What I’m Reading: Life of Pi
November 27, 2012 Leave a comment
So I was urged by a couple of friends recently to read Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Now, this is actually my second attempt to read the book because when I started it last year I did not enjoy it and I figured life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy. However, the outcry of my friend recently on hearing I gave up on the book and then a second friend doing the same only a few days later, I thought maybe I should persevere.
What a mistake.
Life of Pi must be one of the most accoladed books I have read only to find almost unbearable to read. It won the booker prize in 2002, there is a Hollywood film adaptation being released this year and perhaps more importantly to some circles, it has a great word of mouth reputation with almost universal praise from it’s readers. And after having endured page 1 to page 319 of Martel’s title, I can only wonder why.
I found Life of Pi to be pretentious, preachy, contrived and boring. The story, whilst a colourful parable, doesn’t really do anything for me. It is the meticulous recital of a live at sea with a few notable events and the religious musings of the young, and quite frankly, boring protagonist. And yet, I feel I could open my mind to this story, I could have given it a chance, attempted to learn something about faith and about extreme circumstance if only it wasn’t so badly written.
This is what confuses me the most about the praise surrounding this title. It is a badly written book. His pacing is awful, his one off lines: pretentious, his structure is fragmented and he chooses the most inopportune moments for verbosity and vice versa. In a way I am impressed, as I would be of a smuggler of olden days, that a title like this has been able to find it’s way to print. It is clunky, boring and badly written, something I cannot get over when publishers in this day and age has a wide range of raw talent available to them and editors accomplished enough to tighten that work up further.
My final thought is this: What frustrates me most about this book is that wasted opportunity is represents. I enjoy stories with a surrealist element and that have something else to convey, be it parable, metaphor etc. Martel’s novel could have opened my eyes to the beauty of a world discovered in the absence of land-mass, of people and of self-confidence. Instead Martel’s story blossoms into a large nothing, taking it’s time to do so over a relatively short count of pages. I wish this tale could of been handled by another author because I feel there is something here to enjoy. In fact, perhaps I should read Moacyr Scliar’s Max and the Cats, a novella that Martel has seemed to entirely rip off whilst given almost no credit to Scliar apart from an enigmatic dedication.
Life of Pi disappointed me. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone but these things are always best to find out yourself. However if you do start and find you aren’t enjoying the story don’t make my mistake. Just stop there.