My worst mark in university was Art. I don’t even know why I took it, except for the fact that it was my third semester in a row and I had to cover six subjects in order to make up for one I’d had to drop in second semester as it was destroying my average. Ironically my Art mark did even worse damage, so it was a bad decision all around.

My dear departed father-in-law, aside from being the closest thing to a Christian saint that I have ever known, was also a pretty competent artist. His last few still-lifes were testimony to the growing development of an idiosyncratic style. His teapots had a Van Gogh-like sinuousness to them that I found very appealing. I will never approach his talent, and indeed have trouble with anything beyond a tedious replication of detail.

So I understand that when I announced to my classes that we would celebrate the conclusion of our study of Life of Pi by spending the day drawing illustrations for the book, some cheered, while others let out audible groans of dismay. However, Asian students are generally game for anything, and most tackled the assignment with enthusiasm. Some brought in snacks, I put on a little Norah Jones, and we eased into the March Break in a cheerful mood.

Life of Pi is a wonderful little book, full of wise insights into the human condition. We are not finished with it yet, as my students have to whip their three arguments into a second draft over the holiday. But we are done with the study, and I’d have to say that we are all a little wiser for the experience. If you haven’t yet read Yann Martell’s intriguing and many-layered story of survival, you are in for a rare reading treat.

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