Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a great book. It has no pretense of being a blueprint for life. It is a candid account of Pirsig's efforts to work out a theory of ontology told in the form of a personal essay. He wanted to describe his intellectual journey and eventual mental breakdown. He talks about Aristotle and the Western approach to knowledge. He felt there was something fundamentally wrong with the academic world and with science in general, and tried to understand why. Pirsig's book deserves a place among the works of writers like Orwell, Huxley and H.G. Wells, authors who thought about how the industrial revolution had dehumanized society and caused us to lose something basic to our nature, something precious, the down side of Western Civilization. It is a very engaging book by a sincere, brilliant man. I remember reading it 30 years ago and enjoying it very much.
The fact that the book became popular and part of pop culture is not Pirsig's fault. Many young people were looking for meaning in their lives and became enthusiastic about the book. That is nothing to sneer at.