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Robert M. Pirsig 1928-2017, R.I.P.

Author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Dies at 88

‘The near-cult popularity of “Zen” … puzzled him for years before he came up with a theory. Writing in an afterword to the 10th-anniversary edition in 1984, he used a Swedish word (it was his mother’s native language) to describe the phenomenon. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” he wrote, was a “kulturbarer,” or culture-bearer.

A culture-bearing book is not necessarily a great book, he said. It does not change the culture. It simply heralds a change already underway. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” an indictment of slavery published before the Civil War, was a culture-bearing book, he said.“I was just telling my own story,” he said in a short interview posted on his website. He had never intended to make a splash.“I expressed what I thought were my prime thoughts,” he added, “and they turned out to be the prime thoughts of everybody else.” ..’ (New York Times obituary)