With his next novel coming out in April, Yann Martel has informed Stephen Harper, his unresponsive book club partner, that he will be taking a break from his biweekly book-sharing project.
Since 2007, Martel has sent Harper 76 book that have “been known to expand stillness.” Today, however, Martel sent the prime minister a book accompanied by a letter explaining that he will take a four-month break from the project to promote his new novel, Beatrice & Virgil. From Martel’s letter:
I’ve decided to invite other Canadian writers to join our literary journey. I’m glad about the decision. This is certainly a case of making a virtue of necessity. After all, why should I be alone in making reading suggestions to you?
Martel also revealed that he recently received a handwritten thank you note from Barack Obama, who had just finished reading Martel’s Life of Pi with his daughter. The president wrote that it was “a lovely book – an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling.” Martel told Harper that he would frame the note “for sure,” and still takes it out sometimes to marvel at it:
What amazes me is the gratuity of it. As you would know, there is a large measure of calculation in what public figures do. But here, what does he gain? I’m not a US citizen. In no way can I be of help to President Obama. Clearly he did it for personal reasons, as a reader and as a father. And in two lines, what an insightful analysis of Life of Pi. Bless him, bless him.