Trevor's Reviews > Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
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's review
Mar 05, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: literature, religion

I found a lot of this book incredibly tedious. I tend to avoid the winners of the Man / Booker – they make me a little depressed. The only Carey I haven’t liked won the Booker (Oscar and Lucinda), I really didn’t like the little bit of Vernon God Little I read and I never finished The Sea despite really liking Banville’s writing. So, being told a book is a winner of the Booker tends to be a mark against it from the start, unfortunately.

I’m going to have to assume you have read this book, as if I don’t I won’t be able to say anything about it at all. Apparently, when Yann Martel wrote this he was feeling a bit down and this was his way of plucking himself up. Well, good on him. That’s just great. I was a little annoyed when I found out that the person the book is dedicated to had also written a story about a man in a boat with a wild cat and had considered suing for plagiarism.

The book is written by a member of that class of people who are my least favourite; a religious person who cannot conceive of someone not being religious. There is some fluff at the start in which atheism is ‘discussed’ (read, discarded) as something people inevitably give up on with their dying breath. But the religious are generally terribly arrogant, so it is best not to feel insulted by their endless insults – they know not what they do.

Parts of this were so badly over written that it was almost enough to make me stop reading. The bit where he is opening his first can of water is a case in point. This takes so long and is so incidental to the story and written in such a cutesy way that I started to pray the boat would sink, the tiger would get him … I would even have accepted God smiting him at this point as a valid plotting point, even if (or particularly because) it would bring the story to an abrupt end.

This is a book told as two possible stories of how a young man survives for 227 days floating across the Pacific Ocean told in 100 chapters. That was the other thing that I found annoying – much is made of the fact this story is told in 100 chapters – but I could not feel any necessity for many of the chapters. Just as I could not feel any necessity for the Italic voice that sounded like Tom Waits doing, “What is he building in there?” Well, except to introduce us again to Pi some number of years later. You know, in Invisible Cities Calvino has necessary chapters – this book just has 100 chapters. It was something that annoyed me from early on in the book – that the chapters seemed far too arbitrary and pointing it out at the end just made me more irritated. There may well be some Hindu reason for 100 chapters – but like Jesus ticking off the ancient prophecies on his way to martyrdom, I still couldn’t see why these chapters were needed in themselves.

Pi is the central character in the book who, for some odd reason, is named after a swimming pool – I started playing with the ideas of swimming pools and oceans in my head to see where that might lead, but got bored. He is an active, practicing member of three of the world’s major religions. There is a joke in the early part of the book about him possibly becoming Jewish (ha ha – or perhaps I should draw a smiley face?). The only religion missing entirely from the book is Buddhism. Well, when I say entirely, it is interesting that it is a Japanese ship that sinks and that the people Pi tells his story to are Japanese engineers. I’ve known Hindus who consider Buddhists to be little more than dirty, filthy atheists – so perhaps that is one reason why these Japanese engineers are treated with such contempt at the end of the book.

The Japanese make the connections between the two stories – but we can assume that they stuff up these connections. While it is clear the French Cook is the hyena, Pi’s mum is the orang-utang, and the Asian gentleman is the zebra, I’m not convinced Pi is meant to be the tiger. In fact, the one constant (that’s a pun, by the way, you are supposed to be laughing) in both stories in Pi.

My interpretation is that the tiger is actually God. Angry, jealous, vicious, hard to appease, arbitrary and something that takes up lots of time when you have better things to do – sounds like God to me.

The last little bit of the book has Pi asking which is the better story- the one with animals or the one he tells with people. I mean, this is an unfair competition – he has spent chapter after chapter telling the animal story and only the last couple telling the people story. The point of this, though, is Pascal’s wager said anew. If we can never really know if there is no god and it ultimately makes no difference if we tell the story with him or without him in it, but if the story is more beautiful with him in it – then why not just accept him in the story and be damned.

Well, because the story isn’t improved with the animals and life isn’t just a story and kid’s stories are great sometimes, but I often like adult stories at least as much – and sometimes even more.

This is yet another person all alone survival story, but one I don’t feel that was handled as well as it could have been – mostly because the writer had an ideological message that he felt was more important than the story – never a good sign. Worse still, in the end I really couldn’t care less about Pi – I knew he was going to survive and knew it would be ‘because of’ his faith.

