Book Recommendation: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
My thoughts about Life of Pi are in a tangle. Due largely to the person who recommended this book to me, I came into Life of Pi with certain expectations. My recommender’s other favorite book is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and so I presumed that Life of Pi would be a similar affair — a unique plot pulsing both on its surface and in its depths with veins of philosophical discourse.
The only things I knew for sure about Life of Pi were gleaned from the images on the cover and confirmed by the words on its back — “One boy, one boat, one tiger.” A story of man, nature, and beast — how could philosophy not be the central discourse? And so, I expectantly waited for philosophical monologuing that never came.
I was so mentally prepared for philosophical reveries that were powerful in their rationality, especially in the midst of a surreal situation, that my mindset dampened the emotional intensity simmering beneath every calmly related page. I kept approaching the page from a logical mindset, preparing myself for the inevitable and carefully explained revelation, that I missed the heartbeat thrumming throughout the story, the vibration that surely would have kept me intrigued.
Part of the reason I knew so little going into Life of Pi was that it’s difficult to say what the story is about without giving too much away. There is a family that owns a Zoo in Pondicherry, India. The youngest of two sons is Piscine Molitor Patel, named after a family friend’s loving stories of pools in France, and father Patel’s love of the stories. Young Pi has a fascination with religion, with all religions, and it is with this lens that the story begins to turn.
Unfortunately, my preconceived notion of what waited for me between these pages caused the novel to fall flat for me. Although I can clearly see that this story is both unique and skillfully woven, I read it at the wrong time, in the wrong mental place. I am sure that my misconception is not a common one, and I am equally sure Life of Pi’s focus on the life of Pi rather than his logical analysis of religion comes as a relief to many. So yes, go forth and read Life of Pi freely, unhindered by philosophical pontification. Embrace the story that is at once familiar to us and incredibly new, which sways subtly in directions we do not expect, riding on hidden tides, taking us to deeper, colder waters.
PAPER/PLATES Watch: Movies Inspired by Lit
Life of Pi has also been made into a movie that is set to be released December 21, 2012. I’m very intrigued to see how they handle the story, so I will report back once it’s out.
If you aren’t afraid of spoilers—which you should be!—you can check out the trailer:
Source: I borrowed this book from a friend.