Tuesday, March 21, 2006

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

This book reads like the confused ramblings of an eloquent madman.

I'm not opposed to great writing, no, not at all. I hope that if you've read this blog for a while, you would know that about me. What I object to is great writing used in a way that obfuscates the story. And that, dear readers, is what I found in this book. Michael Ondaatje hasn't won literary prizes for nothing; he knows how to orchestrate the language of his books in a truly masterful way. His descriptions are beautiful and expressive. He can conjure up a vivid scene in my mind in just a few short sentences.

But really, and I know I've said this before -- great writing is not enough on its own. You need to create characters that are real and that your readers will care about. You need to tell a good story. Frankly, at no point during my reading of In the Skin of a Lion was I able to figure out who the main characters really are and what exactly the plot of this book is. The book is a series of disjointed, beautifully written passages that jump from one character or situation to another with no explanation or attempt to link the narrative so that it flowed smoothly. So, not surprisingly, I felt no emotion for the characters, and didn't know what this book was really about. I just don't have any patience for what amounts to 256 pages of literary wanking.

1 comment:

Laura said...

I haven't read this book, but I completely agree with you. Great writing needs compelling characters in order to be great fiction.