He does talk about Jesus’ most petulant moment with the fig tree – so I was quite impressed that rated a mention – but, all the same, I haven’t been converted to any or all of the world religions discussed in this book.

Compare this tale with the bit out of A History of the World in Ten and a Half Chapters about the painting – I know, it is not a fair comparison, Barnes is a god, but I’ve made it anyway.

I didn’t really enjoy this book, I felt it tried too hard and didn’t quite make it. But Christians will love it – oh yeah – Christians will definitely love it.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 174) (174 new)

Deena I was about to write a review, but read yours and decided I couldn't say it any better.

I'm rather big-headed, so bravo to you, sir!

message 2: by Bruce (new)

Bruce Here I was hoping to discover yet another book exploring the number pi, when I learn it's only another book using numerology as a lazy substitute for hard thinking. Fabulous review, as you not only saved me a read, but entertained me tremendously! Thanks on both counts!

Trevor Bruce, if you are interested in a book on mathematics, a wonderful book that reads like a cracking novel and is a pure delight on so many levels is Fermat's Last Theorem (or Enigma - depending on where you live, I suspect) by Singh.

Thank you for your comment.

message 4: by Bruce (new)

Bruce Thanks, I'll check my library for the one on Fermat's Last Theorem after I make my way through the books on 20th century geometry and probability/uncertainty I have my nightstand.

Just completed Steven Hawking's primer and owe a review for my own self-discipline.

Tra-Kay I agree the religious theme comes on far too strong in Part 1. But there's no point in discriminating because of it even after it's been almost entirely left behind in Part 2. Atheists should not be so religious about religion--by which I mean, rejecting all other views and only accepting their own.

I was lucky enough to meet a Japanese girl at my college who changed my feelings about religion. She explains her faith something like: "I felt uncertain about Buddha, and my life, and I fell into a depression, and Jesus spoke to me, and, I accepted Him into my heart and I was saved." A later story really touched me; one day she was walking in her village and saw acorns scattered all over the ground. In all the hundreds, there was one small acorn that was slightly crushed. She thought to herself, "That's me. That is me, but--Jesus still loves me."

She prays quietly before every meal. I come to her church now and again to practice Japanese, even though I'm agnostic, and she never, ever tries to convert me. Because of her, my feelings about Christianity changed...I would never try to tear her from her faith. I know it gives her strength, hope, and purpose. Reality is, like Pi said, really only our version of reality, and overrated. Fiction can be stronger and better than truth.

"Well, because the story isn’t improved with the animals and life isn’t just a story and kid’s stories are great sometimes, but I often like adult stories at least as much – and sometimes even more."

Do you really believe this? I decided to read this book because I read,

"Alas, the ship sinks--and Pi finds himself in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and a 450-pound bengal tiger."

And you honestly think, "Alas, the ship sinks--and Pi finds himself in a lifeboat, his only companions some other people," sounds better? 100 chapters some sort of horrible crime? What a ridiculous thing to be annoyed over.

I am sad you're so critical and cynical, considering you're intelligent and have some good things to say. It's very common nowadays...'reminds me of a song lyric:

"We used to hate people. Now we just make fun of them. It's more effective that way."

I don't have a problem with you disliking the story (which I loved). I do have a problem that the only reason seems to be your hatred for religious themes. There was little mention of them during the time with the tiger, the flying fish, the acidic island, the whales, and so on.

Thank you for letting me know about 'Max and the Cats'. I'll have to look it up. I am also very, very grateful for you, combined with my having just finished this book, cementing much more firmly my agnosticism vs. atheism. I was reading "Why I Am Not a Christian" simultaneously and was just starting to come around, but thankfully I have come to realize that people--ANY people--who firmly believe theirs is the best way, or the right or only way, are hardened. I don't ever want to be like that.

I want to keep wondering.

message 6: by Trevor (last edited Jun 25, 2008 06:57AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Trevor Oh Kay, some of the best stories ever written are on religious themes - take Dante's Inferno, utterly brilliant and almost enough to make me convert to Catholicism. Some of the most breathtakingly beautiful things ever written in our language are religious in nature - Donne's Holy Sonnets, virtually all of Blake's poetry or even Eliot's The Waste Land., and perhaps my favourite poem in the entire world, Herbert's The Collar And not a word of them would I change, for that really would be a blasphemy.

But this was dull, uninspired and worse still a direct copy from someone else's work.

