Tuesday, December 11, 2012

3.14 and so on

Title: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
Bookmark: the official recycled bookmark of the Union Pacific Railroad

When I started reading this (yes, because of the movie), I remembered that it had been reviewed here previously, but I had forgotten every word of the review.  I just re-read it, and completely agree.  The novel starts by tooting its own horn, with the purported author's tale of how he discovered the story (it's told as though he found Pi as an adult living in Canada and got the story from him) upon meeting a man in a tea shop in India who told him he had a story that would "make you believe in God."  Old man tells writer to go find Pi in Canada, author begins friendship with adult Pi, Pi begins telling his story.  So begins Part Two of the three-part book.

I love a good survival story, and if it's true, even better.  This book has neither quality.  You'd think that putting a boy in a small boat with a large tiger in the middle of the Pacific Ocean would lead to a great survival story, but it doesn't.  I was actually disappointed when he discovered the overwhelming wealth of survival equipment in the lifeboat's storage locker.  Like Kate, I was frustrated that after going to such lengths to make everything about the journey totally believable, there's a sudden sci-fi/fantasy twist in the eleventh hour which hangs around just long enough to make you think, "ok, so maybe the first 321 pages were just a set-up, and this is the real story that gets everybody so worked up," and is then passed over and forgotten.  I was already annoyed that he had bumped into another lonely shipwreck survivor in the middle of the Pacific--that was too much stretch for me--and suddenly he finds a mysterious floating island?  It felt like Martel's publisher told him "we're about thirty-six pages shy.  Can you pad this with something?"  "Well, I have this really fun idea for a sci-fi short story; it's a little like Perelandra, but the island is carnivorous, and chock-full of fish-chomping meerkats."  "Whatever.  Stick it in there."

Yeah, sure, it's a nice, diverting read.  It is not as life-changing as everyone seems to think.  Honestly, it's a little annoying.  There's a couple scenes at the end when two Japanese guys are interviewing Pi in a Mexican hospital, and occasionally have side conversations between themselves in Japanese (translated in the book) so he can't understand.  It's the best part of the whole book.  It shows great humor, and the dialog is entertaining, with funny bits both in the words shared and in the actions described (Pi, after being stuck on a boat with a tiger for almost a year, composing soliloquies about food and hunger, keeps asking them for cookies.  They comply, knowing that he has piles of cookies hidden under his bedsheet.  When they get tired and frustrated about his story, he offers them cookies which they graciously accept.  There's also a funny exchange about how arduous their drive from California was, and he consoles them about their difficult journey.).  But it feels a little like a shaggy dog joke, since it comes after 365 pages of set-up.

I've lost interest in the movie.

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posted by reyn at 11:23 AM


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