Wednesday, November 29, 2006

the last book I read

In The Skin Of A Lion by Michael Ondaatje.

It seems to be a while since I did one of these - not sure why; it's not as if I've been consciously not reading, or reading excessively slowly. Having said that, this isn't a book you could race through in high speed in a single sitting. Michael Ondaatje (most famous for The English Patient and its subsequent film adaptation) is a poet as well as a novelist, and the his prose has a powerfully poetic quality to it; it's complex, allusive, evocative, thick, rich, chewy, all those things (sorry, I'm watching James May and Oz Clarke talking about wine on the television and I think my language may have been influenced by it).

Actually it reminds me of Strandloper in some ways, in that it weaves together actual historical events (in this case the building of the modern city of Toronto) with imagined ones; a sort of collection of factual rocks with fictional mortar occupying the gaps and holding it all together. It's also not in the business of making life easy for the reader; you have to concentrate and read between the lines to work out what's going on. Unlike Strandloper, however, which for all its refusal to pander to the reader in other ways is at least linear chronologically, this leaps about all over the place, just to confuse you further. Keep your wits about you and it's very enjoyable, though.

Or, alternatively, it's a cubist novel. Make your own mind up.

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