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Yann Martel's Life of Pi

One Song GloryOne Song Glory Posts: 697
edited November 2007 in All Encompassing Trip
I just finished reading this incredible book for my Myth and Symbol class and I have to say, it's one that's always been on my "list" that I never got around to, but this is one that will stay with me for a loooooong time to come. There are very few books that have reached me so powerfully, along with most of Douglas Coupland's works and various others. Before I forget all of my feelings and thoughts about this, I feel the need to write them all down, and where else would be a better place to get my thoughts out? So this could be a very lengthy review, but if you too have been touched by this story, or have never had the pleasure to read it, then please take a look here. (I'll try to keep "spoilers" to a minimum. :))

To begin with, I have always been taught with modern books to carefully attend to anything that might come before "Chapter 1"; there are a few authors who actually begin their story before that. This is one of those times that I was fully appreciative that I had read the author's note before starting into the book. Right away, I was confused of course, because the book is labeled as fiction yet the "author's note" counteracts it as nothing but truth, and a "story that will make you believe in God". Now, I'm not a religious person, never have been, but I would say I can be "spiritual" at times, so this made me stop to think. Was this going to be a bunch of moral imperatives and Christian allegories shoved down my throat, or would this be something greater?

I accepted the challenge and took the leap, so to speak. And what a wild ride it was! The imagery was so horrific and vivid, very tangible; the character of Pi was just so real and true; the small moments of comedy were pure and sweet; in short, the entire thing was a masterpiece. The constant oppositions of zoology and spirituality boggled my mind, because everything about it MADE SENSE, even when it defied logic. Pi's adoption of three very seperate, very distinct religions, and the conflict that arises amongst his family and religious mentors is quite amusing, but when they all turn on him and demand that he choose one path, his only answer is that "All religions are true" and I found this very philosophical. This young boy was much more in tune with his spirituality than his "3 wise men" that he loved so much, and I applaud Martel's daring for showing their shared flaw.

But the most enchanting and wonderous character of the majestic Bengal Tiger, Richard Parker, was the triumph of this story. His presence just draws you in like nothing I've read before. He is the reason this book is so enlightening, and his relationship to his young master. We are certainly left with questions as to Richard Parker's real significance in the final pages of this book however.

The end made this journey that much sweeter, because it lifts the flawless enchantment that Pi's story has had over its readers all along, and the theme of "reality is a story, so pick the better one" just resounded so deeply. Pi's second story made me go back and reevaluate even the smallest details, and it all lined up perfectly, but leaving enough doubt in the reader's mind that there is no real "answer" as to what really happened. And it doesn't matter, which is the real genius of this novel.

I myself am totally taken with the first story, however unlikely it may seem on second glance. The fact is, this is a work of fiction and does not need to be completely realistic. Nobody ever said that because there is a narrator who happens to be writing the "true-life" story of Pi Patel that the actual novel, as a whole, must be realistic. Why couldn't he have survived seven months at sea in a lifeboat with a tiger? It seems believable enough to me, when you look at the book as a work of FICTION.

So I guess if you look at the first story as emphasizing the spiritual domain and the second as the scientific, factual realm, I can proudly say that this story achieved its aim, in the most simple of ways. There is no right or wrong way to interpret the ending as much is left delightfully ambiguous, and I'm sure some people think that Richard Parker was indeed the primitive "self" or animal survival instinct that enabled Pi to survive, but I need to believe there was more. I still don't believe in "God" or religion of any kind, but this book has allowed me to suspend reality and take that leap of faith, and I'm grateful for it. So I'll answer the question Pi posed of the Japanese officials at the end: The better story, by a LONG SHOT, is the one "with animals."

I would love to hear everyone else's views on this wonderful story, as I'm sure some of you have read it.
2003: Toronto
2005: Kitchener/Hamilton/Toronto
2006: Toronto 1 & 2
2008: Hartford/EV Toronto 1 & 2
2009: Toronto/Philadelphia 3 & 4
2010: Buffalo
2011: Montreal/Toronto 1 & 2/Hamilton
2013: London/Buffalo/Vancouver/Seattle
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  • soulsingingsoulsinging Posts: 13,211
    i think i missed out on a lot when i read it. but i was also in a pretty bad state at the time.
  • Ms. HaikuMs. Haiku Washington DCPosts: 7,079
    I think we tried to discuss it on a book club on here. You may be able to find the thread. I love the scene where Pi is describing food/best meal. I love food scenes. They are so grounding.
    There is no such thing as leftover pizza. There is now pizza and later pizza. - anonymous
    The risk I took was calculated, but man, am I bad at math - The Mincing Mockingbird
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