Saturday, April 10, 2010

Why I don't read Yann Martel

Yes, I know I would be a better person if I read Yann Martel: Life of Pi, What is Stephen Harper Reading? and now Beatrice & Virgil.

And I'm not exactly sure why I don't.

Something about the topics, maybe? Animals on a raft ... sarcasm about a surly leader ... a writer trying to publish his latest book.

Nothing wrong with a little postmodernism. (Can you be a little postmodern? Or is it like being a little pregnant?) Anyway, what could be more fascinating for an author than writing about his writing?

I wish you all the success in the world, Yann. May you increase in wealth and fame. Not that you're doing badly in the fame department already.

It's just that I often go for stuff over which the news media fawn a little less. Stuff I can decide on for myself.

In the last couple of weeks, for example, I have read and enjoyed Kaspoit!, a crazed piece of fiction that consists almost entirely of dialogue, with few descriptions and almost no verbs. Oh yeah, it's about a serial killer on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

Want postmodern? Look closely at the signs in the cover picture.

Then there was Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training by Tom Jokinen, a hilarious tale of a few months the author spent working at a Winnipeg funeral home -- incidentally, the place that arranged my parents' funerals.

And A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr, who has received his share of adulation, and rightly so. This is Kerr's fifth novel featuring Bernie Gunther, an anti-Nazi German policeman and member of the SS who somehow survives the Second World War and flees to Argentina.

Gorgeous description and dialogue in all five. I expect to revel in more of the same when I read the sixth, If the Dead Rise Not.

I also zipped through 88 Men and 2 Women, an anti-capital-punishment memoir by a former warden of San Quentin prison.

Then, for a break from crime and death, I read a couple of Dashiell Hammett stories.

So Yann, as the human resources departments say when you don't get the job, it's not personal.

I'm just going in a different direction.

P.S. Not all reviewers worship Beatrice and Virgil. Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times of April 13, 2010, for example, scorns it as "misconceived and offensive" and as "this disappointing and often perverse novel."