Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Recent reading:

Robert Dallek, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power

Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero still in-process, with varying degrees of patience. Hilarious chapters about coked-up, Philip K. Dick-reading, conspiracy theory-endorsing Nevada cardsharps who could have stepped directly from Gaucho's lyrics lie sandwiched in between slabs of "writerly writing" aimed squarely at the CBC crowd. "Could you waste your life on a gift? If you did not use your gift, was it a betrayal?" Endless pages of rugged inarticulate men with "musical fingers" and "no darkness in them," the scent of lime trees, pigeons' rustling wings, sex in the rain. This execrable stuff is just misty-eyed fantasy, and hard to square with Ondaatje's more familiar encyclopedic catalogues, sly humor, long run-on associative chains:

"[A] many-headed civilization arrived. Gamblers, water entrepreneurs, professional shootists, prostitutes, diarists, coffee drinkers, whisky merchants, poets, heroic dogs, mail-order brides, women falling in love with boys who walked within the realm of luck, old men swallowing gold to conceal it on their return journeys to the coast, balloonists, mystics, Lola Montez, opera singers -- good ones, bad ones, those who fornicated their way across the territory. Dynamiters blasted steep grades and the land under your feet. There were seventeen miles of tunnels beneath the town of Iowa Hill. Sonora burned. Weaverville burned. Shasta and Columbia burned. Were rebuilt and burned again and rebuilt again."

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