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Dianetics is one of them, ho ho.
April 26, 2008 7:17 AM   Subscribe

50 best cult books from The Telegraph.
posted by Artw (85 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
I suspect many of them are on the theiving list.
posted by Artw at 7:21 AM on April 26, 2008


ooo-oo ... that's kinda depressing how many of these I've read. Guess I just have Bohemian tastes.
posted by RavinDave at 7:28 AM on April 26, 2008


Lord of the Rings seems to be a pretty big omission.
posted by yhbc at 7:33 AM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


No VALIS, No illuminatus!
posted by smackwich at 7:33 AM on April 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I swear this list gets re-published about once a month in British newspapers, rotating between the Telegraph, the Independent, the Times and the Guardian.
posted by afx237vi at 7:36 AM on April 26, 2008


No X... but Y!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:37 AM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Iron John... heh, I'd completely forgot the 'Be a real man by running round the woods naked and hitting a drum' movement.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:39 AM on April 26, 2008


Wow, I have over half of these on my bookshelves. For several of them, I don't really get how they're considered "cult books" (e.g. To Kill A Mockingbird is a beloved mainstream classic), but I feel very cool and edgy now.
posted by amyms at 7:40 AM on April 26, 2008


I either own or have read a disturbing percentage of the novels on this list. Wrong castle book, though. We Have Always Lived in the Castle would have been the appropriate choice.

And To Kill a Mockingbird, really? I hate to bust up the Telegraph's dreams (like an old chiffarobe), but the book is impossible to escape in the United States, to the point where I find discarded copies of it in random locations. If it was at some point a cult book, I think it's now elevated to the status of State Religion.
posted by adipocere at 7:42 AM on April 26, 2008


I'm not going to go into this link, purely based on the Telegraph's shiteful 50 best crime writers link from a couple of months ago.

If Cracked did the 50 best cult books, well, that'd be different.
posted by mattoxic at 7:43 AM on April 26, 2008


No Last Exit to Brooklyn, no Fight Club?
posted by matteo at 7:44 AM on April 26, 2008


We were assigned to read To Kill a Mockingbird in eighth grade. Edgy.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:57 AM on April 26, 2008


THe Naked and the Dead by Mailer changed by life when I read it, as did Communion by Whitley Strieber.

My life has since changed back.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:59 AM on April 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


That said, the description of The Celestine Prophecy as (paraphrasing) "watching Tomb Raider while a stoned hippie babbles nonsense in your ear" goes a long way toward redeeming this list.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:59 AM on April 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


They make The Catcher in the Rye sound like a guilty pleasure. More like a guilty meh, when I read it at 15.
posted by ersatz at 8:03 AM on April 26, 2008


I swear this list gets re-published about once a month

Invariably to coincide with Waterstone's current promotion on so-called 'life-changing reads'.

Pepsi Blue, imo.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:09 AM on April 26, 2008


Among books I read deserving of cult status and not on the list.
Valis by Philip K. Dick
Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito
There is practically a cult around Homicide: Year on the Killing Street, non-fiction but the Rosetta Stone of modern police fiction.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:19 AM on April 26, 2008


What a curious collection. Some of them I'm just shy of whacko for, others are completely unfamiliar to me. But Dianetics? Now that's cult lit.
posted by owhydididoit at 8:26 AM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


kittens for breakfast: "We were assigned to read To Kill a Mockingbird in eighth grade. Edgy."

Same here. Also: The Stranger, Sidhartha, Catcher in the Rye. Maybe my high school was a cult!
posted by octothorpe at 8:31 AM on April 26, 2008


I scored 15 definites and two possibles. (I definitely waded through a couple of Ayn Rands at some point, and I distinctly remember starting "The Catcher in the Rye" and thinking "this is pretty dull").

It mentions "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov which I've heard about from a few people and was thinking of reading... is that any good? Intelligible to a non-Russian?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:36 AM on April 26, 2008


I don't get their definition. I'd define a cult book as one that where people define part of their lives to some degree by whether they've read it or not. So books like The Fountainhead, Lord of the Rings (not on the list), Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Teachings of Don Juan, make sense, but some of them seem silly. Jonathon Livingston Seagull? Really? I know it was madly popular, but I think in the same way that All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarden is, and that didn't make their list. Labyrinths? I think Borges is great but are there people out there who believe in the aleph?
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:48 AM on April 26, 2008


Utterly depressing to see Naomi Kline's "No Logo" next to Kerouac's "On the Road."

