Saturday, February 05, 2011

New Today: Life of Pi: 10th Anniversary Edition by Yann Martel

It’s difficult to believe that Yann Martel’s quirky little second book, the boy-meets-talking-tiger tale known as Life of Pi, was first published a decade ago. Canadian readers can now see that date commemorated in a special 10th anniversary edition trade paperback from Vintage Canada.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not so much) it is also very close to the date that Martel’s most recent book, 2010’s Beatrice and Virgil, will become available in North American paperback. While some reviewers loved that book, we were less than impressed, not disagreeing with Publishers Weekly when they said that “Martel’s aims are ambitious, but the prose is amateur and the characters thin, the coy self-referentiality grates, and the fable at the center of the novel is unbearably self-conscious. When Martel (rather energetically) tries to tug our heartstrings, we’re likely to feel more manipulated than moved.”

This was not the case with Life of Pi, a book that seemed to hum with its own special magic almost from the first moment, so that, by the time it won the Man Booker Prize in 2002, the world was ablaze with talking tiger fever.

Here at January Magazine, then contributing editor, Margaret Gunning, was as enchanted as anyone. “Life of Pi made me laugh out loud,” Gunning wrote in her 2002 review, “stood my hair on end and inspired marvel at such statements as, ‘Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can.’ It’s easy to fall in love with this quirky, oddly compelling book, biblical in scope, oceanic in depth, yet intimate enough to speak directly to the human heart.”

If you’ve not read the book yet, the anniversary edition will provide a terrific chance, something you’ll appreciate all the more when the film version comes to the big screen. The movie just started filming in India and Taiwan. Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) is at the helm while an unknown Indian actor, 17-year-old Suraj Sharma, will star. The film is being shot in 3-D.



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