Archive for November, 2012

RANT #23: Life Of Pi

*Note: This blog is spoiler free, but there’s one non-plot element that I need to speak about at length here. If you’d rather not know anything about this book, turn back now.*

I read Life of Pi in Spain this past summer, and boy was it an incredible experience. The narration, the captivating plot, the way the book drags you in and leaves you constantly waiting for what happens next. It was absolutely brilliant.

I was all set to come back to Canada and write a glowing review of it, placing it in my top five of all time along with books such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Giver. But I didn’t write that blog, and now five months later the book is getting a rant instead of a glowing review. And why is that?

Because the book isn’t a true story.

You might think that that’s a bit of a weird thing to pick on. After all, none of the other books that I hold in such high regard are true stories either. What makes Life of Pi different?

Simply put, none of the other books pretended to be anything other than fiction. Life of Pi did. And it lied to me.

Let me explain. See, the major draw about Life of Pi – one of reasons why it’s considered such a classic – is that the author is able to make a fantastical story seem like non-fiction. Most reviewers of the book credit Yann Martel for being able to convince them that this story actually happened, claiming that this is the stroke of a master writer.

Well, no. It’s not. All he did was employ a cheap trick.

Let’s say someone who you trust comes up to you and says “Hey. I’m about to tell you this outrageous story, and the whole thing is true!”  At the end of the story you say “Wow, that was incredible.” Then they turn around and say “HAHA I TRICKED YOU! YOU’RE SO GULLIBLE, HOW COULD YOU BELIEVE THAT STORY?” and you say “Well, because you TOLD me it was true, numbnuts.”

That is approximately the level of masterful writing that Yann Martel employs in Life of Pi.

Here’s what he does:

Before the story begins, in the Author’s Note section, Yann Martel basically says “This is a true story.” 

That’s it. That’s all he does.

And of course half of the world (including myself) believes it’s a true story – he’s told us that in the Author’s Note!

It’d be like a fictitious movie opening with the words “Based on a true story”. Would you call that a masterstroke in film making, or a cheap tactic? In fact, with the Life of Pi moving coming out in theatres, perhaps they’ll do something like that, if only to be faithful to the source material.

They won’t, of course, because people would complain about it. But when it happens in a book, people just let it slide.

Look. Life of Pi is a well-written novel. It features a great main character and an exciting plot, which is an accomplishment given that most of it takes place in a static setting with only one speaking character. But is it a masterpiece? Absolutely not, and all because Yann Martel had to resort to such a base tactic in order to convince his reader of the credibility of his novel. Ironically, if the Author’s Note were to be omitted, I would probably consider Life of Pi to be one of the best books I’ve ever read. Instead, it’s just another story.

Partly Cloudy Skies

The last blog was titled “The Calm” because I fully expected to come back the next day and write one called “The Storm”

Get it?

But no, instead of the storm, it’s partly cloudy with a chance of afternoon showers.

162 was the number I saw when the results finally went up 32 hours after they were initially scheduled to.

In the aftermath, a lot of people congratulated me on my result. And why not? 162 is a great score.

But despite that, I wasn’t happy. And there are a few reasons for that.

First off, 162 isn’t going to get me into U of T. No way. Sure, it’ll give me a good shot at just about everywhere else in Ontario, but it doesn’t give me a snowball’s chance in hell at U of T. And like I’ve said all along, getting into U of T is my goal. It’s a lofty goal, but it’s my goal. And if I set a goal for myself and fail to reach it, regardless of how ambitious that goal was, I’m not going to be happy.

Second, I know I can do better. Having received the results of the test, I can see that I made a total of 21 errors. Of those errors, 17 were concentrated in two sections. In the other two sections of the test I only made four errors. But what really annoys me is that I screwed the pooch on what is ordinarily my strongest section. If I had performed up to my usual standards in that sections, I’d be looking at about a 168.

Third, it means I have to write this bastard again in 12 days. And with all the massive essays I’m having to tackle at the same time, I have better ways to spend my time than taking a four hour test. Realistically, I’m not going to be able to prepare at all for this one because I’ll be otherwise occupied. With that said, maybe that’s a good thing in a way – I won’t have time to stress out over it.

It’s not like I’m pissed off about my score or anything. I’m not. But I’m not doing cartwheels around this apartment either. I’ll just have to slay this bitch once and for all on December 1st.

The Calm

I don’t know why, but I’m oddly calm right now despite the fact that my LSAT mark is now just hours away. It’s not that I’ve suddenly become more confident in my performance. I don’t know what it is, to be honest.

Maybe it’s because I’ve finally submitted my Ontario applications.

Maybe it’s because I’ve realized that the fact that I’m almost certainly going to retake the test in December renders this test less meaningful.

Maybe it’s because my family and friends have done nothing but try to calm me down for the past week.

Maybe it’s because it’s 2:30 AM.

Maybe it’s because I’ve taken into account that my performance on the LSAT only affects half of my applications.

But for whatever reason, I’m calm now. Let’s hope tomorrow brings happy news.