If it brought you pleasure, then that is really good and I would not deny you that pleasure. But it didn't bring my pleasure - this may have been something you might have guess from reading my review. But the reason why I did not enjoy the book is not what you ascribe to me here. I didn't dislike this book because it was on religious themes - The Old Man and The Sea is one of my favourite books of all time, it is also about a person alone on a boat with only an animal for company and has very clear religious themes - in fact, it simply can't be understood outside of those themes. The same is true of Kafka's Metamorphasis and Conrad's Heart of Darkness - both utter favourites of mine and both incomprehensible without understanding the religious themes underpinning them. I also referred to Barnes's story in my review - another book overflowing with religious metaphors and themes. The difference between those stories and this one is that they are fresh, intelligent and endlessly fascinating. But best of all - they are damn good stories that one can think about and think over for an entire lifetime in the certain knowledge that they will never lose their luster - or their halo, if you prefer.

The point is that there is no requirement for the religious to be labotomized before they take up reading. And just because the main character is religious is no reason for the reader to turn off their brain upon turning the first page.

By the way, it isn't me that makes a big deal about 100 chapters, it is the text. When a writer puts a flashing red light over a fact in a book that normally means one should pay close attention to it. I couldn't see what this fact's significance was in the story and it appears that neither could you. This is hardly the sign of an important fact in a book - despite it being highlighted to the point of tedium.

All the same, I'm glad you enjoyed the book and long may you wonder. But there are much better books to wonder over. Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.

Tra-Kay Still, if the religious themes weren't the problem, I wish you had mentioned more of the actual points that were, other than, "Parts of this were so badly over written that it was almost enough to make me stop reading," and "I didn’t really enjoy this book, I felt it tried too hard and didn’t quite make it."

I don't understand why you disliked Part 2 of this book, for example. You didn't think the scene with the tiger first boarding the boat was funny?--"In a few seconds you'll be aboard and we'll be together. Wait a second. Together? We'll be /together/? Have I gone mad? Let go of that lifebuoy, Richard Parker! Let go, I said. I don't want you here, do you understand? Go somewhere else. Leave me alone. Get lost. Drown! Drown!" I thought it was so funny how he was so desperate to save him, then suddenly freaked out.

Or, about that scene with the flying fish, where the tiger was snapping them up in his mouth as they flew past? That was so strange and whimsical.

And I think I had a nightmare last night over those teeth in the leaves. -_-

You didn't care for any of those parts? I thought this book had a lot of interesting and even wonderful things to say, and so forgave it a lot of its flaws.

Trevor I’m not sure how to respond, Kay. I don’t want you to think I’m being contrary for the sake of being contrary – but I thought the parts of the story you have referred to were the bits that were either over written or badly written. I didn’t find the part you quoted funny – though I can see that it was written to be ‘funny’.

The part of the novel about the island – well, I’m still not sure what that was about. I know that in stories of adventurers, real stories from history, there are often tell tales told when they return about the places they found where people are 8 foot tall and such – but I haven’t worked out what to make of the story of the island in this book – it struck me as a kind of inverted Garden of Eden, but even that is a long bow. To me it jarred with the rest of the book and could have been removed with no ill effect to the ‘story’ – often an excellent way of telling whether something ought to be in a story or not.

Let me tell you about a part of the book that I thought was superbly well written and in that way, by explaining why I felt that part was – to me – an example of good writing I might perhaps make it clear why I felt the rest was so badly written.

The part of this book I felt was very well written was when the family first acquires the tiger. It is felt by the father to be essential that the children understand that even though tigers look like very large and beautiful cats, that a tiger is nothing like any other cat they have ever seen. A tiger is a killing machine and the father knows that the children must not be fooled into thinking otherwise. And so there is the horrible moment with the goat.

Now, why did I think this was well written? You might think that because I’m male I will therefore like things that are gory and blood-thirsty. Hardly. The reason I found this perhaps the best written part of the entire novel was because I felt there was something incredibly true and real about all of the motivations of all of the characters at this point in the book. It is a while since I read this, but I think I remember Pi even questions his father’s motivation at this point. Doesn’t he even, in a sense, reject his father because of this deed? The horror of the scene, the way it could have done nothing other than leave an indelible impression on the mind of the young boy, the way it played out for everyone: mother, brother, father and Pi. This was a point of the book that I believed. This came from a place in the writer that was a place of real feeling, true feeling. I always trust true feeling, and the deeper the feeling, the more I trust it.

