Monday, December 10, 2007

SIT RIGHT BACK AND YOU'LL HEAR A TALE: Some reasons why I'm unqualified to lead this inaugural/experimental ALOTT5MA book club:
  • Never led a book club;
  • Never participated in a book club;
  • Never led a club;
  • Most serious literary analysis performed: English 129, 1988-89 (note: faked way through Ulysses);
  • Occasionally read slowly
All of the reasons why I'm qualified to lead this inaugural/experimental ALOTT5MA book club:
  • Have read book
So everybody please take a breath and lower your expectations to, say, "stars Dane Cook and Whoopi Goldberg," and then please, please, please join me in discussing Life of Pi.

I'd like to do this discussion in two parts: Pi's actual journey, and then his spiritual journey. Man and earth first, then God and heaven. Or, for you lawyers out there, the facts now, the holding later.

Martel tells us a number of times, in a number of subtle and not-subtle ways, that Pi's narrative is not going to be entirely straightforward. He gives us an introduction that is mostly-fiction, but part real. On the very first page of that introduction, Martel (or "Yann Martel") tells us that "the word bamboozle was my one preparation for the rich, noisy, functioning madness of India," and whatever we think of Pi's story, it's clear that we're being bamboozled. Near the end of the introduction, he promises inaccuracies, but -- playfully, or perhaps ironically? -- invokes the literary acknowledger's boilerplate disclaimer that any such inaccuracies "are mine." In Chapter 96 of the book, Pi himself gives two possible versions of the story, one improbable and the other gruesome, and on re-reading, one might notice some of the other hints Martel has dropped about the different picture one can get by observing details carefully:
This house is more than a box full of icons. I start noticing small signs of conjugal existence. They were there all along, but I hadn't seen them because I wasn't looking for them.
Before we can pick the better story, we have to know our choices. So put on your Japanese Transport Ministry badge and tell me, what exactly did happen on that lifeboat in those 227 days? Pi gives us two options: A tiger, an orangatan, a zebra, a boy, and a blind Frenchman; or a cook, a sailor, a mother, and a boy. I say that there are more options than that -- I have my theories. And, to paraphrase Marsha, what the hell does the carnivorous vegetable island have to do with it?

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