Yann Martel’s Life of Pi

By reeset / On / In Literature

I find that anymore, it’s very rare that I get an opportunity to really sit down and read a book simply for the fun of it.  As former English major and current librarian, this might seem sacrilegious, but I generally don’t have the time.  And when I do, I like to know that the books that I read will be worth reading, which is likely why I tend to fall back to reading the classics – works that I enjoy on each read simply because I take something new away from them on each pass.

However, about a month or so (maybe more I guess now), my wife had read Life of Pi by Yann Martel and really enjoyed it.  She would tell me about it, and honestly, from the descriptions, it didn’t leave me very excited.  However, as I prepared to travel to Code4Lib, I decided I’d take all the free time that I was going to have on planes (close to 10 hours in all) and give the book a read.

For those that haven’t (and may) want to read this book, I won’t give it away.  But I will say a few things about it.  This was a book that I found that I really enjoyed, though it is to be endured during the first third or so of the book, much in the same way that Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is endured during the endless chapters on whaling (though, unlike the whaling chapters, the reader that endures is rewarded throughout the book).  The story follows the tale of a Indian boy, who’s family is lost at sea when their ship goes down in the Pacific.  But he’s not the only survivor – as he finds himself sharing his lifeboat with a Zebra, a hyena and a Bengal tiger.  Told as a narrative, the book tells the story of the young boy as he survives on the Pacific Ocean for 277 days and the uneasy bond that he shares with the tiger…maybe.

While this book may sound like a Robinson Crusoe story, it’s not.  The story has many layers, but I think what struck me most about the book was one of perspectives and faith.  Throughout the book, Martel tells two stories – though it is not until we reach the end of the book that these two stories start to become clear and we see how each story is reflected in the other.  At the end of the book, we are invited ourselves to pick the story that we wish to believe – as well as try to rectify for ourselves, the story that has been told. 

Overall, I found this book to be a very good read.  But more importantly, one that compelled me to go back and re-read sections of the book as well as reconsider my own initial impressions of the stories being told.  So if you are looking to add a book to your reading list, I highly recommend it.


Faust 2.0 (xkcd.com strip)

By reeset / On / In Literature, xkcd

I always look forward checking my feedreader on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays because I know that one of my favorites comics, xkcd will have a new strip to read.  I got a special kick out of today’s, http://xkcd.com/501/, in part because I think that most commercial EULAs are from the devil 🙂 and I simply love the story of Dr. Faustus. 

It’s funny because in many ways, I’m not your typical English/MLS graduate.  Most librarians (and English majors for that matter) have a real love for reading just about anything.  Me, not so much.  Part of it is simply being busy, part of it is that I actually enjoy reading technical theory much more than general fiction, but it’s very rare that I find myself actually sitting down to read much contemporary fiction.

Now with that said, there are a handful of books in my life that I simply cannot live without and re-read over and over and over again.  One of those books is Christopher Marlowe’s Faustus.  It is one my favorite versions of the Faust story and a book that I find my self reading, 4, maybe 5 times a year.

I have a few other books that I find myself re-reading with great frequency.  Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Shakespeare in general (though MacBeth specifically), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (her’s is more of a tragic tale rather than a monster story), and a book of collected works by her husband, Percy Shelley as well as works by Coleridge and Lord Byron (actually, I read a number of works by writers from the Romantic period). 

I find a lot of comfort in the works above, as well as an incredible depth by the writers — in so much that every time I read the Ancient Mariner or Mont Blanc I find the writers telling me something new.  It’s an interesting exercise — in part, because I think it tells me something more about myself as well — as my own perspective changes as I get older — seeing how my relationship with this set of authors, and their works with I’ve come to know quite intimately, change.

Anyway — the xkcd comic definitely put a smile on my face today.