Today the sun has been lovingly elbowing its way into the sky, despite the stubbornness of winter and I just know that the green is yearning to push its way up through the earth and adorn the shivering branches – and did you see the naked trees dancing in the mischievous wind?
I know that the sun stays relatively still, a burning entity far off in space with no thought as to our situation in this little spot on earth. I know that the “green” is not one thing but many which probably do not feel any kind of collective yearning. I doubt that the trees have an idea of dance and the wind probably does not think much about what it does, for earnest or mischievous purposes.
Yet I can enjoy the story without believing in its literal truth. I do not have to make the choice to believe it to find it nice. Isn’t there, after all, something rather lovely about knowing the facts – the truth if you will (or at least a part of the truth) – about the sun and still being able to view it in a fanciful, story-type way without having to claim that the sun is a god, or pulled through the sky on a chariot, or put in place by some master decorator of the universe.
I’ve put off writing about Life of Pi because of uneasiness about this. Just because the story is nice, doesn’t mean you should put all your faith in it. On the other hand, being aware that it might not be true doesn’t mean you have to reject it fully.
Listening to the story even if you don’t necessarily believe it can be helpful sometimes. Like when you’re frustrated with the endless gray and cold after a late winter snowstorm. Or when you’ve had a day where you’ve seen too much cruelty and need to have a glimpse of the possibility of goodness.
Martel is very black and white. Pick which story you believe – if you can’t decide, you’re a worthless coward. But the thing you can’t do is find value in both sides. It is a sign of weakness to consider the merit of both.
Despite this uncomfortable conclusion, there is much of value in Martel’s representation of religiosity. It is on the whole engaging and very effective. The prose at times can seem a bit pretentious and sometimes drags, but does not detract too much from the pull of the story.
On a side note, I noticed that I found several books recently to be written in a tedious sort of way. Very celebrated books that seemed to drag (to be precise: The Round House, Life of Pi and, to a lesser extent, Flight Behavior). I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me. Then I started reading On Beauty by Zadie Smith and am utterly enchanted, so nope. Just something grating about these books to me.