Saturday, April 14, 2007

Michael Ondaatje Interview Excerpts

Today’s Globe and Mail features a lengthy interview with Michael Ondaatje conducted by Johanna Schneller. In it, Ondaatje discusses his soon-to-be released novel Divisadero, and his writing process more generally. Here are a few excerpts.

On the time he spends on each novel:

It's been seven years since Anil's Ghost was published. You seem to like to live in your books for years.

As long as I can. For me, it's a slow discovery of the characters, four or five years of writing and rewriting. All the southern California material, that took me about two years, then gradually this other stuff [set in France] started coming up alongside it that seemed to be waving. I thought, “Is that another book or is this the same book? Well, let's bring it into the story and see what happens.”

On leaving his characters a future:

Do you imagine what happens in their futures, beyond the book?

I do leave it open. Those books that end with, “They married!” I don't like at all. I want to leave space for the reader to have a continuing relationship with the characters.

On writing as collage:

I'm always waiting for a character who's going to come in and confuse the plot a bit more or make it more interesting, take it another way, try to kidnap it. I think it's a bit like doing collages. Billy the Kid had a kind of collage structure. I've been thinking about collage a lot. I love it. There's something about it that's not just to do with having a different colour, a yellow bus ticket next to a packet of Gauloises or something like that. It's also the texture of the paper, the juxtaposition of things. It's having to make all those things one unit. So if something comes and doesn't fit in, another thing drops out.

Click here to read the rest of the interview. It should be accessible online for a couple of days before disappearing behind a subscription wall.


brad said...

I have to admit to never having read anything by Ondaatje. Maybe this will be a good start.

JCR said...

My God... four or five years of re-writing... that's dedication to the craft.

Jan said...

Enjoyed this, Kate. Thanks.

LK said...

I like what he said about "does this belong or not, just bring it in" (to paraphrase). Thanks for sharing.