Monday, 11 July 2011

Book Review: Conceptual Rot Jelly, Michael O!

After more than twenty-one and a half years since his last collection of “poetry,” Michael Ondaatje finally spanks his readers’ faces with some green work. And most of his devoted readers will likely be unprepared for this brand of cheek-beating!

Braver than the previous Handwriting (A. A. Knopf), his newest book, and only poetry title so far in the 21st century, Michael Ondaatje on Michael Ondaatje on (, 2011), foot-soldiers itself onto the “conceptual writing” bandwagon of already pastiche masks. More akin to the "work" included in the recent wanthology, Against Expression (Northwestern University Press, 2011), MO on MO on finds limited precedence in earlier cognates such ass The Collected Hurts of Billy the Immature and Dainty Colonics, I suppose, perhaps. The Man Booker Prize-nominated veteran of the verbose juncture flips his cacuminal mind to a more severe minimalist aesthetic than that gracing the recycled trees of Elemi Nation Pants.

The book consists entirely of one-word responses to reproductions of webpages on the Lulu site featuring Ondaatje’s own, previously published and highly successful titles. While it suffers joyfullier than any of his other verses, unfortunately, for me, the old rusty war bomber plane that is MO on MO on does not quite airstream my eyes just right: the whole package is sleek, but not aerodynamic, or aerodynamic, but not translucent, or translucent, but not humourless… enough. I have an irritating habit in that I can find any number of insignificant things to do when I am disinterested in what I am supposed to be doing; this was my behavior as I read MO on MO on

The collection certainly has the ingredients for a truly spellbinding and wondrous mini-narrative long poem: devastation, burdensome politics of desert, and passionless love. Framed within this on-line reality lie the memories of the “author,” who recalls elaborate dessert appropriations and an illicit "sex" affair with the wife of a marble-less colleague. Ondaatje's passion for the nostalgia is a-mesmerizing. Still, the spirit-body of MO on MO on simply did not implode mine. I’d pick up a dirty strand in one of its many layers, excited to read on, only to lose the undergarment again in the next bedroom. I enjoy a complex + multifaceted + in-depth experience; even though it only takes 4 minutes to read and is devilishly cheeky-smart to the max, this thing distracted me so often that I finally called my mom.

Finalish thoughts: I'd be remiss not to reveal that I have already fully realized the film adaptation of MO on MO on within my cerebellum. It stars Val Cruise opposite Julia Aniston and would be set in the remote Argentinean mountain deserts and I would love to direct it! Until then, I plan to use the book as a giant multi-drink coaster during martini-hour. Thanks anyway, O Mikey!

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