What book are you currently reading? What page are you on?
“WATERMAN'S EYE Emil Sigler-Surfing San Diego to San Onofre 1928-1940 by Yann Martel. I just finished it.”
Tell me about the book.
“It is a fictional book about a child from India who is aboard a cargo ship with his family, who happen to own a zoo. They are moving to Canada and shipping their animals along with them. The ship sinks in the middle of the ocean. The boy winds up being the sole survivor, and he winds up in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with several of the animals from the ship: a Bengal tiger, a hyena, an orangutan, and a zebra. The story then goes on to tell [of the boy’s] survival over 227 days at sea, about how the animals relate, about how he relates and is able to exist at sea alongside a Bengal tiger after the tiger has eaten the other guests on the lifeboat. So that’s the story of his taming of the tiger and how he eventually lands in Mexico and escapes life at sea. And in the end — I’m still trying to pull this together — he tells two stories: one of the tiger, the other animals, and his survival, and another, which is more believable. He’s telling it to Japanese officials who are questioning the sinking of the ship and asking for his account; they don’t believe him. So he tells a story of himself existing with some other crew members of the ship and his family, and it begins to parallel the existence of the plight of the animals along with his own plight and the crew members of the ship.”
What do you make of the story?
“Being that the book leans toward being a fable, almost, it’s still surprising in the end that there’s the duality of stories — one consisting of humans and one consisting of animals. So, I’m trying to process it in my head — which one the author is really trying to portray as the truth. And considering that one is representative of humans and one of animals, what lessons are to be learned from the plight of animals. Is the action of animals representation of how people react to each other in that particular scenario?”
Tell me about the style and language.
“The style is very simple. It’s told in the first person, through the eyes of a teenage boy, the main character. It’s simple, it’s very retrospective — he’s looking back on the story and recounting all of his thoughts, all of his emotions. The book itself needs to be read over a period of time in the fact that it’s not a page-turner. But it has a lot of lessons to it, a very detailed account of his survival at sea and his transformation from being an Indian child and a vegetarian to being a resident of the sea, living off instincts, killing whatever sea life he possibly can to survive.”
Any favorite passages?
“At one point during the main character’s life at sea, he finds himself temporarily rescued by arriving at something of a floating island in the middle of the ocean. It’s supposed to consist of an algae, densely woven together to create a rather large island. So he finds refuge from the sea by being able to set foot on the island. And the island is inhabited by small rodents, which he’s able to live off for a while. Eventually it turns out that the island is something like a Venus flytrap, a carnivorous island that eats whatever substance of protein that it can. So he has to seek refuge from the island by going back out to sea. There are a lot of very unique ideas about life and botany and zookeeping that the author puts forward. And also the author writes about the taming of the Bengal tiger by the boy; it’s very interesting what goes into taming a wild animal. It happens in circuses and other places like that, what it takes to present yourself as an alpha male in the world of an animal.”
What books have been influential in your life?
“In terms of a recent example of one, I would have to say Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman. It’s a sort of a philosophical book that makes you want to live a better life, be a better man or woman. It was made into a movie recently with Nick Nolte — a movie that I refuse to see.”
What magazines or newspapers do you read?
“Anything outdoor or health-related. I read the Union-Tribune, but I don’t go too much into depth into various newspapers.”
Do you talk to your friends about reading?
“Select friends, yeah. It depends on the person. With some people, it’s very topical comments about did you like it, would you recommend it, etcetera. With some people, it’s a little more in-depth in terms of theme and what’s it mean to you and why would you recommend it. So, there are some people that ask deeper questions, and they’re always looking for a good read. But if it’s inspirational to me, then I’m more likely to talk about it than if it’s just a story — if I think that other people can benefit from the lessons I learned.”
Name: Paul Peterson | Age: 27 | Occupation: physical therapist
Neighborhood: Bay Park | Where Interviewed: Starbucks, Linda Vista