by Idris Kenain
Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
Knopf Canada, 2001
336 pages / $15.95 buy from Powell’s
1. Here’s a secret: I didn’t know what to think after finishing Yann Martel’s Life of Pi.
2. …I still don’t.
3. And I was baffled when I read reviews (tons of them) saying things like “omg this book will make you believe in God,” and “after reading Life of Pi, you’ll definitely never want to eat another animal again.” What the fuck? I thought I was reading a book.
4. Anyway, I guess it doesn’t help either that Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) has actually (finally) turned the book into a film.
5. It’s one thing for reviewers and normal people to say things (like how I am supposed to feel about the book) but when the author actually says stuff like “Yeah, this is totally gonna change your life,” in all seriousness, I feel like doing bad things to that author.
6. But Martel doesn’t actually say anything like that and I don’t really feel like I want to actually do bad things to authors or artists—ever. Really, Martel says something more like, “This book will make you believe in God…” Something like that.
7. And who the fuck do you think you are, Yann Martel? Is this how one wins the Man Booker? Because, I don’t know.
8. Confidence is one thing but this—this is just bullshit.
9. Question though (and this is relevant, maybe): If I hate this book so much, then why am I bothering to even read it? Well, it’s pretty simple. Basically, like I said, it won the Man Booker, and unfortunately (for me,) this is/was my first Man Booker so, I sorta kinda wanted to see what all the fuss is/was about. (And also, just because I don’t like a book doesn’t mean I won’t read it!) (Let alone review it.) (Come on!). Plus, it’s being turned into a movie so…
10. Anyway, it begins as you would expect, in typical this-is-not-your-regular-story-with-white-people fashion. (Also, this is a not-your-typical-story story).
11. And thankfully, Martel expounds on these things, like: Pi’s origins, the nature of his name, his own personal religious beliefs, why his parents are the way they are, how it is he actually ends up stranded on a lifeboat by himself with a tiger and how he eventually overcomes his hardships.
12. I’m all for that (explaining stuff and telling us about the main character some) and the prose in Life of Pi is pretty easy to digest. I forgot to mention that. It’s important I think.
13. I’ll even add extra points because Martel manages to write a somewhat believable/semi-readable story with something like 200 pages on nothing-but-being-in-the-middle-of-the-fucking-ocean! On a lifeboat! With a tiger! That’s not easy to do.
14. But a Man Booker can’t be all perfect, I guess. I did say semi-readable. (Oh well). There definitely are some issues with the story.
15. For instance, there’s the repetition; and, naturally, a lot of introspective monologue-ing and a few boring bits that drag on needlessly but I did like the feeling of eavesdropping on this kid who is trapped in the middle of the ocean with a tiger. It was sort of interesting and different.
16. And talking about the different stages of dehydration, coupled with the process of clothes rotting off Pi’s body because of salt and too much sun—that was all also very good. Martel obviously did some research.
17. I won’t spoil the ending (the big ending that is supposed to make you believe in God) but even though I am unsatisfied with the story as a whole, I do have to say I enjoyed the ending, a little—alright, no, quite a bit actually. And it was sort of what I expected/was expecting from a story like this, but also, not at all.
18. There’s a sort of surprise at the end. And that’s what really makes everything worth it, perhaps. And the thing that happens is the type of thing that makes you either really hate the book or love it even more. Yeah. It’s like a mini-twist. (Borderline M. Night Shyamalan-style).
19. Maybe this is the best of all the Man Booker books, I don’t know (yet). (Though I guess I should confess that I absolutely hated the ending the first time. It’s the type of ending that grows on you—whether you end up liking it or not).
20. But I digress. Life of Pi is something I would give/have given an even 3 (out of 5 stars) because the bits about the author (at the very beginning and throughout) are unbearable, and the way Martel describes the lifeboat sequences, and how Pi manages to separate himself from the tiger for so long—it’s all very boring. Also, it is confusing (and maybe I am too dumb to understand this or there is just too much boat terminology in the book or maybe I was too distracted by something happening to me in real life during those sequences, I’m not totally sure) but a good 100 pages could have been cut from this prize-winning book. And I like that Martel takes a weird premise and sort of does his own thing with it, that’s cool—but it’s also not that cool.
21. Like how Martel tries to push (his) religion onto me. Very not cool.
22. I’d like to think I’ve already made my decision about that and shame on you (Martel) for telling me I will believe in God after reading your book!
23. (Great marketing ploy though! People love to prove they cannot be proved wrong).
24. I also think, sometimes though, that maybe everything in the book just went over my head. Like the ending… and the boat parts.
25. But then, I think: nah, probably not.