Reviews

Self

Joelle Hann

Yann Martel's novel Self (Knopf), seems aptly titled for a book that depicts a character growing from childhood into adulthood. Martel's first book, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, kept me on my couch for chapter after chapter with tears in my eyes. Self displays Martel's breadth of knowledge, his skill at prose and his lovely imagination. In spite of this, it has been resting at the bottom of my bedside reading pile with a bookmark stuck in about a third of the way through for at least a month now. Perhaps Martel's obsession with bodily functions (really: pages and pages on acne, shit, masturbation, menstruation; with sex and a flesheating disease no doubt lurking in the pages I didn't reach) turned me off. Or perhaps it was the moment when the main character, a male, without warning wakes up female. Not once does she look in the mirror to assess her new self, although she continues with his/her litany of other observations. The bodily change brings no change in thought process, not even surprise. So my interest waned. And, as is true for much of my life, I wish my faith in Self would return, because in spite of its faults I still have hopes for it.

Read Joelle Hann’s follow-up review of Self from Geist 22.

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