One of the points of this chapter is that paratexts are important. Publishers, graphic designers, and at times writers, spend a good deal of time on the paratext and on how it will add value to the primary text.

  • Look at the paratext of other award-winning works of Canadian fiction. How do these books communicate their literary and cultural value? How do their paratexts compare to that of Life of Pi?
  • Look at the construction of value through paratext in another genre or medium (poetry, drama, graphic novels, etc.) over a range of texts and see if you can identify patterns. To what degree do the methods of valuation differ from the paratext for Martel’s work? How are they similar?
  • Consider the role of paratext in non-award winning fiction or popular fiction (like Twilight, for example). Do the paratexts of these works use the same strategies for valuing their work as award-winning fiction? If not, what tools do they use to persuade the reader of its literary or cultural value?
  • Look at works in popular genres such as science fiction, romance, or mystery, and look for patterns in how these books establish their cultural and literary value. Are there similar patterns, or does each text use paratext to signal its value in a unique way?
  • While this chapter has addressed a trade paperback edition of Life of Pi, one of the ways that literary and cultural value for texts is created is through exclusivity. Consider, for example the way that hardcovers, special editions, limited editions, and signed copies work—how do they create different kinds of literary and cultural value?
  • In this chapter there has been a tentative claim to universality. Literary scholars are always hesitant to say things like “all books use paratext as a means of creating and establishing literary and cultural value.” Are there books that seem to use their paratext to debase or delimit the value of the text? Consider, for example, poet Jeff Derkson’s critique of consumerism, Transnational Muscle Cars. What effect does the title have on the reader?