20 Bad Books By Good Authors

Divisadero

Author: Michael Ondaatje
Released: 2007

Sometimes you can’t appreciate how weak a work is until you’ve absorbed the artist’s entire body of work. If Divisadero were your first Ondaatje, you might be charmed and intrigued by the way he treats time like a word to be rhymed with. He tells all his stories this way, abandoning traditional chronology for something like memory, moments and images associated with the logic of remembering.

When it works, it’s beautiful. We would die for some of the passages from In the Skin of a Lion, or The Cat’s Table. But with this book, concerned with gambling, gypsies, music, and literary biography (farming, too, one must admit), the device feels like a crutch.

He’s still a magician, but you’ve seen him do this trick before, and truth be told, it was better those other times. —Ross Scarano

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