The rest of the book is ‘smart’. The rest of the book is a bit ‘jokey’. The writer isn’t writing from true feeling, not true feeling for his story in the rest of the book. The writer’s true feeling is for some beliefs the writer has – the writer has an ideological point to make (that is, that religion adds texture to life and that this texture on its own can be used to justify religion) and whilst I find this idea possibly worthwhile as the basis for a novel, I can imagine a well written novel with this as one of its major themes – no idea on its own can sustain a novel if the novel is only a working out of that idea. To me, fiction also needs something more – not just a working out of ‘the story’, but a truth that can only be told in the telling of the story. “I told the story in this way because this was the only way I could tell the story and for it to be true”. Is, I believe, the ultimate truth of fiction – and this novel tells two stories, and either way you look at it, the ‘true’ story isn’t the one with the animals, even if you decide it is ‘more beautiful’.

Before you take me wrong – I’m not saying a story has to be about real stuff to be true. Fiction doesn’t work like that. But in the telling is the truth. I know I’m not being clear – but I am trying to be.

And there were too few moments when that level of ‘truth’ was apparent in the story. Ironically, the only other time I can think of when I felt this was the case was when the religious men were fighting over Pi’s soul. But this was not handled nearly as well as the moment with the tiger and the goat.

So, in summary: the story was not a real story – it was a working out of an idea, a philosophical idea by way of a story – and I think it undermined its own case because in fiction, in the best of fiction, the true is what is the beautiful.

Tra-Kay I see.

Hehe, you didn't get much for all that, did you? But no, I see.

Kristina I agree with Kay. The review you wrote made it sound as though only Christians could appreciate a book so full of religious also seem to have some sort of beef against Christians, as you stated that they are all "arrogant"... anyone who would judge an entire religion that way seems to me to be a bit arrogant themselves. Yes, some Christians are arrogant (I'm not one, by the way). So are a lot of non-Christians.

I also felt there was more to the animal story than just trying to make it more interesting. Sometimes in desperate survival situations, people's most base instincts and behaviors come to the surface. Pi lived through one of these situations... did the story really happen with animals or did he re-tell it to himself to avoid thinking about the violent, heartless things he had seen his own family do to survive? Are we really better than the creatures we keep locked in cages, or are we just animals with fancy clothes whose true colors come out in desperate circumstances?

Kathy I would have to agree that your third "review" was by far the best. I enjoyed the book myself. The first one sounded more like thinly veiled ant-religious spite. Like you, I liked the section on the goat, and hated the section on the man eating island. I love Conrad and Hemmingway, as long as I'm getting enough sunlight to keep them from depressing me. There is clearly no comparison there. That said, my expectations going in when reading most book club fodder is pretty low, and I found this book exceeded those expectations perhaps less in the writing and more in the discussions it prompted within myself and with others.

message 12: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Dec 29, 2008 11:17AM) (new)

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Kay wrote: "Atheists should not be so religious about religion--by which I mean, rejecting all other views and only accepting their own."

"Reality is, like Pi said, really only our version of reality, and overrated. Fiction can be stronger and better than truth."

This is lazy, self-defeating relativism that gets you nowhere. You simply cannot make any claims and expect them to be considered by anyone if this is your worldview, including your strange and contradictory thoughts about "religion" being nice and cozy or whatever and atheism being mean-spirited and dogmatic when it's--and I quote (for emphasis on the contradiction)--"so religious."

If reality is whatever we want or whatever whims bring things about this way and that, then how can you condemn or support any version of reality, including what you hypocritically and mistakenly call "anti-religious spite"?? You simply cannot without further contradicting yourself to the point of near-meaningless catch phrases.

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Kristina wrote: "you also seem to have some sort of beef against Christians, as you stated that they are all "arrogant"... anyone who would judge an entire religion that way seems to me to be a bit arrogant themselves."

Again, with these silly, though well-intentioned and contradictory assertions not predicated on any real formation of evidence and argumentation at all. If calling someone arrogant is arrogant then what on earth is pointing this "fact" out? I think the answer would start with an "a"...

