Life of Pi

The book for this month will be Life of Pi by Yann Martel.  I decided to reread the book before going to see the movie.  

This month I'm trying something new:  I will post a comment after I read each chapter with my thought, predictions, and any questions.  If you are interested, please read along with me.  One lucky reviewer will win a free copy of next month's book; just leave a comment to be eligible.

Also, I'm opening up the Book Club Page to accept comments.  Leave some feedback about what book you would like to be featured next month.



Sarah Kate said...

Already I'm a little confused. I can understand that the book is written by the view of an adult Pi and is trying to build suspense by alluding to things that impacted child Pi's life (leaving his homeland, growing up around animals, and being alone in a hospital in Mexico), but what is the purpose of the super short, italicized chapters? Is this also Pi, but as a middle aged man and from an omnipotent point of view?

Anyways, seeing as the chapters are so short I will be posting these comments in clumps or anywhere from 5-10 chapters.

My first impressions are that this is going to be a book about parallels. The way the book is written parallel worldly, adult Pi with innocent, child Pi. Pi major is a parallel between the scientist (zoologist) in him and the theologist. Also, because of his early experience around animals, Pi has a habit of drawing parallels between mankind and animals.

What's in a name? The main character goes through a surprising number of name changes in the first few chapters. His parents name him Piscine Molitor Patel after a famous pool in Paris. Although his name is pronounced Pea-seen, he list many mispronunciations that change him into someone else entirely: P. Singh (a Sikh), Pissing (the joke of his class), and Ian Hoolihan ("I am who I am"). Finally, he decides to take it upon himself to redefine his name. He does this by walking up to the board before the teacher can say his name and writing on the board: Pi Patel (pi)=3.14 (circle with a line through it). He continues this in each class until he conditions the teachers and students of his name.

Mr. Sloth. The sloth is a creature that barely moves, can't see well, can't smell very well, and yet it somehow survives in the wild...apparently for the very reasons that you would think would make it an easy target. Because it doesn't move and due to its camouflaged fur, predators cannot spot it.

Freedom. A big theme in Chapter 4 is animal rights and whether or not animals are ever free. The argument begins with the side that zoos are inhumane and that animals should be free and out in the wild, however, Pi states that animals in the wild are always at war with "fight or flight" instincts and never have the time to enjoy their freedom. In zoos, animals do not have to worry about predators or hunting, and are in a sense on an eternal prepaid vacation...all they have to deal with is the tourists. So, is freedom to travel more important to an animal than the chance to grow up away from all the stress and dangers of their world.

Who is Richard Parker?
What put Pi in that hospital in Mexico?

Frances said...

"My suffering left me sad and gloomy." The opening line portends that this young man has gone through an extremely harrowing experience. The innocent remark of the waiter in the Indian restaurant about being "fresh off the boat" when eating with his fingers caused an exaggerated, painful response.

In contrast, after the ordeal the young man turned to education and the study of zoology and religion to soothe his pain. This provides the reader with comfort that though the succeeding chapters will be filled with pain, the boy will survive both physically and emotionally.

The boy's childhood seems idyllic in that he had the opportunity of living near a zoo and was exposed to the joys of animal life. It is this early exposure that resulted in the study of zoology as his major. It is to be presumed that an early spiritual experience caused the dual major in religion, though this is yet to be revealed.

Swimming is a strong theme in these early chapters. His father's friend developed in him the unusual hobby of swimming. The boy was named Piscine, meaning swimming pool in French. His name was altered to Pissing by classmates as children often do. Upon entering a new school, the boy showed a strong will when he declared his name to be Pi = 3.14.

I also look forward to learning more about Richard Parker and his place in the story.

Sarah Kate said...

Woot. Back in action on the Book Club. Yeah, its been a while. Here is my mini review of Ch. 7-20. Also, welcome Frances! I feel Peter Parker's secret identity will not be Spiderman in this book.

First off, we are introduced to a new character: Satish Kumar, Pi's biology teacher and his first experience with an atheist. Pi has a great fondness for this teacher and states that he sees atheist as his "brothers and sisters of a different faith." He admires Kumar for having such a deep faith in science. Pi has a less flattering opinion of agnostics…apparently believing in no religion is better than not bothering to make up an opinion about it.

