Category Archives: Max and the Cats

M. Eigh Reviews Life of Pi by Yann Martel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The attraction of the book is not what has been popularized by Ang Lee’s Oscar winning Hollywood spectacle, it’s how Yann Martel tells the story; and in telling the story, how he has managed to regale an imaginative journey with firsthand-grade sensory notes. The book makes the film inadequate and shallow. And that is a heart-warming note: books cannot be substituted by any “smarter,” “more efficient” new media.

It is a known fact that Yann Martel stole the plot premise from Max and the Cats by Moacyr Scliar. He himself all but admitted it by saying, in reference to Max and the Cats, “Why put up with the gall? Why put up with a brilliant premise ruined by a lesser writer.”

His comment is admirable, albeit arrogant. A lot of great story plot will just be no more than great story plot if not in the hands of great writer. War and Peace will be chronicle of war and a laundry list of trivialities of peace, if done by an unknown Russian contemporary of his. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl does have some gripping plot, but the brilliant connection she has managed to build between her characters and the readers, and among the characters far outweighs the plot itself. If I were to write a book with the same plot, it will be a much flatter and boring read. For starters, I would never be able summarize the battle of the sexes so cleverly as Gillian did — the girls who love gangbang, the men who serve as “dancing monkeys,” to boot.

And Yann Martel did his homework. The writing shows in Life of Pi. For example, when you are stranded in a little boat out on the ocean, what does the raindrops hitting the surface of the ocean sound like? Yann Martel: constant, loud sandpaper grinding …

It’s possible Martel stole that expression from someone, though I have not heard anyone claiming the originality of the “sandpaper” patent yet.

But a terrific job putting a book like that together.

I am giving it a 5-star rating. However, I reserve the right to revoke my writing if it turns out Yann Martel did not really write it. He could have outsourced it to India or China, or the Philippines (I heard there are a lot of starving writers there, and they are fluent in English.)

Could he really? If it were that easy.

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