Trevor It is amusing when you read what I actually wrote - I was purely responding to his assertion that all atheists convert to God on their death bed (hard not to depict that as arrogant) Many religious people do believe this (you'll also notice I never said all, which I've also been accused of) and can't even see it as being arrogant nonsense. Sometimes the level of 'debate' is a little depressing - a bit like "You are!" "No, you are!" "No I'm not, you are!" But one plods on regardless. Thanks for this MyFleshSingsOut

David Katzman Interesting review, Trevor. I'm an atheist--with Buddhist leanings--and i really liked this book. I enjoyed the detailed rendering of various sequences; they never struck me as tedious. Try Proust some time! I think opening a can of water, for example, is extremely relevant to someone dying of thirst. At any rate, I am also, like you, quite irritated by Christians or any religious person who feels they know the "truth" when really they only believe in a myth, however, i didn't get that takeway from this book. I see what you're saying now, in retrospect, but i would have to read it again to ferret out any subtle implications. I simply interpreted the ending in my perspective that it really was likely that the boat was filled with people and cannibalism resulted--because it was so farfetched that he survived with a tiger, we were just fooled all along by the beauty of the story. The narrator had a stake in us believing the "beautiful" story, but i didn't trust the narrator's reliability, as one must question with any first person narrator. I interpreted it as a demonstration that we can fool ourselves with mythic stories (religion) because it's wishful thinking.

Perhaps i put my own spin on it! Thanks for the review. :-)

message 16: by Meen (new)

Meen It's exhausting, isn't it?

Trevor Thanks David, and yes, Mindy, as you see, I'm constantly getting myself into trouble. God and America. If you ever want to be flamed you just need to say something like "God is an American and he doesn't even exist" and then sit back and watch the fireworks... Not that I would personally recommend such abhorrent behaviour, you understand. It is not a suggestion, so much as an observation.

message 18: by Meen (new)

Meen Yeah, I know. I had to quit participating in the Atheists & Skeptics group b/c it just got so tiresome. What is the point of trying to explain something--over and over and over--when we are essentially speaking a different language from believers? We can't even really have much of a conversation with them b/c the underlying thing is that I think you have an imaginary friend, and I think you and I talked about this somewhere else, and that can't help but feeling a little like condescension, right? I'm so fed up with religion now, though, that I don't really care if believers think me arrogant. (Except Buddhism, D2, yes. I love its philosophy and psychology, though I don't think I could ever commit to it formally. Ewww, that's so... religious!)


message 19: by David (last edited Dec 29, 2008 02:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Katzman Hee-hee. Imaginary friend. Nice.

I made a comment in a group a while back about how Pascal’s wager doesn't work when you have to account for there being multiple religions. According to the wager, your best gamble is to accept that particular religion or risk going to hell. Unfortunately, then you have to apply that same gambit to each religion in turn leaving you in an infinite loop of accepting one religion after the next, or, more accurately, each simultaneously, which is of course a contradiction.

message 20: by Félix (last edited Dec 29, 2008 02:19PM) (new) - added it

Félix Faith is, perhaps by definition, quite irrational/illogical. Having a rational/logical discussion about it seems to be akin to catching farts in one's hands and painting them white (or any other color one might choose).

message 21: by Meen (last edited Dec 29, 2008 02:49PM) (new)

Meen When I was a kid, my uncle (who was a few months younger than me, actually, so think of him as my cousin) lit his farts with a Bic lighter. He did it without pants on and singed all the hair around his asshole.

I agree, Larry. Of course, the problem is that most religious people aren't comfortable with saying, "My beliefs are irrational and illogical." Because those terms are inevitably value-laden in the "age of reason," the age of science. Personally, social science for me was much more damaging to my beliefs than hard science (but hard science continues to strengthen my disbelief--especially brain science which is kind of a social science, I think) because religion is such an obviously human (i.e., "natural," not supernatural) phenomenon. And also for the reason David mentioned, there are just so damn many different stories about the supernatural and NO evidence that any one contains any more truth than any other. What feels like "truth" to us is mostly just the result of enculturation.

(And David, once I found out what it was, I just found Pascal's wager to be one more reason for me not to believe in that god. What an asshole!)

Nazmul Ahsan "Tedious"... is the right word for it...

message 23: by Brad (new) - rated it 2 stars

Brad Very late to this review and discussion, but I loved everything you had to say from the review to the comments, Trevor. Full agreement from me.

And thanks to My Flesh Sings Out. I was planning on making those very points until I reached your comments. Excellent.

