Robert M. Pirsig

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Robert Maynard Pirsig (born September 6, 1928) is a popular American writer, famous for his first book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (1974). The book outlined Pirsig's philosophy of the Metaphysics of Quality, in the form of a mostly-autobiographical tale of a man's motorcycle trip across North America. The book remains a popular title to this day. In 1974 Pirsig was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work. Its followup, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals (1991), further explores Pirsig's philosophies.

Pirsig was a precocious child, with an IQ of 170 at age 9, and promoted several grades, which, along with a stammer, made for a difficult childhood school experience. Pirsig began his studies at the University of Minnesota in 1943, and after flunking out, and serving with US military in Korea. He returned to receive his B.A. in 1950. He then attended Benares Hindu University in India to further explore Eastern philosophy. In 1954 he married Nancy Ann James, and the couple had a son, Chris, in 1956, and a second son, Theodore (Ted) in 1958.

Supporting himself by taking freelance jobs and teaching freshman English, Pirsig spent 1960–1963 in and out of mental institutions following a mental breakdown; he was treated with shock therapy. Pirsig divorced Nancy in 1978, going on to marry Wendy Kimball later in the year. The couple had a daughter, Nell, in 1980.

Pirsig has published little other than his two major works and avoids the public eye, frequently traveling around the Atlantic by boat, having lived in various places around the United States as well as Sweden and England. In 1979, Pirsig's first son Chris - who had played an important role in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - was stabbed to death during a mugging in San Francisco.

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