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On Quality: An Inquiry into Excellence: Unpublished and Selected Writings (Hardcover)

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From the author of the multi-million-copy-selling classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, an original collection of Robert Pirsig’s writings on the central theme of his thought—“quality”—featuring never-before-seen selections from his unpublished works.

“The ultimate goal in the pursuit of excellence is enlightenment.”

Robert M. Pirsig wrote this unpublished line in 1962 while a patient at Downey Veteran Administration Hospital in Illinois, where he was admitted as a psychiatric patient. More than a decade before the release of the book that would make him famous, Pirsig had already caught hold of the central theme that would animate Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Quality, a concept loosely likened to “excellence,” “rightness,” or “fitness” that Pirsig saw as kindred to the Buddhist ideas of “Dharma” or the “Tao.” As he later wrote in Zen, “Quality is Buddha.”

Though he was hounded by fans who considered him a guru, the famously private Pirsig only published two books and consented to few interviews and almost no public appearances in later decades. Yet he wrote and thought almost continually, refining his “Metaphysics of Quality” until his death in 2017.

Now for the first time, readers will be granted access to five decades of Pirsig’s personal writings in this posthumous collection that illuminates his thinking to an unprecedented degree. Skillfully edited and introduced by Wendy Pirsig, Robert’s wife of over forty years, the collection includes previously unpublished texts, speeches, letters, interviews, and private notes (including from Pirsig’s time in the mental hospital), as well as key excerpts from Zen and the Art of the Motorcycle Maintenance and his second book, Lila.

Since its publication in 1974, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has established itself as a modern classic of popular philosophy; selling millions of copies and transforming a generation, while serving as a perennial touchstone for the generations that follow. On Quality is a remarkable addition to the literary and philosophical canon, from one of the most influential thinkers and writers of our time.

About the Author


Robert M. Pirsig (1928–2017) is the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which has sold more than five-million copies since its publication in 1974, and Lila, a finalist for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He graduated from the University of Minnesota (B.A., 1950; M.A., 1958) and also attended Benares Hindu University in India, where he studied Eastern philosophy, and the University of Chicago, where he pursued a PhD in philosophy. Pirsig’s motorcycle resides in the Smithsonian Institution.



Wendy K. Pirsig is an archivist who lives in New England. She was married to Robert M. Pirsig from 1978 until his passing.

Praise For…


“However impressive are the seductive powers with which Mr. Pirsig engages us in his motorcycle trip, they are nothing compared to the skill with which he interests us in his philosophic trip. … Electrifying. … Intellectual entertainment of the highest order.”
New York Times

“Lodges in the mind as few recent novels have, deepening its grip, compelling the landscape into unexpected planes of order and menace. … Inspired, original. … Pirsig’s timing and crafting at this juncture are flawless.” 
New Yorker

“A miracle. … Sparkles like an electric dream.” 
— Village Voice

“A compelling adventure.” 
Time

“A brilliant and original book.” 
— The Guardian


Product Details
ISBN: 9780063084643
ISBN-10: 0063084643
Publisher: Custom House
Publication Date: April 26th, 2022
Pages: 192
Language: English