And no Book of Mormon. Strange.
posted by three blind mice at 8:55 AM on April 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think the title of the article is proof that they just publish these lists so people will dicker about them online.

Given how damning some of these reviews are (and rightly so: it's especially satisfying to see Zen blah blah Maintenance taken down a notch) they clearly don't intend for these to be the "best" of anything. But if they just owned up to being arbitrary and called it "A list of 50 cult books we happened to think of before our deadline," nobody would blog about their favorites being left out.

But fuck it, I'll play along anyway: The real cult Salinger book, when I was in high school, was Franny and Zooey. Catcher in the Rye was what you had to read in ninth grade — they made us write essays about what, exactly, the ducks symbolized and so on, and after that you couldn't earn many badass points by liking it.

Or, to put it another way, I had Catcher recommended to me by a chain-smoking English teacher one semester from retirement, and F & Z recommended by the cute redhead who sat next to me, so which one do you think I was gonna spend the next four years carrying around and dogearing all the pages?

posted by nebulawindphone at 9:02 AM on April 26, 2008


Frederick Exley's excellent A Fan's Notes should be near the top but it isn't even mentioned. It's a better book than most on this list too. Lame.
posted by inoculatedcities at 9:07 AM on April 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


(Also, CDA, you've been hanging out with the wrong stoners. Some people believe in Borges. Lift up your right hand when you read that last sentence, and say believe in your best holy-roller voice, and you'll get the general idea.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:10 AM on April 26, 2008



It mentions "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov which I've heard about from a few people and was thinking of reading... is that any good? Intelligible to a non-Russian?


I thought it was excellent, FWIW.
posted by gaspode at 9:24 AM on April 26, 2008


Do you often feel unhappy? Depressed? Ill at ease with others? You will if you read this.

I enjoyed these four sentences.
posted by Clay201 at 9:27 AM on April 26, 2008


Walden.
posted by crazylegs at 9:27 AM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


27 out of 50; I'm going to have to relinquish my standing in the cult. Still, yeah, I don't get the inclusion of To Kill a Mockingbird either (or Catcher in the Rye for that matter, Franny & Zooey is what divides the Salinger cultists from the assigned books list people) and where, where are the Illuminatus trilogy and the Cosmic Trigger and, hell, the Book of the Subgenius? Those were the ones that changed my life in college and they're blissfully culty.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:28 AM on April 26, 2008


after only skimming the comments before posting, and then going back, heh, nebulawindphone! Yeah, Franny & Zooey.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:29 AM on April 26, 2008


Women should taste their own menstrual blood to reconcile themselves to their bodies, declared Germaine Greer in the seminal feminist text of the 1970s.

Wow, "seminal" is *so* not the word I would have chosen there. Patriarchisterical!
posted by stet at 9:37 AM on April 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


Oh, I believe in Borges (I'm writing Don Quixote as we speak), I just don't see anyone running around trying to convert people to Librarianism the way Rand's acolytes try to convert you to Objectivism
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:38 AM on April 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


inoculatedcities - I haven't heard anyone mention him in years. I couldn't agree more.
posted by docpops at 9:38 AM on April 26, 2008


That said, the description of The Celestine Prophecy as (paraphrasing) "watching Tomb Raider while a stoned hippie babbles nonsense in your ear" goes a long way toward redeeming this list.

I read that book while all the hoopla was going on, and I put it down about 25 pages in convinced that the entire world, by pretending the book was worth a damn, was fucking with me.

