Resolutions: Fiction: Divisadero

In the interest of keeping track of my progress with The Resolutions of 2016, I leave this brief critique of Michael Ondaatje’s Divisadero, which I finished faster than my one-book-per-month pace would dictate… because I had nothing else to do.

Divisadero is a book. About people. Kind of. It’s written in what I feel at this particular moment in my limited lifetime is a trite kind of “here’s a story”, “here’s a story”, “here’s where they meet up” style. Coop, Anna, and Claire are all growing up on this farm. Awesome. Coming of age stuff ensues. Super.

But then, and not for the last time, the author gets bored of that story and introduces a Momentous Event to derail everything in a way that never comes back together. OK, that’s fine… then, we’ve got Coop and his later life gambling. And Anna and her literary research. And… kind of Claire and her public defender gig, but she’s boring.

He ambles along that path for a while, and then… what seems to have started as a literary rationale for Anna to be living in a farmhouse in France takes over as the main focus. The poet, Lucien Segura, goes to war, catches diptheria, gives it to his secret love…

It kind of reminded me of the X-Files, a story the author never expected to have to keep telling, and with the telling, lost interest in each thread he’d created. So, he jumped to the next one and called the transition ‘art.’

The long and short of it is that it was an OK book. I enjoyed the rise, but it rarely resolved in any kind of denouement in a satisfying way for me. You can keep throwing out crazy diminished chords at the ends of songs, but at some point, that becomes a trite cop-out as a substitute for the well-conceived resolution.

Next on the agenda is something to scratch a little deeper into rich world of Rome that was knocked loose in my head by a recent visit. I mean, I know, Rome, right? But… until you’re standing there in the largest unreinforced dome in the world and hear that it was built “about two thousand years ago”, you don’t really get it. There’s something about being made insignificant against this landscape of history — the Vatican, the Patheon, the Forum — that feels the way Hubble shows our insignificance in the Universe. It takes you out of yourself. You don’t matter. So, get over yourself and just… look.

Since I finished my fiction assignment early, I get to pick. I just downloaded SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. As long as I finish by February, I’m golden.

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