Thursday, September 25, 2008

Life of Pi

Pi, the eccentric practitioner of three religions –Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity – survives for 227 days aboard with a constantly hungry Bengal tiger on a lifeboat. The 2002 Man Booker Prize winner “Life of Pi” presents a tale of religion in practice, one which proves that religion and bleak, horrible realism could be reconciled. A story of faith, destiny, and survival, “Life of Pi” was written by Yann Martel at a time when the world was preoccupied with the tragic 9/11 and its bleak consequences. It was written at a time when the world observed the advent of a Third World War potentially because of the war of religions.

Yann Martel is quite a religious novelist. “Life of Pi” could be analyzed in terms of how unbelievable elements in religion could be justified and lead to belief in faith. According to Martel, “[the novel]... is full of elements that are highly unlikely but not impossible”, like living on a boat with a hungry tiger, encountering a fellow shipwreck on the pacific, encountering a carnivorous island which is biologically impossible. However at the end of the novel these elements turn out to be much more believable than the so-called real, true, and heinous story that Pi is forced to tell and which SEEMS more believable and less impossible. Quoting Martell again, “Religion is the better way to interpret the world.”

“Life of Pi” is also a story of growing up from innocence into experience, from naive idealism into bleak realism, from Pi into Tiger: “A part of me did not want [the tiger] to die at all, because if he died I would be left alone with despair, a foe even more formidable than a tiger. If I still had the will to live, it was thanks to [the tiger]. He kept me from thinking too much about my family and my tragic circumstances. He pushed me to go on living. I hate it for it, yet at the same time I was grateful. I am grateful. It’s the plain truth: without [the tiger], I wouldn’t be alive today to tell you my story.” (219)

“Life of Pi” is also interesting from a cultural perspective. It is the story of an Indian family from the post-independence India. The family owns a zoo and Pi’s observations and reflections on their zoo and animals is very much symbolic concerning the social issues of colonialism and liberalism. Here is what Pi tells the tiger at the end of the story, when the tiger is set loose: “You have known the confined freedom of a zoo most of your life; now you will know the free confinement of a jungle.” (384)

“Life of Pi” is a multi-layered and quite touching novel. It is a unique experience, because you read a novel filled with dark, gloomy, and grotesque elements. Yet at the end of the last page you feel positive and hopeful. “Life of Pi” offers one of the best Last Paragraphs of my recent readings.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Inhale... Take in as much air as you can...

“The Guts” is the title of a short story by Chuck Palahniuk which appears in his novel Haunted. There have been some sensational reactions to the story in the United States which is mostly because of its gross sexuality. However what Palahniuk aims for, is not just a fun piece of grotesque and erotic horror.

“The Guts” is not just a bloody tale of the hanging guts of a 13 year old masturbating boy. In fact it is THE bloody tale of a literary genius’ having the guts to fire at people’s sexual awareness right in the place and face-to-face. What I mean is that Chuck Palahniuk likes to read this short story in public to audiences wherever he goes. And really there are people who faint in disgust and nausea after listening to “The Guts”. 73 is the last official faint-toll, and you know what? Mr. Palahniuk brags about that! Just youtube the “The Guts” and you’re going to find some of the speeches and seminars in which people listen to Chuck reading his story while some people laugh like perverts and some faint and then you just want to laugh at this sordid dark comedy directed by Chuck Palahniuk.

First of all, if you are too sensitive of gross scenes don’t read, because the story has a lot to offer in that! Secondly if you have an acute awareness of social and sexual taboos, again, don’t read please. You had the warnings!

"The Guts", a short story by Chuck Palahniuk

"What would Jesus NOT do?"... [That I would do!]

“What you’re getting here is a stupid story about a stupid little boy. A stupid true life story about nobody you’d ever want to meet."

This is how Chuck Palahniuk begins his tale of Victor Mancini, the sex-addict, parasitic scam anti-hero who ironically forms great intimacy with the reader. Victor’s close examining of sex makes us look closely again at who we are, what we seek, and why we do so. Owing much to Lacan and his psychology, Choke introduces an anti-hero who does his best to get at the missing object of his life. The very missing object and goal that, as Lacan says, is impossible to find. However the individual is doomed to seek this object until his/her death.

In Choke the protagonist Victor Mancini, is a restless and angry anti-hero who is completely alienated from culture, religion, morality, and any possible form of structure and discipline. The only outlet, from which he can seek revenge at society and finally reach freedom of thought, is sex. Victor is a sex-addict whose only jouissance is his addiction. Behind its personal and psychological veil, its intricate and angry characters, Choke is also an American Beauty: a dark and sordid parody on Americanism.

Choke is Palahniuk’s first novel after Fight Club and it sure meets the expectations and the standards set by Palahniuk, this young and thoughtful American novelist. I am really encouraged to go on and read his last novel, Snuff, published in May. I’ll have my say later on.