Perhaps Mockingbird is less popular in England? And as for Lord of the Rings, any book responsible for a billion-dollar movie franchise is officially "out of the cult".
posted by Bookhouse at 9:56 AM on April 26, 2008


nthing Illuminatus! and Lord of the Rings. Also the fact that I've read a disturbing amount of these.
posted by empath at 9:58 AM on April 26, 2008


Oh, I believe in Borges (I'm writing Don Quixote as we speak), I just don't see anyone running around trying to convert people to Librarianism the way Rand's acolytes try to convert you to Objectivism

Actually, now that you put it that way, I kind of wish they would. It would make that spot on campus where they shout The Truth at you until the crosswalk signal changes a lot more interesting.

Right now, the objectivists, the LaRouche whatsits and the First Church of Gory Abortion Posters seem to have a lock on it. It's enough to make me miss my old school, where there were some comically sincere Maoists in the rotation who were at least good for a laugh.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:02 AM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yay for Ignatius J. Reilly, and yay for Paul Atredies, but no Owen Meany?
posted by willmize at 10:02 AM on April 26, 2008


docpops - Despite my perpetual evangelizing on behalf of Exley (and that book in particular) it still seems almost nobody I meet has ever heard of him. Yardley's slim biography a few years back seemed to rejuvenate interest in him but that faded quickly. I found it in 9th grade in a used book store, started it with zero expectations and was reduced to trembling awe by its prose. No joke.

Speaking of belligerent assholes who can really turn the words, where's Richard Yates on this list too? Half of me can't wait for the Revolutionary Road movie to come out this year because I'm sure Oprah will make it a book-of-the-month or something and Yates will finally get what he was always denied (a huge readership), but the other half of me is dreading how much the film is going to suck.
posted by inoculatedcities at 10:09 AM on April 26, 2008


I found it in 9th grade in a used book store, started it with zero expectations and was reduced to trembling awe by its prose. No joke.

Freshman year at college. I thought the cover was interesting. But hell if I can find anyone else that's read it, and like one reviewer has said, you need to be careful who you inflict it on.
posted by docpops at 10:16 AM on April 26, 2008


Nothing on Ian Astbury or Billy Duffy? I've been lied to.
posted by TheDonF at 10:21 AM on April 26, 2008


Like many others, I thought this was gonna be a list of non-fiction books about cults, and I clicked on it to see if Monkey On A Stick: Murder, Madness, and the Hare Krishnas was included. But it wasn't, and it wasn't. But it's still an amazing, appalling read.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:24 AM on April 26, 2008


Makin' a list, checkin' it twice...
posted by fixedgear at 10:24 AM on April 26, 2008


> I read that book while all the hoopla was going on, and I put it down about 25 pages in convinced that the entire world, by pretending the book was worth a damn, was fucking with me.

Word. See also: Da Vinci Code, The and John, Iron.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:26 AM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


VALIS fershure... I'm a huge fan of McKenna's "Archaic Revival", though I don't know if that really counts. Admittedly, that's more a collection of interviews and some excerpts of articles, etc... But that's gotta be pretty cultish.
posted by symbioid at 10:29 AM on April 26, 2008


No Neuromancer? You've got to be kidding me.
posted by Camel of Space at 10:32 AM on April 26, 2008


What a shit list. How are Slaughterhouse Five, The Bell Jar, Catch-22, The Catcher in the Rye, The Celestine Prophecy, The Fountainhead, Johnathan Livingston Seagull, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Stranger, Thus Spake Zarathustra, or To Kill a Mockingbird cult books in any sense?

If it's sold millions of copies and any random person on the street has probably heard of it, it's not a cult book.

Fuck, if it's used in highschools across the nation, it's not a cult book.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:39 AM on April 26, 2008


Of course, the problem with putting together a list of cult-cult books is that they are, by definition, obscure up until you meet that guy who lends you his copy.

Unless you've got double agents in every club, scene, movement and school of thought, you're not gonna know what most of them are.

Fortunately, I've got the rest of Metafilter, which is almost as good. Next paycheck I'm bringing this thread to the bookstore.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:52 AM on April 26, 2008


It mentions "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov which I've heard about from a few people and was thinking of reading... is that any good? Intelligible to a non-Russian?

hell, yes - it's certainly worth reading
posted by pyramid termite at 10:59 AM on April 26, 2008


Fuck, if it's used in highschools across the nation, it's not a cult book.

