Life of Pi (Y. Martel). I hate when that happens. Initially liking a book, really liking it, only to end up very much resenting it. Couldn't even bring myself to finish it, read the first two hundred something pages, after which in exasperation I skipped to the ending/revelation, and then browsed through the rest.
Maybe I'm stupid, maybe I'm not open minded enough, but I don't get the hype about this book at all.
He first alienated me when the protagonist summarily condemned agnostics, and lost me when he then proceeded to be a Hindu, a Christian and a Muslim all at once. Too much religion - a rather wishy washy brand of religion -, followed by too much gratuitous, voyeuristic violence, a plot too artificially contrived, all serving the purpose of a symbolism laid on too heavily for my taste.
There's something slightly obscene about the mixture of it.
Come to think of it, perhaps it's the ex-catholic in me that makes me resent martyrdom, violence and death for the sake of a higher purpose.
Still, it'd be tolerable, if there at least was a point - which there isn't.
Now personally speaking I'm an atheist on some days, an agnostic on others, and moving from one to the other was a conscious step for me, and I think one in the right direction, because it meant opening my mind to something I'd prefer not to have in my world-view; but if I were to chose any religion, it'd be Buddhism. My issue with all theist religions is that while God can be seen as something more abstract and symbolic, more often then not they simply reflect very mundane social structures with all their inherent issues of power and authority, their pettinesses and prejudices.
However. Maybe that's the ex-catholic talking again, but if I were to believe in god (not the god of one particular religion, but one self-aware power, creative force, whatever term you prefer behind the motions of the universe) the point would be to assume that this god was real, wouldn't it? Strive for proof of its reality, if possible, or at least be convinced of it?
How exactly is this book supposed to restore your faith in god, if it reduces god to the 'better story', something to prettify an ugly reality and make it more interesting? Not even tolerable exactly, not more purposeful, merely more interesting.
And what, after all, is 'better story' supposed to mean? Every X-file-esque conspiration theory is a better story than the sad reality that humans are often stupid, greedy, short-sighted and generally have the tendency to mess up things. That life often sucks, even when no one's to blame.
God (if there is such a thing), and I think most religions and a few philosophers would agree on this, even if they disagree about most of everything else, would be an absolute, something transcending the limits of human perception and prejudice.
This book sums up every argument of my younger self why god is nothing but a human invention.
I don't have anything against imagination. I love Clive Barker's book exactly for their scope of it. But Barker's imagination - or, you might say, spirituality - is something powerful, inescapable, it is real, without any qualifications. It saves his protagonists in an entirely different sense; it is never reduced to 'the better story', because in Barker's universe there is no other story.
[/rant] Shower. Work.
For a moment there I sorta, kinda thought I got what he was aiming at; the equation between atheism and religiosity addressed early in the book, both the atheist teacher and the devout Muslim seeing the same reality, the same beauty in a zebra, mostly because it reminded me of something Posa says in Schiller's Don Carlos, but it's not really that, because in the end the story with the tiger is presented as the better one...
[ETA: ::sigh:: And promptly, post-shower, the more rational part of my brain kicks in and, yes, obviously the whole argument depends on what your image/definition of god is. ]