Yann Martels previous novel, Life of Pi, was published so long ago 2001 that the fabulist tale exists solely for us in the form of a boat, a tiger, and warm memory. His new novel, Beatrice and Virgil, also gets a bit meta. It follows Henry, a writer who has published a very popular novel featuring wild animals. He attempts to sell his next work, a half-fiction and half-essay flipbook about the Holocaust, but his publishers reject it. (In the real-life version of the story, i.e. Martels life, the essay is probably not so bad; he hopes to publish it someday.)
After much drifting, the fictional Henry winds up in a taxidermy shop, meets a donkey named Beatrice and a monkey named Virgil, and gets involved in a play starring wild animals. Theres a great several-page description of a pear and a verbose outpouring on the philosophy of taxidermy. Beatrice and Virgil is full of such meanderings and musings, two of Martels specialties that landed him the Man Booker Prize in 2002 for Life of Pi.
Sat., May 22, 7 p.m., 2010