Well, I read most of those when I was a kid, not in school, but because they were the exact opposite of the stuff we were given to read in school. (Seriously, Fear & Loathing is a set text in American high schools? Must take the edge off the 'Man, I'm a dangerously hip 13 year old! Woo! Drugs!' frisson a bit, that.)

It seems to me that their definition of cult is "books people read in their teens and rather like".

Also, Franny & Zooey is defo the Salinger cult book (I re-read it recently, with some trepidation - fearing the 'Oh dear, it's actually a bit mince'/On The Road re-read effect - but it's still pretty great.)
posted by jack_mo at 11:02 AM on April 26, 2008


I picked up dhalgren on a whim one day in my college bookstore and sat down in my dorm room to read it. It had an interesting premise but I found Delaney's prose unlikeable, somehow fundamentally offensive to my sensibilities. I threw it across the room. It exploded against the cinderblock wall, leaves falling like autumn.

That'll teach me to preview. Stupid bbcode.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:10 AM on April 26, 2008


Is Dhalgren on the list? Make it 28 for me then. I loved that book. Still do, actually.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:40 AM on April 26, 2008


I totally agree with their description of The Fountainhead:
Bewilderingly popular and extremely silly Nietzschean melodrama... Loved by the kind of person who tells you selfishness is an evolutionary advantage, before stealing your house/lover/job.
Ha.
posted by peacheater at 11:55 AM on April 26, 2008


I've just started If On A Winter's Night, of which they write:

A book composed of the first chapters from other invented books. Either a classic work of literary snakes and ladders or a tiresomely recursive bit of postmodern sterility depending on your interlocutor. Italo Calvino was arguably better elsewhere.

Way to kill my buzz.

Also The Telegraph have got this "list on a website" thing wrong - it should be at least 5 pages to click through, to read it all. Amateurs.
posted by meech at 12:02 PM on April 26, 2008


I just saw Master and Margarita as a puppet show at the fabulous Mum Puppettheatre in Philadelphia. They're currently doing a production of Animal Farm, which thankfully did not make it onto this apparently arbitrarily-compiled list.

Though I haven't read the book yet, that puppet show put it near the top of my list. It was 3 hours long and had 2 actors that played over 100 characters.
posted by nosila at 12:03 PM on April 26, 2008


No, mygothlaundry. I just think it should be.
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:04 PM on April 26, 2008


They're currently doing a production of Animal Farm, which thankfully did not make it onto this apparently arbitrarily-compiled list.

Now, see, in the UK Animal Farm *IS* something you read at school.
posted by Artw at 12:07 PM on April 26, 2008


I definitely got the exact same you-have-got-to-be-shitting-me vibe reading the DaVinci Code that I had reading the Celestine Prophecy some years before.
posted by empath at 12:17 PM on April 26, 2008


docpops - Was it the 80's Vintage Contemporaries paperback edition? I love how all of the books in that imprint look. They put out mostly great books too: Barry Hannah, Richard Ford, Don DeLillo, etc. Come to think of it a significant percentage of my personal library is composed of 80's Vintage Contemporaries paperbacks...
posted by inoculatedcities at 12:33 PM on April 26, 2008


Put six Nietzscheans in a room and it ought to be a bloodbath; except, since they're all nancies who fancy themselves as Supermen, there wouldn't be one. Nietzsche was brave and mad enough to kill God: but look what happened to him. His acolytes are, largely, less brave.

This brought a smile to my mug.
posted by maxwelton at 12:41 PM on April 26, 2008


Anyone here read "Zoo Station: Adventures in East and West Berlin" by Ian Walker? That was a great book I read at the age of 23 just before I went overseas and stayed away for ten years. It came along at a perfect time in my life. I had just graduated from university with a Creative Writing degree, and was working in my home town as a short order cook, smoking a lot of dope and listening to Shoegazers.

