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At least I won’t need to add to my “too read” list.

April 17, 2010

B. Glen Rotchin’s review of Yann Martel’s newest book, beatrice & virgil, removed any interest I might have had in the book.

More clever than moving, more admirable than engrossing, I suspect that some will lose patience with the novel’s pedantic overtone and opaqueness.

Whether the book succeeds will depend on how willing readers are to partake in an important conversation.

I don’t want to work at reading a novel.  I want to be pulled into the world of the story.  I don’t need to be taught heavy handed lessons by an author.  It is absolutely possible to say something about our world and still tell a good tale (see Orson Scott Card, Greg Bear, and many others).

Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have even attempted the book regardless.  I’m supposed to read it because Martel is Canadian and he lives in Saskatoon and he writes important LITERATURE. I started reading “Life Of Pi” and just couldn’t get into it.

Life is too short for bad books.

Yann Martel’s condescending act of sending books to Prime Minister Harper didn’t improve my opinion of him.  Who is he to decide that the Prime Minister should read a specific type of fiction?  Did he really think that the Prime Minister would actually start to read the books that he was sending?  Maybe he would have better luck with Obama.

I’m sure that my former book club will pick it this year but heavy-handed, not even vaguely subtle referencing to the Holocaust annoys me and drags me out of a story.  If the example used in the review is just a sample, I know that I don’t want more.

We can’t be sure precisely what those stories are, or even how to tell them. Beatrice searches for a word to describe horror and finds “aukitz.” The reader must mentally fill in the missing letters.

Similar techniques were used in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas with the protagonist referring to the “Fury” instead of the “Fuhrer”, “Out With” instead of “Aushwitz”.  (German words being mistaken as English words by a German speaking boy just added to the confusion).  The references were most likely completely lost on the intended audience.  For children with no knowledge of World War II and the Holocaust, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a poor introduction.

Now that I know what I’m NOT going to read next, I guess that I should decide what I will read.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Alice permalink
    April 9, 2013 3:14 am

    I am studying both ‘Beatrice and Virgil’ and ‘Life of Pi’ for my undergraduate dissertation. To be completely honest I think that you have missed the point of Martel’s novels. You should really persevere, some of the best writing is writing which must be wrestled with to begin with, but then becomes one of the most influential books you have ever read. Reading Martel’s novels has changed me and made me think about things in a completely different manner. He should not be written off because you don’t like him as a person, who I assume you have probably not ever met. Maybe he is arrogant, but he can write an amazing novel!

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