Some perspective on Pi

After two years of putting it on hold, I finally decided to give Life of Pi one last try and read it from cover-to-cover last week. I’m glad I did but I really don’t think it deserves all the hype and hoopla that surrounds it. So, I guess it is now time to sit back to think and to analyse what it is exactly that makes this book interesting and why parts of it are a complete snooze fest.

First and most importantly, Martell deserves credit for being completely original. I have never come across a pulsating narrative like this that vacillates between hope, despair, religion, science, and a host of other somewhat preachy themes. Martell even manages to masterfully blend both fact and fiction in this strange and bizarre novel about life and the tenacity of the human spirit.

Yann Martel keeps the story of Pi’s long voyage moving at an interesting pace though there are times when the descriptive passages get so long and so detailed that you’ll want to get up, stretch, get a snack, catch up on some work and then maybe later resume reading. We know from the very beginning that Pi will survive, but at times you wonder how he will overcome each of the ghastly challenge he faces.

Reading Life of Pi, you’ll find yourself captivated by a master storyteller. Yann Martel will dazzle you with his prose, facts and in-depth knowledge and insight. He challenges you to believe his story, but we’ll come back to that later. Although Life of Pi works quite well as a gritty adventure tale, it’s apparent that Martel is not interested in simply retelling a classic survival at sea story. In fact much like the boy in The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway Pi’s story too is one of faith, sheer endurance, will power and determination.

Parts of the book are remarkable and thought-provoking and statements such as, “Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can.” (among several other such passages) will easily draw you in and make you think. This quirky yet partially compelling book, which is biblical in scope, sure has the ability to pull at the heart-strings.

But, there are times when Martel pushes his preachy goals too forcefully and that’s one of the things that bothers me about the book. Right at the beginning Martell makes a tall claim. He claims that this book will make readers believe in God, but when I read very carefully, I get the message that Pi chooses to believe in God simply because it is the better story, and not because he actually whole-heartedly believes in the divine. The subtext in the closing chapters completely negates all the build up and that’s quite a letdown.

I have only read glowing reviews of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi yet for me it remains one of those books that everybody seems to ‘love’ but I just sort of ‘like’. The hype that surrounds it is really quite unwarranted. At the end of all the drama and gore, he’s essentially saying one simple thing – that God may not be real, but he chooses to believe in him because it makes a better story. For a story that claims to make you believe in God, I really don’t like the fact that it has that subtext in there, and I hope that perhaps I misinterpreted it.

I know it won a Pulitzer Prize and all but in my modest opinion, I think it’s just a good book, not a great one. Just saying.

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Between the Covers

O.K …I admit, the slightly provocative title was just something to grab your attention by even though there is an apt pun in there if you think about it.  What I really want to write about this afternoon is one of the things I’m most looking forward to doing from next week. You see, next week I’ll be home in India for a long and much-needed sojourn and one of the ways I’m going to spend my leisure hours is by catching up on my reading. There are so many books I’ve been dying to read and I’ve even bought and collected a few but have not had the chance to delve into them. There is a long list of literary heavyweights that I want to acquaint myself with and so little time to do it.

My summer reading plan isn’t set in stone. I make a list of books I want to read over the summer (the list is usually very long and overwhelming) and try to read as many as possible. The idea is, it gives me a starting point for my reading so I don’t waste time bemused and staring at my book shelves or  find myself lost when I visit my local bookstore or library.

The first book on my list this summer is Life of Pi by Yan Martel. I know this isn’t a fresh release but for quite some time now I’ve been struggling to get past chapter 6. While the story line is some what intriguing,  so far It just hasn’t been able to sustain my attention long enough and while there are several others who feel the same way, there are a significantly larger number of people out there who swear that the book is life-changing. Fortunately my third attempt has been a little more encouraging. I’m on chapter 8 now…the jinx is finally broken, so let’s see what all the fuss is about.

Over the last two years, the process of reading and then discussing my feelings has become such a pleasurable experience. The internet and social media has opened up communities of people who come together to discuss books they’ve read. Whether through blogs, reading circles, twitter, online communities or chat rooms dedicated specifically to those reading a particular genre, I have met some of the most remarkable and like-minded people who are a pleasure to interact with and toss ideas and thoughts around with.

To those of you who happen to read this post, I challenge you to catch up on some reading of your own. Take time out to read something that interests you. Don’t be pressured into reading something that everyone else thinks you should. Pick up a simple paperback, feel the course texture of its pages under your fingers, marvel at the ageing yellow paper or admire the freshly printed ones. If you’re a diehard digital junkie, download that e-book you’ve been meaning to. Pull out that kindle or swipe your fingers across the screen of your iPad. The options are limitless and there is never a good excuse, to not do something you should. So select an author, choose your book, dive between the covers and let your mind wander and wonder as you read on…

‘Read, read, read.’ – William Faulkner