One look at the name of the book & you feel this book isn't for you.
Introduction..arouses curiosity & you decide to move further.
A hundred pages & you start wondering why are you reading it??
And this is where you get so frustrated & confused,you either leave the book or start skimming through pages both of which shouldn't be done..for,patience is what this book requires more than intellect..
It's told that 121 publishers turned down the book before it got published & it is not difficult to understand why! For,it's not like the conventional bestsellers which is its biggest weakness as well as its biggest strength.It doesn't sink into your head with the first read...in best words,you could say it's very demanding.It demands your full attention,active involvement with the narrator & his perspective and hence your integrated efforts towards thinking & comprehending.
ZMM is about the narrator's amazing yet credible journey on a motorcycle with his 11 year old son & the things he discovers during the experience in the form of nature's beauty,complexity of people & their ideologies,his attempts to discover his own self & save his relationship with himself & his son.
The narration is in the form of short chapters or monodialogues which he calls "Chautauquas" following the same pattern throughout the book-- something about the journey,something about the philosophy & something about technology in the backdrop of maintaining a motorcycle.
And during this journey he has given dimensions to understanding as classical & romantic and further divided classical understanding into the mind & the matter,subject & object.Thus while combining his own beliefs with oriental philosophy & ancient Greek philosophy & Zen,the author takes us into a long discussion about "Quality" while presenting the world as a trinity of mind,matter & Quality.
Distant concepts come up like nihilism, crystallisation, rationality,Zen, dualism,rhetonic,Dialectic et al. And sadly,most of the times author takes it for granted that all these concepts are known to ordinary readers like me.But since they are not,it adds to the confusion & a sense of distance. Such things make philosophy appear like a dish which looks delectable but is difficult to digest..It's very important that you are actually able to understand the gist or essence of the underlying concept otherwise what's the use bragging on about these concepts which to be honest have not much significance to the common man..when he can't make any sense out of them..What's the use looking for a truth which can't be felt,understood & implemented? Anyways..
This is not exactly a work of fiction.so,there's not much scope of characterisation taking the case of Phaedrus as the exception,which is ironically the "heart" of the book.Narrator's treatment has been very objective towards him which is actually understandable.His intensity is intriguing & it's very difficult to see him as a "ghost" or "evil" form.You feel connected to him on his chase of truth & his failure.
There's something really surprising about the language...except the concepts I mentioned earlier,there are hardly any difficult words..You wouldn't be actually using your dictionary much.Pattern is similar as told.. EVEN THEN,it's difficult to understand,for inspite of all this,language isn't lucid..it's rather very much obscure.
Infact narrator himself says it at one point:
" That..That now..That ties it all together.It feels relieving when that happens.It's so hard sometimes to conjure all this up,a strange sort of exhaustion follows."
At the end,this surely is not a book for beginners & even from the voracious readers it demands a lot of effort.
But in any case,there 'is' something you'll learn from the book,what that something is depends completely on you. For philosophy,be it in any form..has different meaning for different individuals..
So,If you are looking for a book that provides you with literary challenge..grab it..but if you are looking for something that will keep you occupied over a weekend..please,stay away!!I won't say it can change the way you think about yourself & life(As the cover projects) but nevertheless,it indeed is one powerful book.Must read for those who dig non-fiction.