Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Life of Pi, A Novel

As a former high school English teacher, Life of Pi tantalised me.  On a personal level, it was surprisingly heart-warming.  And as a lover of language and story-telling?  I smiled for hours after I finished it.

I have been meaning to read Life of Pi since I taught at a private, all boys school where one of my colleagues was studying it with one of her senior classes.  At the time I was running the art gallery adjunct to frantically doing everything I could to assume all that my first full-time teaching role entailed; I had plenty of reading to do.

Having a film adaptation due for release was the pants-kick I needed.  
  • While I cannot bear testimony to the validity of Martel's claim that Pi's particular story will compel anyone to believe in God, I certainly appreciate the commentary he has made on belief, and concede the novel serves as a compelling exhortation.  I think Life of Pi could more aptly promise to lead one to search for patterns of meaning and believe in something.
  • For some, the novel's opening purportedly holds some suspense -- what exactly has happened to Pi?  For me, film trailers and book covers had made all too clear what was to come, and so working through the theological, biological and character-rich exposition was a necessary (but not entirely painless) investment.  I wouldn't truncate the text (I believe it is enriched for having this content), but I would be careful about how I sold it to my students, for example, knowing the material they would encounter first, and at some length.  When I say there was some pain in it, it was only in the waiting; "When will I get on that boat?!"
  • Having read The Princess Bride immediately before this, I cannot help but contrast the employment of the "intrusive narrator" device in both texts.   The very duplicity I found distracting and dimishing to Goldman's (fantastic) adventure story added depth and layers of meaning to Martel's work. 
  • It was refreshing to enjoy the kind of sophistication in allegory I had hoped for in Lord of the Flies!  I feel Martel has succeeded in exploring themes no less brutal or affronting than Golding's (and some of the very same themes), but with literary finesse and artistic palatability more to my taste.  It helps when sentences re-read are re-read to commit them to memory...as opposed to attempt to find their point.  Further, Martel's fable feels more surreal, less nightmare, more ruminative, less scolding. 
I look forward to seeing Ang Lee's take on the essence of the story and its intent, and hearing what any of yooooou think of this book!
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