Steven Callahan survived for 76 days adrift in an inflatable life raft. This 2002 photo shows Callahan with an improved life raft he designed after his ordeal. While enduring shark attacks, rain and helpless drifting, Callahan dreamed of a better survival vessel. Once he returned to land, he spent almost two decades designing this one, featuring a rigid exterior, a removable canopy and a sail.
Credit Pat Wellenbach / Associated Press
Callahan helped actor Suraj Sharma, who played Pi in the film, to convey the psychological distress of being stranded at sea.
In Life of Pi, one of the nine Oscar nominees for Best Picture this year, a boy suffers a shipwreck and is lost at sea. It's a fictional story, of course, based on a novel, but director Ang Lee nevertheless wanted the movie to have depth and realism. But how do you add a realistic edge to someone drifting alone in the sea? For most people, even those in the imaginative business of movie-making, it's hard to picture the perils and isolation of months without rescue.
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 10:40 am
Michael Dirda's latest book is On Conan Doyle.
When I was a boy growing up in the working-class steel town of Lorain, Ohio, I used to ride my beloved Roadmaster bicycle to the branch library. Located in the Plaza Shopping Center, this former storefront was just around the corner from the W.T. Grant's and Merit Shoes. Inside there were perhaps six small tables, a couple of reading chairs, the librarian's checkout desk, and light oak bookshelves along three walls. There can't have been more than one- or two-thousand books.
On-air challenge: You will be given some words starting with the letter R. You name a proverb or saying that contains each one.
Last week's challenge from listener Gary Alvstad of Tustin, Calif.: Name a well-known movie in two words with a total of 13 letters. Each of the two words contains the letter C. Drop both C's. The letters that remain in the second word of the title will be in alphabetical order, and the letters that remain in the first word will be in reverse alphabetical order. What movie is it?
Gerbrand Bakker's new international best-seller, Ten White Geese, opens with a mysterious woman alone on a Welsh farm. Humiliated by an affair with a student, she turns up alone at the farm, looking for nothing and no one. She answers to the name Emily, but that is actually the first name of the American poet about whom she is writing her doctoral dissertation. Her husband has no idea where she is.