I read Life of Pi by Yann Martel because (a) my friend JP told me about it a few years ago and (b) ever since then I see it in book stores and I think God, what a great and intriguing cover! And (c) just the other day JP mentioned it to me again because I recently read Siddhartha. Honestly, I started reading without knowing what it would be about – I had never even read a synopsis! So I had no idea that Pi (whose full name is Piscine Molitor Patel) was an Indian boy whose father was a zookeeper. And I was even further surprised to read that Pi is the lone survivor of a massive shipwreck as his family was sailing to move to Canada, and he is subsequently stuck drifting in the Pacific Ocean with a Begal tiger as a shipmate.
It sounds quite ridiculous, but it’s also so serious and at many times so disheartening that you actually want to cry. Martel has this way of bringing you into the actual events so that you nearly feel as parched and desperate as Pi, but his religiosity is also so inspiring that you know you can’t lose hope.
For the record, JP said he hated Siddhartha and loved Life of Pi. While I didn’t hate Siddhartha, I absolutely fell in love with Pi.
I have nothing to say of my working life, only that a tie is a noose, and inverted though it is, it will hang a man nonetheless if he’s not careful.
I love Canada. I miss the heat of India, the food, the house lizards on the walls, the musicals on the silver screen, the cows wandering the streets, the crows cawing, even the talk of cricket matches, but I love Canada. It is a great country much too cold for good sense, inhabited by compassionate, intelligent people with bad hairdos.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (free at Feedbooks) is a beautiful novel (originally written in German) about an Indian boy named Siddhartha, who seeks enlightenment. It follows him as he leaves his father, a Brahman, to join ascetics. He later meets Buddha, goes on to the city and learns the secrets of love-making with a courtesan who loves him, then leaves her only to find she gave birth to his son.
While I really don’t know too much about Buddhism, I loved the idea of the totality of your experiences being the true nirvana, rather than separate, distinct events. It was all written very beautifully:
And this is now a teaching you will laugh about: love, oh Govinda, seems to me to be the most important thing of all. To thoroughly understand the world, to explain it, to despise it, may be the thing great thinkers do. But I’m only interested in being able to love the world, not to despise it, not to hate it and me, to be able to look upon it and me and all beings with love and admiration and great respect.
Yes, I was lucky enough to have seen Waiting for Godot on Broadway! My fabulous fiancé (God, I love him) bought tickets and we saw the 8PM showing on June 27. It was really everything I wanted it to be and more! Honestly, I’ve never read it in English – having studied it in my 20th Century French Literature class in the Spring semester – but it’s just as fascinating. I think I’m a little relieved that Beckett not only wrote it in French but wrote his own English translation, because I’ve always been somewhat of a snob when it comes to reading things in their original Spanish or French (the two languages I can read besides English).
Anyway one thing you simply can’t get from just the reading experience is how FUNNY the play is. Obviously it’s still funny, but in reading it I think futility and frailty play a much larger role, with the humour being somewhat of an underscore to the darker parts. But seeing it onstage, one actually feels like it’s all right to laugh because you’re in an audience. Also there are SO many lines that I read as being somber and really sort of pathetic but the way the director/actors interpreted them was comical. For example:
[Estragon] (soudain furieux) Reconnais! Qu’est-ce qu’il y a à reconnaître? J’ai tiré ma roulure de vie au milieu des sables! Et tu veux que j’y voie des nuances! (Regard circulaire.) Regarde-moi cette saloperie! Je n’en ai jamais bougé!
(Les editions de minuit 79.)
(suddenly furious). Recognize! What is there to recognize? All my lousy life I’ve crawled about in the mud! And you talk to me about scenery! (Looking wildly about him.) Look at this muckheap! I’ve never stirred from it!
This bit was definitely comical, but I had read it to be really upsetting and more sarcastic than silly.
I loved Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin as Estragon and Vladimir but I really felt that John Goodman was amazing. He was a perfect Pozzo. And Lucky’s monologue (John Glover) was really just a privilege to watch. The most impressive thing ever.
Really, go see it! It’s only running until July 12 and so many nights have just a few seats left. Click here to get tickets!
I forgot to do a write-up about The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (free at Feedbooks)! It was a really fabulous read. It’s about an expedition to a virtually isolated plateau in South America which boasts species which never went extinct or evolved separately from the rest of the world. If you’ve seen the recent Pixar movie Up, a lot of it will sound familiar to you. Like in Up, the basic premise is that there’s this extremely famous scientist – Professor Challenger in Lost World – who brings back a completely unimaginable specimen from South America, but everyone calls him a fraud, driving him to go back at his own peril to prove himself. And of course, this scientist is just a bit (or a lot) mad and has this fantastic temper which makes this months-long journey even more difficult for everyone involved.
Professor Challenger said this and actually made me laugh out loud, so of course I’m going to share it with everyone:
From henceforth I take command of this expedition, and I must ask you to complete your preparations to-night, so that we may be able to make an early start in the morning. My time is of value, and the same thing may be said, no doubt, in a lesser degree of your own.
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran (free at Feedbooks) is a beautiful, short piece consisting of 26 poems about various subjects. The prophet al-Mustafa is about to board a ship to return to his homeland after twelve years. But it seems he has had a great effect on the people of Orphalese, as they ask him for one last time to speak to them of life. It’s all very beautifully told:
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;For love is sufficient unto love. When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.” And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself. But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving; To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy; To return home at eventide with gratitude; And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live.
You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts; And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime. And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered. For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.
Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing. Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness, And knows that yesterday is but to-day’s memory and to-morrow is to-day’s dream.
I finally got around to reading The Art of War by Sun Tzu (free at Feedbooks) even though a copy had been sitting in my bathroom for probably years now. Although now that I think about it, I’m not much of a bathroom-reader. But maybe I should be? Think of all those minutes wasted not reading…
Art of War did not disappoint. It’s amazing how a Chinese military treatise from the sixth century B.C. still sounds absolutely relevant and wise. And not only that, it’s applicable to so many aspects of life, particularly business or even just general life goal-setting.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.
I did find it interesting that an entire chapter (the last) was devoted to the use of spies. Today, as far as I know and with the exception of literature/films, espionage is for the most part looked down upon and/or illegal.