Archive | 11:59 PM

Choosing Your Own Story and The Real Richard Parker

7 Oct

Embarrassing. It was embarrassing.

I’d probably get expelled from a book club.

As a writer I should be able to read great novels in a short amount of time. Boring long-winded-going-no-where stories, I’d understand. They take a little time. But not great novels. The pages should have a kung-fu grip on me at dawn and wrap around me late at night. If the story is great, they should consume me. And the thing is the story was great! But life and lack of sleep won the battle and literacy lost. It lost and it took me about five months to finish reading the book.

Embarrassing. I know.

I should have been able to finish it sooner, especially since I made a pact with a friend to read it together and chat about it. But I fell short of the deadline and then short again on the extension.

Don’t you feel terrible when you say you’re going to do something, and then it doesn’t happen?

And not because you’re lazy, but because of life. If you had an adventurous world-wind-crazy-wonderful-kind of life I’d understand. But there’s nothing too adventurous about diapers, paying bills, rejection letters, Legos, and Nickelodeon. At least not when you’re trying to be an awesome reading buddy.

But regardless of life, I finally did it.

I did it and I’d like to thank my reading pal over at The 50 Year Project for being patient with my below basic speed-reading skills.

The spark for our International Book Club Party began with Life of Pi. Granted when I first saw the cover I was like what the hell the kind of story is this? Then I got an extra nudge from my pal Cayman Thorn who loved the book. So I chatted up the possibility with the only reading sleuth I knew … My pal T.B. Markinson and so the adventure across the Indian and Pacific Oceans began.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Through this adventure I learned to love orangutans, and Bengal tigers. I also learned to hate French chefs and hyenas. They’re a bastard species. But most of all I learned to really like Piscine Molitor — A.K.A. Pi, a Hindu, Christian, Muslim who survived 227 days out at sea, on a lifeboat, with Bengal tiger.

It was an amazing adventure story, sometimes a little too amazing with a brief stint on a man-eating botanical island populated by thousands of meerkats. But wanting to find out what happened between Pi and this ginormous Bengal tiger, known as Richard Parker, kept me going. Belief that for some reason Pi had formed a friendship with Richard Parker and that this friendship was going to help them survive. I actually believed they had a deep connection, deeper than Sigfried & Roy.

But then the twist came. The Holy Crap moment that made me sit down.

I never saw it coming.

I sat there for minute in disbelief of the truth. If you can’t handle the truth you better stop reading now.

There was no Bengal tiger on the boat.


No orangutan or zebra. No bastard hyena who violently killed and ate them. There was just a ruthless French Chef who went a little too far with his killing spree and got all Hannibal Cannibal on the survivors. He was the hyena, and Pi — Pi was the real Richard Parker. He created a version of events that made more sense to him using the zoo animals he’d grown up with and cared for his entire life.

After telling his Richard Parker saga to ship authorities, they didn’t seem to believe him. So he confessed to a different version of events, one with no animals, but with a French chef. One where his family still dies.

After hearing both versions I, like my reading budding T.B. Markinson, agreed that the Richard Parker version was much better. Sometimes stories, whether they’re books or movies, have something extraordinary — out of your realm of possibilities — happen and you believe it. You take it on faith because the spirit of the character or the journey has gotten to you. You’ve become invested. You believe it because the struggle seems so real. You believe because you champion for their survival.

This is what happened. I championed for Pi and Richard Parker. I championed for “choosing your own story”. I championed for the underdogs.