Made by the Girl

Thank you God: first for Life of Pi,
second for Ang Lee.

Posted on 26 July 2012


Life of Pi

In an essay aptly titled, "How I Wrote Life of Pi" by Yann Martel, the author discusses the convergence of three elements that he attributes to the making of his novel: influence, inspiration and hard work. The influence being Brazilian writers, Moacyr Scliar's Max and the Cats and Yulio Mishima's The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea. These novels inspired him with their beauty and simplicity. He states that he spent many nights thinking what he could have done if the ideas of these stories came to him but unfortunately the "idea had simply been faxed to the wrong muse."

Inspiration. While in India, during his second creative tour of duty, while struggling with the typical ghosts that pain all creative types...self-loathing, lonliness, lack of direction and self-pity—desperately looking for a story, he went to find a quiet place to think. He walked to hilltop, stood on a boulder looking down at bustling Bombay and the idea struck. He writes, "Suddenly, my mind was exploding with ideas. I could hardly keep up with them. In jubilant minutes whole portions of the novel emerged fully formed: the lifeboat, the animals, the intermingling of the religious and the zoological, the parallel stories."

Then there's the really tough stuff: Hard Work. Martel goes on to write about the research, much of which he describes and difficult and fun. Inventing the blind cannibal frenchman or the Merkat Island, choosing the animals, discovering the devices that sent the adventure in motion.

My only caveat is frankly, I could care less about the nuts and bolts of the writing of the Life of Pi. I'm not a writer, I'm a reader. However, I do find interesting that brilliant books spring from little folk like us. I've heard writers and artists tell their horror stories of losing hope right before epiphany strikes. This, I find compelling. Could Yann Martel really have been a regular joe? I loved this book! He couldn't have just been sitting around wondering if he was going to amount to anything before penning it...could he? Yet time and time again, that's exactly what creatives claim—that they were at their last straw--driven to exhaustion and on the brink of tossing in the towel and then viola!

In the book out called IMAGINE: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer, the author attempts to the find formula to creativity. He scribes that anxiety, falling into a rut, self-doubt are all, in fact, part and parcel to the creative process.

I am not whollly convinced of this —some seems true and some conjecture. After all, isn't the crisis the driving force of stories—even if it is the story we tell of ourselves? I've yet to hear of an artist who has announced that he's has it good his whole life. We are fed the story of crisis and painful growth from our beginnings. What I am questioning is does a work of art manifest through the pain of creating it or do we all just fill in the angonizing backstory? I don't really know.

What I do know is that I loved Life of Pi.

If you haven't read the book yet, Pi Patel is an Indian teenager who is Hindu, Muslim and Christian all at once. Much to his parents' dismay, he sees nothing wrong with being devoted to all three religions. His family are zoo owners and he is an expert on animal behavior. ''A good zoo is a place of carefully worked-out coincidence,'' he explains. ''Exactly where an animal says to us, 'Stay out!' with its urine or other secretion, we say to it, 'Stay in!' with our barriers. Under such conditions of diplomatic peace, all animals are content and we can relax and have a look at each other.''

His family decides to move themselves and their zoo to Canada to escape the political instability of the 70's but half-way through the voyage, tragedy strikes and the ship sinks. The only five survivors on the ship wreck are Pi himself, a Borneo orangutan, an injured zebra, hyena and a bengal tiger named Richard Parker. (Yes, you read it correctly.) All five are on one lifeboat. So what do you get when you put a teenager, a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a bengal tiger on a lifeboat and set them onto the high seas? An awesome book.

Now to make my Novemeber fan-effing-tastic, the movie is coming out! Okay...wait there's more...it is directed by the massively talented genius Ang Lee. Yes, that's right! Do you hear it? Angels singing! Me too! I wait with baited breath until November 21. I'm totally geeked!

 

Here' s the Website

  • Back to articles|
  • Top