Book Report: “Divisadero” by Michael Ondaatje

I’m introducing a new series where I read and (for what it’s worth) tell you what I thought of current books. I’ll try to update with a new review at least every two weeks. So if you’re looking for a new read…check back often!

A few reasons why you should pick up a book:

John Waters thinks so

After the jump, my review of “Divisadero” by Michael Ondaatje. It’s not his newest work (The Cat’s Table,” which I’m currently reading) but it came out within a few years. And it just happens to be the last thing I read, so that’s what I’m kicking things off with.

I just finished reading this book. I found it beautiful, haunting, and while at first I was dissatisfied with the loose and ultimately unresolved nature of the novel, I later decided to accept it and consequently appreciated it much more.
Ondaatje is a poet as well as a novelist, and he lets poetry infuse his fiction richly. In this work, I feel that he has taken it one step further and stripped the events in the book to their essence, as in a poem.
Read in that way, it no longer matters whether there is a tidy resolution to the collage of plots and characters. Although there is in fact resolution to the intertwining stories, the reader must decide it for herself, as in a poem.
The book takes on as one of its themes the very function that art performs for us as human beings, on a psychological level, and Ondaatje seems to be saying that we use it to protect ourselves from the life’s harsher truths.
As the voice of the narrator, Anna, tells us in the novel, “…this is where I learned that sometimes we enter art to to hide within it.
It is where we can go to save ourselves, where a third-person voice protects us.
It serves to “transcribe a substitution/ like the accidental folds of a scarf.”
The characters in this book have much to hide from, and it is their lack of relief from the pain in their lives that, in the end, resonates most deeply.

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