Or Congo Journey/No Mercy, by Redmond O'Hanlon. Anybody read that? That is one incredible book that changed me, if only for a few years.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:01 PM on April 26, 2008


inoculated: yeah. I can't remember how I ended up in that line of reading. I was living in Durham in college and I think I discovered that a lot of the stuff Vintage was publishing was really appealing to the state of mind I was in. There seemed to be a lot of really quality stuff written by vaguely iconoclastic misfits in their line. Barry Hannah, Richard Russo were some others I read. It was sort of like a second stage of the kind of epiphany I had when I picked up Vonnegut in HS. Books were sort of like wine bottles - daunting because I knew the odds of whatever I picked up being appealing weren't huge. So the Vintage line was pretty key, even tough I really had no idea if it was really quality literature or repackaged tripe.
posted by docpops at 1:21 PM on April 26, 2008


Way to kill my buzz.

For what it's worth, the critic is wrong. It's a great book, and you'll love it.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 1:26 PM on April 26, 2008


and also, ic, I see you did some work on Saunders. He's my literary crush of the 'oughts, after reading CommComm in the New Yorker. I'm still finding him a bit inconsistent but some of his stories are going to be classics.
posted by docpops at 1:32 PM on April 26, 2008


These aren't cult books. Warlock by Oakley Hall is a cult book. You Can't Win by Jack Black is a cult book.

These are cult books for people who are afraid to read.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:35 PM on April 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Or Congo Journey/No Mercy, by Redmond O'Hanlon. Anybody read that?

Yeah. It was making the rounds at Lonely Planet when I worked there. I hated it. Can't even remember exactly why, anymore - it had to do with his tone, I think. Sometimes I think about giving it another try, since a bunch of people I like (and whose taste I respect) liked it, but maybe not.

May I be the nth person to express surprise that To Kill a Mockingbird is a cult book?

Re: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - read it in high school for a literature class. General consensus: guy was a wanker who was mean to his kid.
posted by rtha at 2:09 PM on April 26, 2008


I like the sort-of-but-not-quite alphabetic order of the reviews.
posted by sour cream at 2:20 PM on April 26, 2008


Neuromancer isn't a "cult" book; it's a standard SF novel. As far as I know, there were never Neuromancer fan clubs or board games based on the book. You might eliminate Dick for a similar reason, and also because there isn't really one seminal book.

I don't really like their inclusion of best-sellers. I mean, if everyone knows about it, it isn't a "cult" book, is it now? I'd x-out LOTR for that reason.

Illuminatus! defines the category of "cult book". "No Logo", how is this a cult book?

What about Mao's little red book (English translation)?

Gah, what a stupid concept all told. "50 cult books".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:31 PM on April 26, 2008


Read 36 of these and consider almost all of them mainstream.

Cult would be Arthur Bremer's Diaries, the Letters of Emily Dickinson (or D. H. Lawrence), Whitehead's Process and Reality, T. Lobsang Rampa's The Third Eye, Ouspensky's Meetings with Remarkable Men, Grave's Greek Myths, Keuls' Reign of the Phallus, N. O. Brown's Life Against Death and Love's Body, G. Spencer Brown's Laws of Form, Fuller's Synergetics, A Pattern Language, Saberhagen's Berserker books, A. O. Lovejoy's Great Chain of Being, anything by Gertrude Stein or Laura Hobson Riding, Burgess' Clockwork Orange, Levi-Strauss' Triste Tropiques, Braudel's Civilization and Capitalism, Grunbaum and Shepherd's Tilings and Patterns, Flannery O'Connors letters, Key's Subliminal Seduction, Penrose's The Emperor's New Mind-- and so endlessly on.
posted by jamjam at 2:51 PM on April 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Gah, what a stupid concept all told. "50 cult books".

Good concept; halfassed execution.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:55 PM on April 26, 2008


When I started keeping score I barely made it ahead in having read more books on that list that they gave good reviews to vs. ones they've panned.

