September 1

This Day in History


Sep 1, 1928:

Robert Pirsig is born

Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), is born on this day in Minneapolis.

Pirsig, the son of a Minnesota law professor, rose rapidly to fame with his novel, which was based partly on his own experiences. The book chronicled the motorcycle journey of the narrator, a former philosophy professor who underwent involuntary electric shock treatment for alleged insanity, across the country with his 11-year-old son. Along the way, the narrator ruminates on philosophical approaches to life, arguing that motorcycle maintenance is a metaphor for life. He also succeeds in healing a deep emotional rift with his son.

The book was rejected by more than 120 publishing houses before it was published by William Morrow and Company in 1974. Pirsig received only a $3,000 advance and was warned that the book would probably bomb. It became a cult classic, selling more than 4 million copies in the next 25 years. Tragically, Pirsig's son was stabbed to death in a mugging 10 years after the book came out.

After the book's publication, Pirsig spent several years living on a boat and traveling the world. In 1991, he published Lila, another deeply philosophical novel.

Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!

Related Topics

What Happened on Your Birthday?

Pick a Date