Saturday, September 22, 2012

Life of Pi: A boy and a tiger pleasantly surprise me

The author's note that opens this book sets the story up as a true account. And . . . I MAY have briefly fallen for this ruse, as evidenced in my notes, where the first thing I wrote was, "True story?"

Now that I've gotten THAT embarrassment out of the way, we can proceed with the business at hand. The story (THE FICTIONAL STORY, LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES) is SO much more than I expected it to be.

As I'm sure you've gathered by now (from the movie trailer or the book cover or the title of this blog post), there is a boy and there is also a tiger. If you're anything like me, you just pictured the following:

If you pictured Calvin & Hobbes instead, I approve.

As it turns out, THIS is not what happens when people and Bengal tigers get together. (Another childhood dream shattered. NOW who will comfort me while I weep in my harem pants?) But what DOES happen on the boat is pretty engaging and . . . dare I say? Realistic?

Boy/tiger interactions aren't ALL you have to look forward to. There's also a wealth of non-tiger-related zoological information (Pi's father owns a zoo, and Pi double majors in zoology and religious studies . . . as you do). My personal favorite zoo talk was the lesson on sloths.
"If you come upon a sleeping three-toed sloth in the wild, two or three nudges should suffice to awaken it; it will then look sleepily in every direction but yours. Why it should look about is uncertain since the sloth sees everything in a Magoo-like blur." (p. 4)

And then if the animal stuff isn't enough, you can have a side of deeeeeep religious exploration. But not in an annoying way . . . unless you refuse to entertain the possibility that at least SOME questions of religion can't be answered definitively (in which case, you're annoying me go away).

After a discussion with his atheist teacher about how science and medicine are the only gods mankind needs:
"The tone was rightloving and bravebut the details seemed bleak. I said nothing. It wasn't for fear of angering Mr. Kumar. I was more afraid that in a few words thrown out he might destroy something that I loved. What if his words had the effect of polio on me? What a terrible disease that must be if it could kill God in a man. . . .
He became my favourite teacher. . . . I felt a kinship with him. It was my first clue that atheists are my brothers and sisters of a different faith, and every word they speak speaks of faith. Like me, they go as far as the legs of reason will carry themand then they leap." (p. 28)
Oh, and at one point, Pi declares to his mother that he wants to be baptized and would also like his very own prayer rug. She doesn't know what to tell him (pursuit of multiple religions not being widely encouraged in India), so she gives him Robinson Crusoe. ROBINSON CRUSOE. A few of you will find this as hilarious as I did . . . and the rest of you are still looking at the sloth GIF. Carry on.

SOURCE: Martel, Yann. (2001). Life of Pi. Orlando, FL: Harcourt.


  1. I am glad this is good cause I own it and therefore kind of have to read it (it's a bit of a rule I have, using the things I buy and all).

    And ROBINSON CRUSOEEEEEE! I will so be squeeing at all mentions of that book forevermore. Which will be so fun for everyone I know, obviously!

  2. It's been a long, long time since I read this story--well, actually listened to it. It was in the dead of a long, cold winter and I listened to this audio book for about two hours a day over the course of a couple of weeks. I had such a visceral reaction to the ending: beautiful, perfect, heartbreaking, haunting.


    Damnit, now I want to read this. And I'd been ignoring it so well.

    That sloth gif is the best.

  4. Wilkie apparently knows what's what when it comes to Robinson Crusoe.

    I'm pretty sure Bengal tigers become snuggly but only if you're wearing harem pants. Shere Khan wasn't snuggly with Mowgli because no harem pants. (All of my wildlife knowledge comes from Disney movies.)

    I think I may need to finally read this

  5. I approve of that rule...because wouldn't you be sad if you were a book and someone bought you and NEVER read you? I would be a sad book.

    I'm starting to think I may need to read Robinson Crusoe at some point. Betteredge will never speak to me if I don't.

  6. YES THE ENDING. I didn't get it right away, actually. I had to let it simmer, and then it hit me right in the gut.

  7. I know it's very tempting to rebel against the masses, but you should read this I think. Although, it's hard for me to tell sometimes whether you'll like something or not. You might HATE it. Do let me know when this mystery is solved. I'll just be here watching the sloth gif.

  8. This explanation is clearly based in sound scientific reasoning, and I accept it wholeheartedly. *orders harem pants in every color*

  9. ROBINSON CRUSOE! That is fantastic.

    I refuse to live in a world where snuggling with a Bengal tiger is not a thing. That is lovely writing though.

  10. Our Disney indoctrination is complete. We are no longer reasonable around deadly animals. *squishes tiger's face* *is immediately eaten*