Micheal Ondaatje’s memoir could just as easily be called a poem injected with prose narrative. His words are so maticulously selected that it’s hard to remember that you aren’t really there. I am in love with his tone and style.
What is most remarkable to me about Ondaatje’s work is his ability to tell you about a character without ever telling you anything. Instead he tells these tall tales which successfully reveal everything you need to know about them.
” My father who was overseeing the cooling of the champagne was nowhere in sight.”
“Darling I’ve just come from church and I’ve stolen some flowers for you” (his grandmother speaking)
Another observation is that this is considered a memoir or autobiography, but the first half of the book barely makes mention of him at all. In place of writing himself into the story, he tells you about his family, his culture, the dynamic he’s grown up in and with by telling you everything that happened before he ever came into the picture.
Last, I get this feeling that Ondaatje is frustrated with his family in some way. There are several passages where he comments on his inability to get ONE COHESIVE story:
“I want to sit down with someone and talk with utter directness.”
What I can’t decide is whether his frustration is solely connected to storytelling and getting or whether it’s the whole image. Is he frustrated with their wild tales? Or is he frustrated with the drunken stupidity, the reckless disregard for life?
My feeling is that it may be a bit of both as well as a commentary on the difference in cultural attitudes about alcohol, life, death and family.
You rock my world.