I think they selected a definition of 'cult' that would cause the most readers to keep reading through the list, a list full of titles most readers will have never heard of would not have been finished by most of the readers.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:01 PM on April 26, 2008


Of course for the average Torygraph reader Wisden is a cult book.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:03 PM on April 26, 2008


No Stranger in a Strange Land or In Watermelon Sugar, and nothing by Tom Robinson, seems odd, but then my working definition of "cult books" comprises what you might expect to find on the bookshelves of a sort-of literate hippie in 1975.
posted by jokeefe at 3:47 PM on April 26, 2008


Every time a list like this appears I immediately think of Motorman. Has anyone here read it?
posted by hototogisu at 3:49 PM on April 26, 2008


OK, I've been around long enough to know that there's nothing so wonderful that no one will hate it, but what, exactly, is wrong with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 6:31 PM on April 26, 2008


Well there's a common thread here, it's maybe not just "cult book".. maybe it should be "top 50 books that someone between the ages of 16 and 22 might consider a dividing line between those who 'get it' and those who don't."
posted by condour75 at 6:52 PM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an Inquiry into Values by Robert M Pirsig (1974) Burnt-out hippy takes son on bike trip. Remembers previous self: lecturer who had nervous breakdown contemplating Eastern and Western philosophy. Very bad course in Ordinary General Philosophy follows. If he’d done Greek at school and knew what "arête" meant, we could have been spared most of the 1970s.

Ouch.
posted by jason's_planet at 7:28 PM on April 26, 2008


At least they put the whole list on one page.

Although any list that progresses from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Jonathan Livingston Seagull is just depressing.
posted by TedW at 7:45 PM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


No Joy of Sex? Shocking!
posted by DenOfSizer at 9:07 PM on April 26, 2008


no silent terror
posted by motownoni at 3:07 AM on April 27, 2008


> Whitehead's Process and Reality... A. O. Lovejoy's Great Chain of Being,

Process and Reality has a cult following? Great Chain has a cult following? Where are the meetings? I hope they're not both on Tuesday nights.
posted by jfuller at 5:29 AM on April 27, 2008


No Audacity of Hope?
posted by naju at 1:04 PM on April 27, 2008


maybe it should be "top 50 books that someone between the ages of 16 and 22 might consider a dividing line between those who 'get it' and those who don't."

Very well said. I was looking at the list & thinking that around half of them are standard, canonical books that every liberal arts student or "thinking person" on the planet has read by age 21 - eg Vonnegut, Heller, Salinger, Camus, Hesse, Wolfe, Woolf, Kerouac, Calvino, Borges, Fitzgerald, etc.

The other half are the kinds of books that would have you backing off quietly but very quickly if you saw them on a date's bookshelf - like The Fountainhead, Iron John, The Celestine Prophecy, Dianetics or Zen & the Very Bad Course in Ordinary General Philosophy.

(and The Master & Margarita is nothing short of pure, unadulterated genius, TheophileEscargot. no requirement to be Russian to understand it)
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:44 PM on April 27, 2008


OK, I've been around long enough to know that there's nothing so wonderful that no one will hate it, but what, exactly, is wrong with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?

Zen isn't a favorite, in fact it has ratcheted away from me through a series of rooms so long ago I can no longer remember which of the many decor-matching colors it has appeared in my copy actually was (pale green?), but I consider it horrifying and extremely moving even so, a book that distills a melancholy bile sufficient to darken my outlook a bit to this day.

Pirsig was (and no doubt remains) a schizophrenic, and the essential drama of Zen is the struggle of a once prodigiously brilliant and very promising young student of biochemistry to raise himself up out of the abyss of catatonia and paranoid delusion his pitifully unequal encounter with that enormous unheeding juggernaut of a disease had precipitated him, using only a splintered wreckage of schoolboy philosophy, and as much contact with the material world as trying to fix broken down motor bikes can afford. He ultimately fails to reconstitute his mind or sanity, and to me resembles nothing at the end of the book so much as one of those cormorants which has dived unwittingly into a spill of heavy crude we have all seen standing oil-soaked, shivering and forlorn on a blackened beach.

Neither the book nor Pirsig himself can be blamed for the amazingly silly worship they inspired, in my opinion.

In 1979 his son Chris, the one who went on the motorcycle trip with him, was stabbed to death outside the San Francisco Zen Center.
posted by jamjam at 12:24 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


No Robert Anton Wilson, no Aleister Crowley... not even The Cold Six Thousand?

Fail.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:22 AM on April 28, 2008


I also agree with everyone upthread surprised about no PKD.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:23 AM on April 28, 2008


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