Zoology Time. Just some notes on animal training that I assume will be helpful later on in the story.
- Man is the most dangerous animal.
- Animals hate the unknown.
- Flight distance: the minimum distance an animal will tolerate a potential threat.
- Training: Getting animal used to the presence of humans. Create a good enclosure, provide food and water, know the animal.
- Territoriality: Fiercely defensive of their area. Respectful of the territory of other creatures. Why lion tamers enter the cage first, establish their dominance.
- Omega: Socially inferior animals are more obedient, loyal, and faithful to their masters. Easier to train.

The mystery of the italics is solved! It’s the author of the book. He's interviewing Pi. The narrator notes Pi's multiple religious icons: Hindu, Christian, and Islamic paintings, statues, books, etc.

Pi was born into Hinduism, embraced Christianity at 14, and then Islam at 15. That's ambitious. Each story about Pi acquiring his religious introduces a new character.

Hinduism. Auntie Rohini. She would take him to temple.

Christianity. Father Martin. Pi meets him when he wanders into a Christian church. Father Martin tells him about the main story of Jesus and how the center of Christianity is love.

Islam. Suti Kumar--the other Mr. Kumar. Pi sees Islam as an exercise in devotion (quick, necessary, and physically moving). Pi sees something powerful and worthwhile in each of these religious to decided that he would follow each of them.

Sarah Kate said...

Ch. 21-36

The Better Story. This idea keeps coming up it seems. When Pi was talking to Father Martin, he asked for a better story than the one about Jesus on the Cross. Father Martin told him there wasn't one. Another example is Pi's story about the atheist and agnostic on their deathbeds. The atheist he says will take a "leap of faith" at the last moment, but the agnostic will over think his reality (breath and hearth rate slowing, white light as the cells in his brain dying, etc.) and will miss the "better story." This is continued in Ch. 32, when Pi is talking about all of the strange animal combinations that have been found in zoos: agouti and spotted paca, rhinoceros and goats, a mouse and vipers, dogs raising lion cubs. Pi rationalizes this by saying that the animals are not confused about the differences in their species, but that sometimes the fiction ("the better story") is better than the alternative: admitting that the lion cubs are motherless or that the rhinos are lonely.

The Meeting of the 3 Wise Men. This chapter felt like the start of a joke ("A priest, a imam, and pandit walk into a bar…"). So, Pi's secret is out. And apparently is non-religious parents had no idea that Pi was running off to 3 different places of worship. While the 3 wise men are fighting like middle schoolers (no joke, Ch. 23 could be my favorite chapter just for this dialogue), Pi tries to defend his multiple religious by quoting Gandhi ("All religions are true") and stating that he just wants to "love God." Despite everyone telling Pi that he could have only one religion, Pi continues to practice his three religions simultaneously (he asks for a prayer rug and to be baptized in the same request).

Boring political stuff and Pi's family decide to move to Canada. So, skip a lot of boring paperwork. The plan to sail to Canada on a Japanese cargo ship called the Tsimtsum (which according to google has something to do with Lurianic Kabbalah, which is something from Ch. 1--Pi's fourth-year thesis for religious studies). Something to look further into I think.

"This story has a happy ending." Just because the writer put that line in there, I feared for Pi's well being throughout the rest of the book. The author introducing Pi's wife, son, daughter, dog, and cat (who apparently spring out of nowhere) don't make me feel any better, but also tells us that the only things from his childhood are 4 photos and that he can't remember what his mother's face. Bad signs; there is trouble coming.

Sarah Kate said...

Ch. 37-47

The ship sinks…. Pi is somehow the only person to wake up and wander out looking for what woke him up…. The animals are loose…. Three Chinese sailors throw him overboard after putting a life jacket in his hands…. Peter Parker is a TIGER!!!!!

So condensed version of his section.

Pi is on a ship.
Pi gets thrown off ship.
Pi in a lifeboat.
Zebra in a lifeboat.
Tiger in a lifeboat.
Pi jumps out of the lifeboat.
Sharks in the water.
Pi gets back into the lifeboat.
Tiger disappears?
Hyena in the lifeboat.
Orangutan shows up riding a bunch of bananas.
Pi saves net and not bananas.
Orangutan in the lifeboat.
Hyena eats zebras leg…stomach…ugh.
Orangutan vs. hyena.
Hyena behead orangutan.
Zebra finally dies.
Tiger is still on the boat.

Tune in next time for more Pi torture.

Anonymous said...

Richard Parker is the Tiger. IDK what the short italicized Chapters r 4