Georg I still think there is a third level to understand the novel. It's not about Pi with a tiger, an eel (or was it a zebra?) and an orang-utan, or his poor (human) family, but he was on the boat with The Lord, the Holy Ghost and Jesus VChrist whom he killed Nietzsche-mäßig. So the Japanese policemen were wrong after all (typically Japanese). Think about it and you will grasp the deep meaning of this story.

PS: Haha, just kidding. It's just a very very bad book.

message 25: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker Thanks for alerting me to this review, Brad. Great review, Trevor, and kudos.

I know I read it, but obviously I wasn't impressed enough by it to put it retrospectively into my list of books. Heaven knows I'm late to posting to this thread, but I thought the tiger was some escaped criminal? At least, that's what I remember thinking at the time. Go figure. I should go borrow a copy to flip through it again.

Robert So the island has thirty two teeth and dissolves animals but not's a physical manifestation of Pi's guilt at breaking with vegetarianism in order to survive.

message 27: by Meen (new)

Meen Oh man, Trevor, every time someone randomly stumble onto one of your reviews months later and I get notified about it, it brings me back to goodreads and reminds of my deep and abiding Trev-doration!


Trevor Thanks everyone - I've been away on holidays and this was pretty nice to come back to.

Stephen Gower I didn't like your review. It just comes across as you finding reasons to dislike it simply because you don't enjoy prize-winning books. I enjoyed the book, but it wasn't a book I chose to read - it was assigned in an English myth & symbols class. It was one of the few that I really got into and enjoyed.

I'm sorry that you didn't like the book, but I hate to think that someone out there will read your review and turn away from it simply because you didn't want to like it. You have the right to your opinion, however, so I won't be trying to explain some of the points you missed (I can't, however, ignore how you missed the reason WHY he was named Piscine. It's plain as day in the book). I'll just stick to assuring you that you missed out on enjoying a good book, because of your seeming prejudice toward it before reading.

message 30: by Georg (last edited Jul 16, 2009 09:26AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Georg Steven: You spoil the game. Nothing is funnier than giving one (or two) star(s) for prize-winning books. It's too bad that most of them are really good, but thankfully Life of Pi is not one of them. Do you really feel sorry for people who could turn away from this book after Trevor's review when it sold 7 billions of copies? Think about the 2,463,734 (more or less) books that sold less and were better.

message 31: by Meen (new)

Meen Nothing is funnier than giving one (or two) star(s) for prize-winning books.

Especially when those one or two stars are accompanied by a Trevor review!

Trevor I'm glad you enjoyed the book, Stephen. I don't set myself as a final arbiter on how much enjoyment anyone might get out of a book. I just try to say what I feel about a book and why. I'm sorry you think the reason why I didn't like this book was because it won an award - I had thought there might have been one or two other reasons in the review or this thread that might have shown what I didn't like about it. I did miss why he was named after a swimming pool. As I've said in the review, I'm sure it is of deep symbolic significance, but to me it seemed a poor excuse for a series of not very funny Year Ten jokes about urinating.

message 33: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow I'm glad I read this review, Trevor! Sometimes I feel like I need to read these award wining and popular books because I feel the need to participate in popular things. I haven't read this, but the vibe it gives me is that it makes people feel like they are thinking, without actually making them think (like the 100 chapter psych out, where you think there will be some grand scheme that deepens the message of the book, but really it's just a gimmick). I'll probably have to try it at some point, but I appreciated your review.

message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

From scanning the reviews, this sounds like one of many books that people either love or dislike. I've noticed that they seem to have average ratings of between 3.5 and 4 on Goodreads. Sometimes I think teachers assign them to liven up class discussions.

message 35: by Dyon (last edited Aug 30, 2009 02:33PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dyon Zaratian Trevor, I pity you for missing the point of this story and for possibly influencing others to not pick up this book. You clearly have some kind of cult following on this thread.

Martel isn't promoting religion but instead promotes spirituality (as defined by the individual) and creating one's own truths (the very antithesis of organized religion!).

It would do you well to read about Existentialism first and then re-read Life of Pi.

My review:
The book itself is an awesome portrayal of the human condition (as seen from a existentialistic vantage) ... both of the spirituality that we seek and the animalistic nature that we must control .... And the necessity of both of these to survive ... the tiger in us to endure the physical world and the believer in us to tame that tiger.

Trevor Any book that can only be read and enjoyed from the vantage point of a single ideological paradigm probably isn't going to be my cup of tea.

