I’ve read Elie Wiesel, Victor Frankel, Cory Ten Boom, & Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Somehow, this is the easiest story to take. No doubt because the brutal reality is tempered with not only the seemingly light hearted science fiction, but also with the superficial & banal life of the American bourgeoisie. Yet we never realize that Vonnegut’s not making fun of Billy Pilgrim. He’s contrasting the suffering of war with the luxurious complacency of empire.
Like any good humorist, Vonnegut let’s us forget that this hell was real by making us imagine that it’s fiction. We’re comforted by imagining that the absurdity of his story is fabricated and temporary, when what we don’t realize is, he is only mirroring the permanent absurdity of reality.
John Steinbeck kicks Ayn Rand’s ass. Just sayin’. While I’m at it, so does Kurt Vonnegut. And just so no one thinks I’m sexist, if they were writing at her time, so would Janet Evanivich, J.A. Jance, Sara Paretsky AND Anne Lamott!
I read it two or three years ago now but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. This is a book that stays with you for years after you’ve finished it.
Recently I’ve been reading a couple of books on teaching with methods of inquiry and conceptualization. Pirsig’s constant struggle is between what’s measurable and what’s meaningful. In this novel that tension seems to have led him to a breakdown. I feel like this is the same struggle we have in American schools today.
Teachers want to challenge students to become intellectually curious and develop into whole, healthy, principled individuals capable of participating in and contributing to society- whereas politicians, administrators and officials have been stressing accountability based on data from standardized test results.
Really it’s a false dichotomy, we need both differentiation and standardization, but the tension and dissonance are putting enormous pressure on professional educators and their schools resulting in frustration, confusion, and perhaps even an identity crisis just like Pirsig has to recover from in ‘Zen.’
But my identifying the central conflict with education really minimizes the book. Hit resonates on many more levels. It’s got plenty so say about self awareness, self acceptance, relationships, and parenting.
Riding from Minnesota to Montana on back roads and county highways with his son, Pirsig has hours to experience, contemplate, and think. This book is his “chautauqua,” hoping to help us deepen some of our channels rather than blaze new trails. Interesting so far. I think this is what I had hoped that Kerouac’s, ‘The Road’ was going to be like, but it wasn’t
What books have ‘stuck’ with you for months or years after you’ve read them? What books have had a major impact on your life or profession, or personal world-view or outlook on life? How did they effect you? Why did you relate to the characters in those books?
Anyone else out there read this book? What did you think? How would you compare it to ‘The Road’ by Jack Kerouac?