Bird Flight: Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero

JEFF NOLTE

HIGH WIRE: Ondaatje juggles multiple narratives

Early in the English Patient, Michael Ondaatje describes how a character likes to narrate stories: "There are stories the man recites quietly into the room which slip from level to level like a hawk." This is also Ondaatje's own literary secret. Over the years, his material has been almost absurdly diverse — he's written about Billy the Kid, jazz musician Buddy Bolden, his own family's history, contemporary Sri Lanka — but his idea of how to structure a book has been reasonably consistent: start a story that whets the reader's appetite with exquisite metaphors and sharp observations of psychology and society,...

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