of these things have been achieved, classic reasoning no longer applies. A member pointed out that we’re at another identity crisis now where work is disappearing and being replaced by machines. We may undergo another crisis of values until we’re able to find new values for this modern world.

Another idea we had trouble defining was how man didn’t create the laws of nature. Man identified them but the laws, such as gravity, that man defined, do not cause things to happen because they are named. They existed before they were identified and will continue to exist if the name is forgotten. They are not tangible things.

We roped ourselves into another conversation about quality and education. Since Phaedrus was a teacher, this seemed a big problem for him. In the US, education is all about the grade and not about learning. I know I’ve written certain things in papers because I knew it’s what a teacher wanted to read and not what I thought and I knew if I said what I really thought, I’d get a poor grade. How is that quality?

We’re discussing Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth next month and I’ll be starting it as soon as I finish this book!

Until next time, write on.

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