Yann Martel's last novel, The Life of Pi, was published so long ago 2001 that it exists solely for us in the form of a boat, a tiger, and warm memory, which would probably please Martel. We do remember it struck big, like The Da Vinci Code for the thinking set, and was terribly engaging. His new novel, Beatrice and Virgil, is also terribly engaging. The plot starts off with a character who had previously published a book featuring wild animals that struck big, like The Da Vinci Code for the thinking set. In the book, the character attempts to sell book number two, a flipbook of the Holocaust, half fiction and half essay, which is not, to put it charitably, engaging at all, terribly or otherwise. (In the real-life version of the book, i.e. Martel's life, the essay is probably not so bad; he hopes to publish it someday.) His publishers revolt, and the writer goes down another path, onto another street, into another city, and finally, after much drifting, into a taxidermist's shop, and he winds up involved in a play starring wild animals back on familiar ground. There's a great description of a pear that goes on for several pages, and another of the philosophy of taxidermy, which also goes on for several pages. Lots of meandering here, and engaging musing, which is Martel's specialty. (One thing: If you should read the play about wild animals within Beatrice and Virgil as the Holocaust fiction his publishers, both Martel's and his character's, rejected, it couldn't hurt.) We predict many editions, in all technological formats.
Wed., April 21, 7:30 p.m., 2010