note to the reader: if you haven’t already read BEATRICE & VIRGIL, this post won’t make much sense. i’m just saying. B&V is worth the read, though — you should give it a go! and then let me know what you think. in April, when it finally hits the shelves. ok, i’ll shut up now and get on with it.
i should probably state outright that i had a major love-hate conflict with LIFE OF PI. it’s an incredible book, without a doubt, but i wish i had never read the last chapter. it always bugs me when authors pull the rug out from under you — especially when they employ magical realism, only to take it all back. it’s a personal thing; i’ve heard the arguments for the book, and don’t disagree with any of them in particular. i just felt cheated for being drawn in, and i hate feeling cheated. tell me a fable or tell me a true story — don’t tell me one and then explain to me how it was all really the other the whole time.
so when i grabbed a copy of BEATRICE & VIRGIL from Wi5, it was with a bit of forewarned-is-forearmed feeling. this time, i wasn’t going to be cheated!
and i wasn’t. this book will turn your brain inside out and upside down, but it never ever cheats you. however, Martel does something else that irks me just as much: authorial intrusion. the main character mirrors Martel in obvious ways, and the book is all about a successful debut novelist trying to write his next book. autobiographical much?
now, i don’t want to give anything away, but the ending makes it pretty clear that this is unlikely to have actually been about Martel. but there is just enough versimilitude to drive me absolutely batty. it’s like when i read THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING. why, oh why, does Kundera break up the narrative to talk directly to me? to my reading tastes, a good story stands on it’s own, without having the author in the middle of it to back it up. B&V suffered from incessant interruption — i was constantly stopped mid-flow wondering, is that something that actually happened to him? how much of this is based in real life? did he really try and write a flip-book about the Holocaust? and so on and so forth.
which, like i said, drives me batty. it occurs to me that other readers might not mind this, might in fact be perfectly capable of either ignoring it altogether or embracing it fully. it also occurs to me that this might be some huge statement about reality and fiction and authorship. which is great and all. but i was in it for the story, and, for me, that got lost in the shuffle.
like i said. i’m just saying.