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.



18 Responses to “Choosing Your Own Story and The Real Richard Parker”

  1. TBM October 8, 2013 at 12:18 AM #

    Dude, you are the best reading buddy. Don’t apologize and don’t feel bad. and I’m jealous that you have Nickelodeon–I wonder if I can get that in England. When I was a kid I loved Nick at Night. And I haven’t been to Legoland, but I would jump at a chance to go and set a book aside. Life, you never know what’s going to happen. One day at a time is my motto. And some days, it’s one hour at a time.

    And I always cheer for the underdog, hence why I’ll never be rich from betting. I’ve learned to bet for things like: I’ll mow the lawn if I lose. This is a safe one since we don’t have a lawn.

    I’m with you, I can’t even consider the other story line–it’s Richard Parker all the way for me. I’ll mow my lawn if I’m wrong.

    • The Guat October 8, 2013 at 12:37 AM #

      Ha! Mowing the lawn! You crack me up with that one. I might go with shoveling the driveway during winter…seeing how it doesn’t snow in Southern Cali that’s a good bet too 🙂

      And yes! Underdog stories keep me going. Although when I first picked it up I didn’t think it was going to be an underdog story, but I guess I should have expected it being a shipwreck and all. And yes! Yes. So glad we’re both in the Richard Parker Fan Club.

      • TBM October 8, 2013 at 12:49 AM #

        ooo, I should add shovel snow as well since it hardly ever snows in London. Knowing my luck, there would be a blizzard and then everyone would hate me.

        I might make a Richard Parker Fan club t-shirt. “I Believe in Richard Parker!”

        • The Guat October 8, 2013 at 12:51 AM #

          I’d buy it. As long as it wasn’t pink 🙂

      • TBM October 8, 2013 at 12:54 AM #

        Yeah, I’m not sure about the pink/orange combo. maybe blue? Or is that too Broncos. By the way, we are huge Bronco fans. Loved the Dallas game!

        • The Guat October 8, 2013 at 1:08 AM #

          That game was AMAZING. Manning was on fire! I love him, always have … hope he goes a long way this year, injury free 🙂

      • TBM October 8, 2013 at 1:19 AM #

        I got nervous then that guy pulled his helmet. Not cool. the guy has neck problems. I was surprised by Romo. Sometimes he’s so good and then he has such bad days. 99 points in one game–not bad!

  2. Angelia Sims October 8, 2013 at 8:26 AM #

    I love rooting for the underdog! And I must admit that I have had quite a few years of super slow reading. I used to read non-stop. Not sure what happened, but now I just fall asleep. Oh well! Hoping one day, I get my book mojo back. 🙂

    • The Guat October 10, 2013 at 1:53 PM #

      Dude! Me too. Those are always the best stories. And I am so glad to hear that I am not the only one in the super-slow reading club. Good luck on getting your book mojo back 🙂 Just need to get the right book to get you out of the funk 🙂

  3. adinparadise October 8, 2013 at 2:41 PM #

    I know what you mean about slow reading. I have a Jodi Picoult book that I’ve been reading on and off for 2 years. Every time I pick it up, I’ve forgotten what the story is about, and have to almost start over. 🙂 I also love stories with a mind numbing twist in the tail.

    • The Guat October 10, 2013 at 1:54 PM #

      That happens to me sometimes and then I have to re-read the previous chapter to get caught up. Glad you’re in the club. Dude the twists in the end are awesome. Totally make you take a moment and say Holy Crap!

  4. Kavita Joshi October 8, 2013 at 3:38 PM #

    I feel that I am so lazy when it comes to reading at times…nice post btw

    • The Guat October 11, 2013 at 9:27 AM #

      I think we all get lazy every now and then especially when we’re writing all the time. Then there are times when life gets too crazy and you barely have time to sit down, let alone read something 🙂

  5. Cayman Thorn October 8, 2013 at 6:19 PM #

    Richard Parker happened. And if I would have been Pi, sitting in that office and recounting this amazing journey from death’s door to another chance, and then those putzes would have refused to believe me? I would’ve told them “That’s not a Me problem, that’s a You problem”. Because Richard Parker happened.
    The second time I read it, I attempted to read it through the eyes of an atheist. I didn’t get very far. Every time I have read it since then, I fall in love with Richard Parker again. And then I fall in love with the importance of having a story. And then I fall in love with writing. And then I want to get to the zoo.
    Ahhh, now you’ve got me wanting to read it again. Thanks Cali.
    No seriously . . . thanks.

    • The Guat October 10, 2013 at 1:58 PM #

      Glad I inspired you! I totally loved the book and as soon as I finished it I wanted to talk to two people about it: 1) My book buddy across the ocean and 2) you. It was so great. And you’re right Richard Parker is awesome, and yeah I so wanted to go to the zoo when he was talking about their “morning routines”.

  6. Island Traveler October 10, 2013 at 5:24 AM #

    A must read!


  1. Discussing Life of Pi–Be Aware, Spoilers Below | 50 Year Project - October 8, 2013

    […] Update: Hop over here to read TG’s post.  […]

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