Tuesday To-Do: Michael Ondaatje | Rock Candy

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tuesday To-Do: Michael Ondaatje

Posted By on Mon, Apr 2, 2012 at 8:18 AM

Poet and novelist Michael Ondaatje will read from his work Tuesday at Hendrix College.
  • Poet and novelist Michael Ondaatje will read from his work Tuesday at Hendrix College.

7:30 p.m. Hendrix College's Staples Auditorium. Free.

While Michael Ondaatje is probably best known for his novel "The English Patient," the Canadian author, who has won numerous awards and critical praise, also wrote perhaps the most haunting and musical novel I've ever read.

"Coming Through Slaughter" is a fictionalized account of the lives of jazz originator Buddy Bolden and photographer E.J. Bellocq. The novel's structure mirrors both the improvisatory nature of Bolden's music as well as the schizophrenia that derailed his life at age 30. It's definitely not a straight bio and might frustrate some readers with its impressionistic, lyrical style, shifting narratives and hard left turns.

But it paints an indelible picture of early 20th century New Orleans, specifically the often chaotic lives of the musicians of the nascent jazz scene and the awful despair of the prostitutes of Storyville. Certain scenes and passages from the book continued to percolate in my mind long after I'd finished it, resonating the way a particularly powerful piece of music seems to linger in the room even after it's over.

Ondaatje's reading is part of the Hendrix-Murphy Foundation's series exploring the theme of crime. He'll sign books after the reading.

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