Thursday, April 05, 2007

DSC_2438 - In[ter]ventionJust finished the Life of Pi. Of the books I've finished recently, it's the best, although the competition was Iain Banks's Espedair Street and William Corlett's Now and Then. ES I failed to get into, which is odd for the author but it didn't really do anything in itself and thus did nothing to me. Now and Then was interesting enough although a tad Mills and Boonish (I think it just about avoided mentioning a 'throbbing member'). The better bits were probably intended as padding, but it is slightly disconcerting, and rather annoying, to have read a book describing the dullness of people whose conversation is dominated by route planning and then find oneself surrounded by family plotting alternatives to Wandsworth while I silently wondered where on earth Mitcham is (it turns out to be somewhere no one else can find and hence is quicker).

Reverting to Pi, have I mentioned never forgiving my brother for countermanding Roald Dahl's declaration that the story of Henry Sugar is true? Because I wanted to believe it and I didn't want to believe that an adult would lie about lying. I can and could with fiction, but to say something was based in truth when it isn't was forcefully disillusioning. But this gets me away from the book - oh, I've just realised it was an ark, or perhaps The Ark (God, I'm slow), or maybe the ark of the covenant school educated boy, or even an arc as in a circle as in pi - which is a master of magic spells and illusion (allusion?). Is storytelling for the sake of storytelling worthwhile? Is embellishment for entertainment acceptable? Is invention an improvement on what might have come before? Is doing something because one can good, bad or necessary? Is the differentiation between improbable and impossible relative and does it matter? The boy's named after a swimming pool; this oddity stays constant regardless of anything else, so why should anything be classified as absurd? And were they meerkat bones?

A thoroughly good book (could that be why it won the Booker Prize?), readable, interesting, engaging, running beyond what is needed to be any of those. Like a Lynch film for the number of questions it can provoke (it even has some at the end to aid book group discussions), yet more entertaining and satisfying, and distinctly less harrowing (oddly enough given one does coprophagy and detailed butchery, the other mostly just darkly lit clever editing, yet the pragmatic analysis neutralises everything in the former and the lack of reason bolsters the latter). About the only thing it didn't do was make me learn new words (reading Stephen Fry does tend to spoil one).

And I'm not doing well in reviewing this so I'll stop. I do wonder how many people will get themselves killed by tigers after reading it though.

Oh, and the image is shot from near the end of the book, with the amendment, not made by me (b... b... but you can't write in books! That's as bad as folding the corners of the page over to mark place) possibly ramming home the point of it.

Except I've just discovered the line as amended is how it is reproduced in the book group questions appended in the book. So not only is it possibly one of the most pivotal lines in the book, bringing in or reinforcing a specific interpretation, but it is one that either was left out or edited out. Which seems very odd (and makes me realise it wasn't just Sin being cynical; yep all the books mentioned were/are his). What about the American market demanded that God, or a challenge to God, must be excised from the closing chapters?

Perhaps I'm making to much of it, but hands up if you can spot the difference between the following lines:
A. "Thank you."
B. "Thank you. And so it goes with God."

Which do you think might offer more insight into either the story or its interpretation?


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