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This novel innovatives in its use of two versions of a story (the aftermath of a shipwreck in the Pacific Ocean). Mildly interesting, you might think. But no. Amazingly, among the aggressively competing special effects monster productions kids see in movie theater previews, trailers of Life of Pi have proven that film audiences haven’t given up on original authors like Martel.
The story is notable for writers for a number of reasons. First, it may portend a movement in the future where electronic books offer readers a choice among various parallel versions of a story. (Egad – do we hope not?) Second, it continues a tradition like that of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, where one story is troubling for the reader so the author provides relief by offering a second, more acceptable, solution.
In Life of Pi, a terrifying story of four persons stranded in a lifeboat at sea is told by the survivor in brief summary form – a synopsis, actually. But the bulk of the film depicts a gentler version which is tense enough, but reasonably pleasant for the reader. Which brings a third observation to mind. When writing more than one version of your story, one can be collapsed into synopsis form.
Also notable in Pi (although hardly new) is the use of a narrator in the story, in this case Martel himself. This writing technique risks intrusion, or even a hint of self-promotion, in the story, but doesn’t seem objectionable in Pi. After all, if there were no narrator, what vehicle would permit the author to elicit the two stories from the protagonist? (The use of a narrator was notable in the works of Joseph Conrad, but has also emerged in recent popular fiction such as The Green Mile.)
The Life of Pi is notable not only as a popular film and novel, but it also represents brave forays in literary form .
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