Books, allegory, and block-headedness
The book club with which I’m happily involved has chosen its next book. Or, rather, I should say, “WE have chosen the next book.” It’s a book that two of the six of us have already read, but were happy to read again, mostly to gain the perspective of the other members. I had heard of the book, and for some reason, had really wanted to read it, so I heartily threw in my assenting vote.
Now, I have it in my hands, and I’m hesitant to start.
It’s The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I don’t read reviews before I read a book; I generally read them afterwards, if at all, so don’t tell me about it, if you’ve read it. But, it seems to me that the book leans very heavily on allegory and metaphor.
The inside flap of the dustjacket reads thusly:
And the vast Pacific Ocean
This is a novel of such rare and
that it may, as one character claims,
make you believe in God.
I have thought, many times, that it’s a good thing I found God as a child, and now have a long and beautiful history of relationship with Him. My faith is so real to me — my dear Father in Heaven is so real to me — that, honestly, it doesn’t even seem like faith. It’s tangible. It’s experiential. It’s real. If I hadn’t come to Christ as a child, and someone had tried to introduce me, as an adult, I’m positive I’d have balked.
Airy ideas are not my friends. They never have been.
I was scandalized when, at about the age 10, I discovered The Song of Solomon in my Bible. My BIBLE! I couldn’t believe it, and was so embarrassed, I couldn’t even ask my parents about its inclusion as a part of our sacred text.
Similarly, at about the age of 12, I was bewildered why my church would show, during the Sunday night adult service, an animated version of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I had owned a boxed set of the treasures of Narnia from C.S. Lewis for about two years, and had read all of them at least once, and most of them twice. Yet, I had no inkling that the books were allegorical in the least. It never dawned on me. Ever. I read them as purely mythical adventure stories. And, golly, I’d been a Christian since I was four years old. I knew the story of the crucifixion, and what its purpose was. Yet, I didn’t grasp any parallels between it and The Lion… Nor did I see illustrated similarities between any part of any of the Narnia books, and that of Christian life. It wasn’t until my adulthood, really, that I saw any resemblance between faith/fact and fiction. Now, I can see it. Even now, as I write, the picture of Eustace becoming humbled by getting his dragon-skin layers cut and peeled off of him in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader grips my heart with a powerful conviction. But, that didn’t happen until a few years ago, when my story-reading to the boys drove an intercept course with my spirit, and I was struck with Lewis’ truth.
So, I have a feeling that I’m not going to get as much out of Pi as I’m “supposed” to get, and all its deep, meaningful insights are going to sail right on by my concrete outlook. All of this, I suppose, is rooted in pride, and not wanting to reveal my block-headed ignorance to the women in the group. I just know I’m going to be frequently exclaiming, “Oh, I never saw that!” and other such expressions of lightbulb-moments as we discuss the book. But, if there’s a group of women to do be revealed as a insightless dummy amongst, it’s that group of Godly, brainy, yet thoroughly gracious women.
Still. I can’t help but wish I had a copy of Mansfield Park — the last Austen novel I’ve yet to read — with which to distract myself.