Monday, May 24, 2010
Martel's novel won the Man Booker prize in 2002 because of the story's originality, reflection of the dominant ideologies of the times and the marketability of the obscurity of the author.
The story is certainly entertaining. The characters described vividly and personified. The Indian boy creates a subplot for each animal on the boat and bases his interaction upon this inner story. This can be seen as an attempt by Martel to metaphorically represent the way an individual ascribes to a fundamentalist approach to religion based on subjective information. There is no way for this boy to validate the truth of the characters on this boat. The boy practices a blind faith in their humanity through a creation of an inner story based on an emotionally subjective experience. He has been traumatized by the loss of his parents. These animals are now his surrogate family.
Martel is passionate about writing simple books. He says about his style, "I view my readers as my equals. In a novel you must amuse as you elevate"
Life of Pi uses a simplistic premise however the story unfolds in a very entertaining fashion. There are layers and layers of complex religious and psychological inference weaved into the plot. The ending of the story reveals the story to be an "untruth". This is a clever tool used by the author to complicate what seems to be a simplistic structured, escapist tale of a boy and his animal friends.
The story fell under review after it was revealed that Martel borrowed the premise from a Brazilian author, Moacyr Scliar, who told a similar tale about a teenage Jewish boy shipwrecked on a boat with a panther. Martel admits to borrowing the idea and says of the controversy, "I saw a premise that I liked and I told my own story with it".
The problem with selecting a book to win the Man Booker prize is that it is a subjective act. Every year 130 books are selected from publishers worldwide. The judges can fall prey to bias based on their reputation in the academic and literary community. Man Booker Judge Louise Doughty supports this notion that judges select books based on what makes them personally appear respected, "academics always have their eye on their reputations and always have a vested interest to pick someone as literary and obscure as possible/I think academics automatically feel it will reflect on their career"
The Life of Pi is an interesting choice for the Man Booker prize. Yaan Martel was an unknown author that had been rejected by several publishers before he found one. However, this factor added to the marketability of his story as an author and contributed a sensationalist factor to the story of winning the Man Booker Prize.
This story is an example of a excellent adaptation of a simple premise that unravels in an unconventional fashion. The present setting is an advantage for this author and the book opens with action and excitement only continues to build from this heightened place. There is never a dull chapter in this novel.
The social and religious undertones of this book present a good debate about the purpose of "faith" and the difference between blind faith and truth. Martel has used a simplistic vehicle to transfer complex, culture shaping ideas. He tells a story that connects with a world of people striving to come to common ground about the existence of, truth and purpose of faith.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
The "Number 14, 1960" purple and red painting is one of my favorite works from Rothko displayed in the San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art. It was painted in a series and during Rothko's last decade of art. Its a simple, constructed duo of vibrant rectangles framed with a deep, undefined border. There is a striking contrast between the violent, passionate red and sensual purples in this piece. They are blended with fast strokes of complexity. Rothko layers strokes of oil paint on top of each other over an uncoated canvas to create the effect of a depth in frame and an illusion of being engulfed. The colors overlap. I am captivated. The first thing I notice about his painting is how it makes me feel. His piece invokes a deep, sensuality and juxtaposes that with anxiety. It inspires in me a sense of nostalgia and tragedy. What appeared first glance to be a simple arrangement of primitive color blocks is, upon closer inspection, a carefully concocted blend of proportionate placement that influences the mood and depth of the painting.
When I look at a Rothko work I am engulfed with sensation. It is a rare artist that can promote personal nostalgia in a person with color. He achieves the intimacy he talks so strongly about. He also communicates through color his emotional life as an artist, which is represented in the themes of violence and obsession in his deliberate choice in color. I think he is brilliant in his execution. Through color hue, he has a way of evoking the memories of times that we have had unmanageable emotions. "Number 14, 1960" was something I have felt before and through experiencing it I remembered how it felt it again.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
I feel terrible for the people of Haiti. I can’t even imagine what the people there must be feeling or going through. It’s really not fair that nature strikes hardest in some of the poorest nations in the world that do not have the infrastructure or resources to help their people manage and cope. Im pleased to see the world coming together to provide aid and relief for the Haitians, albeit the US government has been slow to follow through on the delivery and administration of supplies. Its times like this where you feel helpless to do as much as you can for something that seems such an atrociously large and violent mess. I mean, where do you begin?
I was thinking about ways I could help beyond texting 90999 to donate to Red Cross. If I could I would put together sponsors from various food companies and send trucks down there with masses of branded food products for distribution, shoot a documentary to create advertising for the companies and feed the hungry simulataneously. Apparently this is not possible because of rules and regulations about government aid. I think this bites. To think that beaurocracy gets in the way during a crisis is just heartbreaking. I personally don’t have the money to compete with Red Cross, UNICEF or Wyclef Cef but I would like to help and yet the fact that I wouldn’t be able to in the way I think would be the best way I can physically help really annoys me. But putting my need to be involved in a key role in a mission to save the world aside, there must be something else people like me can do?!
What can a person do that does not have a lot of financial resources or worldwide fan club for a poor and terrified nation of Haiti aside from pray? Who’s responsibility really is it to ensure that something will be done effectively? What about the people who are useful but don’t know HOW to help beyond donating $10 to a hotline?
Its easy to complain about how the rich of this nation should be forking out their money first. Its easy to speak in hypotheticals such as; “If I was worth a 200 million dollar empire I would certainly not miss 1 million” and give the responsibility to the rich to provide for the poor. But the world does not work this way. The problem is that just because you have it doesn’t make you the kind of person to spend it. A lot of people who are in a position of power and financial abundance do not feel they are obligated with the responsibility to use it to save the world.
Dont get me wrong. Celebrities are on board the aid train; donating their face and concerts to bring relief in dollars for NFP organizations. I think there ARE people in a position of power and abundance that are using their affluence to help. However, though aid is a really important, fundamental concern right now, I also believe we are forgetting the need for service people to rebuild and develop an infrastructure down there to shelter the people and bring them clean water, electricity and comfort.
Could there be an agency in the USA that enlists people to volunteer their time to go down to Haiti for a few months and receive a tax break to physically commit to this? Google has the money; it could get on board. It has a search engine that spans across the globe! There are a lot of people in the States and abroad out of a job right now. Surely on a national level the government could pool together funding from an airline and create a NFP organization that hosts volunteer engineers, construction people and laborers plus psychologists, doctors and nurses, caretakers? This would be something that has not been done before. It would create a bridge from our individualist society towards a collectivist one. I think it would represent a transformational America. One thats not every man for himself but every man for his people and planet.