Saturday, April 28, 2007


Title: In the Skin of the Lion
Author: Michael Ondaatje


ISBN: 0394281829
Page #s: 244

Began Reading:
April 1, 2007

Finished Reading:
April 2, 2007

"So what do you think?"

"Well, N," M said. She sighed holding the binder that held my (humble) 'first' book which only to date has been in print via my laser jet. I had a feeling this was going to be bad. "Your writing... it needs work. I mean there was not a single word in there that I stumbled over. ..." And on & on.

Its not that I can't take criticism (I think... I hope...) but what I hate most of all - and what I told M - is that everyone and anyone can say 'this is good'/'this is bad' . But constructive crit - oh yeah that word!- is more about guiding someone is a general new direction rather then a rant and rave. Much to my benefit she kinda took my advice when she showed up at the cafe a few days later and dropped this book right in front of me. "I think this is how you should write it. His style, the way he describes the things around him..."

Who said friendship - even a somewhat one - isn't about give or take? Retard.
Plot: Ummm. Ummmmmm... that's one of the things with this book. I don't think there is much of a plot. Yes, there's a bridge being built in Toronto and tons of immigrants slaving away constructing this new city. Some guy into placing bombs, wants to get back at those who exploit the toil of foreigners in Canada... there's a nun who gets pregnant after flying off the bridge and a tunnel digger who falls in love with an actress. Truly, there is little character and definitely barely any plot.

So Why Bother? Sometimes, while reading this I did ask myself this question. I wanted to hold onto something and carry it with me when not reading a book and this one left me little to no room to do that. However, it was beautifully written. Not that it read like a poem or lyrics but because there is this inherent illogic to the dialogue and prose which mirror that of the everyday.
"You don't want power. You were born to be a younger brother." page 124

"His breath is now almost whisper, almost language." page 205

Pretty incredible, aye?

Best Part: The way Alice dies. Amazing. Oh, and Caravaggio. Just because of his name, of course.

Worst Part: Blah, the disappointment. My expectations were high considering that M actually handed it over for study. It does need a second read just to further examine technique and his use of analogy but it won't be like reading Gatsby for the second time - not by a long shot.

Recommend To: Well, this is great Canadian lit in the sense that one can see the birth of the city if not the country in the modern era. And the multi-cultural aspects of Canada - how we are praised for being so excepting. Books like this and Obasan are necessary to show that its not about the place but the who. Canada has skeletons in its closet like any other country (though don't get me wrong. This IS, in comparison, the best country to live in today). This is one of Ondaatje favored books so I think that maybe I am being a little harsh - it could have not been the right time perhaps (that happens sometimes. Like the first time I read Hume... definitely not the right time). It has been given the CBC Radio Canada Reads 2002 Winner among others and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize which he lost to A Dream Like Mine by M. T. Kelly.

Factoid: Its the prequal to The English Patient.
The title, you discover as you read, comes from a line in The Epic of Gilgamesh.

I have 6 other books that I have read after this to write reviews on. Yes, it was a semi-productive month. Right now I am reading The Darkness that Came Before for the Once Upon a Time Challenge. Its great so far... promise longer and more reviews to come.

8 Comments:

Anonymous said...

You are amazing.

nessie said...

ha! well thanks.

Nessie-ite said...

I agree with Anonymous.

I've finished Swann's Way, and now I'm on to the 730 pages of Within A Budding Grove. You didn't tell me how difficult this was going to be, lol.

How are you doing? Where are you?

nessie said...

hahaha no am not. Really. Just the other day M was reminding me that I had ZERO literary skills. Its ok - she can be a little tough but that just builds thicker skin.

Of course I did tell ya'll. After all there is the word challenge in the title ;)

Whats a Nessie-ite, Nessie-ite?

I am reading Swann's Way outload with M. Sometimes on a Park bench or the living room on the porch. The sentences are sooo bloofdy long. I have been ailing recently so have not finished the book I started before - Darkness That Comes Before - which I am intending to do ASAT. I still love Proust though don't you?

Nessie-ite said...

A Nessie-ite is me. That's it, I'm the only declared Nessie-ite (as far as I know)! The suffix ite forms the noun Nessieite, meaning 'a person or thing connected with' ... as it does for the words Israelite and Trotskyite. So, I'm connected to you in some sense, just as followers of Trotsky were connected to him. I'm a follower of Nessie. You inspire me.

I am loving Proust, too! Not only are his sentences long, but also his paragraphs go on for pages at a time. I hardly put the book down last week. I can't help thinking every once in a while that he's making fun of us (his readers), lol.

I read what M said about your writing ...

Hope you feel better soon.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Nessie!

I love those conversations between you and M! :)

Are you planning on reading Ondaatje's recent one "Dividesaro" (sp?). It has got some great reviews so far.

hellomelissa said...

i think i was the only person alive who didn't like the english patient in either book or film form.

and i think you should write it the way that YOU would write it.

my humble opinion.

Bookfool said...

It's a prequel? Cool! I wondered, when you mentioned Caravaggio. I loved The English Patient. But, Melissa, woohoo! You weren't the only one, by a long shot! It was not universally loved.