But thanks for your comments Dyon

Robert Existentialisticexpiallidocius!

The above is mere free-association.

message 38: by Lori (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Oh my! I wonder why I liked this book even tho I haven't read Sartre or Camus since college! Oh wait, I did also see some Godard films, that counts, right?

I happened to really like this book, but I also dislike alot of books that my friends rave about. As for a bad review scaring people off a book, well, I thought GR was for honestly appraising how we as individuals feel about it! A bad review won't deter me if other people who I'm friends with like it. As a matter of fact, I like reading ALL reviews - athen if I read beforehand I get a good sense of what I'm about to read, and if I read reviews afterwards, one that brings up good points about why a person didn't like it makes me think.

Robert Existentialism didn't cross my mind once during my reading of the book, despite being a fan of Camus's fiction.

I'm beginning to think a second reading might be in order.

message 40: by Lori (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Me too, Robert! Except that there's far too many books I haven't read. Life is just so dang short.

message 41: by Meen (new)

Meen I am a proud member of the Trevor cult.

(And Existential gives me the runs.)


Robert Yep - I'm right with you on that, Lori!

Trevor I've only ever read Camus' The Plague and The Stranger - although I've been meaning to read The Myth of Sisyphus, and Other Essays for ages. I find Sartre much harder to read, but then I've never really read much of his fiction. My problem with many of the existentialists is that they are far too obsessed with 'the individual' (in fact, that could just about be a definition).

The idea of me having a cult is very amusing - perhaps a cult were being a member involves some sort of paradox, some automatic heresy, except, of course, I would struggle to come up with a doctrine where heresy wasn't in someway a requirement...

message 44: by Pinky (new) - rated it 1 star

Pinky Robert wrote: "Existentialism didn't cross my mind once during my reading of the book, ..."

It did mine, but more from the experience of reading the novel than from anything the novel was about.

Trevor: it is by now unsurprising that you write a brilliant review. It is becoming unsurprising how--as these comments and thread indicate--you elevate the discussion, with your empathy, your calm approach to dissensus, your erudition.

Lots of great thinkers and comments here. Thanks to all, as this is a fine thread. And it is, to boot, some ten-to-the-nth degree better than Life of Pi.

Trevor I really love this site, Robert - over the last few months it has done much to keep me sane.

I may not need a cult, but I do need a tribe - and very many members of my tribe I've found here on Good Reads.

"The Lost Tribe"

How long, how long must I regret?
I never found my people yet;
I go about, but cannot find
The blood-relations of the mind

Through my little sphere I range,
And though I wither do not change;
Must not change a jot, lest they
Should not know me on my way.

Sometimes I think when I am dead
They will come about my bed,
For my people well do know
When to come and when to go.

I know not why I am alone,
Nor where my wandering tribe is gone,
But be they few, or be they far,
Would I were where my people are!

- Ruth Pitter

Robert Hey that's a great Pome!

Not sure why that comment was addressed to me, but the web and this site have helped maintain my tenuous hold on sanity, too!

Robert Oh, and it could just be me but I found Camus's fiction works much better than his essays: they seem to cover much the same intellectual and moral territiory but are more accessible, readily understood and entertaining. That was my experience, anyway.

message 48: by Meen (new)

Meen I actually liked Nausea and The Stranger, and I read "The Myth of Sisyphus" for an Art of the Essay class several years ago (though I don't remember it). I think I like existentialist fiction, but the philosophy itself kinda goes off the rails for me for the same social implications Trevor mentioned.

message 49: by Alex (new) - rated it 3 stars

Alex Just got this pointed out to me by someone over in the Thread of Dire Judgment. While I actually loved the book, I also loved your review. (Yo! I'm an atheist too! Atheist fist bump!)

That tiger-representing-God thing occurred to me too, actually. A dangerous force that you have to keep placated with endless sacrifices and carefully observed rules and boundaries? Oh.

I was arguing that Pi makes the point equally well for religious folks and for atheists, which I feel is quite an achievement. As you say, "Then why not tell the more interesting story?" Because it's made up.

message 50: by tami (new) - rated it 3 stars

tami I liked this book enough to finish it the day I started it, though I won't be in a hurry to read it again.

Unlike someone mentioned earlier, I make a point not to read book reviews until I've read a book, as I don't want to read it through the lens of anyone's ideas but my own.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this discussion, thanks Trevor.

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