Monday, March 31, 2008

An invitation to dream (Books - Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje)

I have three books in progress so I don't know why, as I got into bed to read at 11 last night, I found Michael Ondaatje's new book Divisadero tempting me from atop the TBR tower. Was it the loaf of french bread and the tin of tea in the black and white photograph on the shiny new library dust jacket? Was it the French portion of the setting? After a day of chores and school work, was it the freedom to choose completely as I wished? What ever it was, the opening paragraphs masterfully drew me in, letting me know this would be a book that is ruled by imagination, not a strictly linear story, that art has an important place in the character's life, and that she is a romantic - she transforms her life through imagination. That opening line is such an invitation to do just what I hope a good book will do when I open it.

When I come to lie in your arms, you sometimes ask me in which historical moment do I wish to exist. And I will say Paris, the week Colette died... Paris, August 3rd, 1954. In a few days, at her state funeral, a thousand lilies will be placed by her grave, and I want to be there, walking that avenue of wet lime trees until I stand beneath the second-floor apartment that belonged to her in the Palais-Royal. The history of people like her fills my heart. She was a writer who remarked that her only virtue was self-doubt. (A day or two before she died, they say Colette was visited by Jean Genet, who stole nothing. Ah, the grace of the great thief...)

'We have art,' Nietzche said, 'so that we shall not be destroyed by the truth.' The raw truth of an inicident never ends, and the story of Coop and the terrain of my sister's life are endless to me. They are the sudden possibility every time I pick up the telephone when it rings some late hour after midnight, and I wait for his voice, or the deep breath before Claire will announce herself.

For I have taken myself away from who I was with them, and what I used to be. When my name was Anna.

I read those three paragraphs and knew so much about what I was about to read. Not least of all that I really wanted to be in this book. I wish I could have stayed awake long enough to read a little more. I'm so tempted to dump the articles on ADHD medications out of my bag this morning and take this book for the long train ride to school.

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