Friday, June 5, 2015

Running in the Family

Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje is part memoir, travelogue, and history the writer's family in Sri Lanka.  This is an uneven book, perhaps designed as such; it jumps about in time a great deal, taking us back to Ondaatje’s unique family history and the present (written in the late 70s).  There are a few chapters devoted to Ondaatje’s poems, which break the narrative flow. Ondaatje falls into the trap of the “exotic” family narrative, so overused, but his hand is light and he genuinely does have such a family to portray, so why fault him? 

Reading this, I get the feeling that I always do when reading Ondaatje’s work: he is never fully realizing his capacity or vision as writer.   Some inexplicable element, a strange sense of reserve, causes him to either underwrite a sequence or not fully realize its potential.  

This is certainly the case in this work, but to a lesser degree than usual; for the majority of the time, Ondaatje writes  with a sense of urgency and honesty the drives the writing forward. 

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