Mr. O signing a personal dedication to YukoMichael Ondaatje "played" the Winspear Centre last night in Edmonton and brought the house down. He began with a brief tribute to Robert Kroetsch and then read for about 40 minutes from his new novel, The Cat's Table, including this gorgeous passage:
"I remember still how we moved in that canal, our visibility muted, and those sounds that were messages from shore, and the sleepers on deck missing this panorama of activity. We were on the railing bucking up and down. We could have fallen and lost our ship and begun another fate - as paupers or as princes. 'Uncle!' we shouted, if someone was close enough to distinguish our small figures. 'Hullo, Uncle!' And people would wave, fling us a grin. Everyone who saw us sliding by was an uncle that night. Someone threw us an orange. An orange from the desert!" (p. 129)The main character, Michael, is an 11-year-old boy aboard a steamship bound for England from Sri Lanka in the 1950s. The ship here has just entered the Suez Canal. Ondaatje said last night that he's not an "ideas man" - the closest he gets is something like an idea of "how to fit a horse into a house." In the passage above, he captures the exuberance of youth and the boundless possibilities that can electrify our surroundings. Those are the types of ideas worth committing a lifetime to.
And don't ask meThat's alright. Back in 1999, I attended another Ondaatje reading in Vancouver and brought along Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, which he signed, "To David," after giving me a look as though a were a flaming newt. Thanks for the memories, Mike!
about my interpretation of "Madame George."
That's a nine-minute song
a two hour story. ~ "Tin Roof"