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Divisadero (Vintage International)

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Divisadero (Vintage International) Cover

ISBN13: 9780307279323
ISBN10: 0307279324
Condition: Standard
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Excerpt

From Divisadero

By our grandfathers cabin, on the high ridge, opposite a slope of buckeye trees, Claire sits on her horse, wrapped in a thick blanket. She has camped all night and lit a fire in the hearth of that small structure our ancestor built more than a generation ago, and which he lived in like a hermit or some creature, when he first came to this country. He was a self-sufficient bachelor who eventually owned all the land he looked down onto. He married lackadaisically when he was forty, had one son, and left him this farm along the Petaluma road.

Claire moves slowly on the ridge above the two valleys full of morning mist. The coast is to her left. On her right is the journey to Sacramento and the delta towns such as Rio Vista with its populations left over from the Gold Rush.

She persuades the horse down through the whiteness alongside crowded trees. She has been smelling smoke for the last twenty minutes, and, on the outskirts of Glen Ellen, she sees the town bar on fire —the local arsonist has struck early, when certain it would be empty. She watches from a distance without dismounting. The horse, Territorial, seldom allows a remount; in this he can be fooled only once a day. The two of them, rider and animal, dont fully trust each other, although the horse is my sister Claires closest ally. She will use every trick not in the book to stop his rearing and bucking. She carries plastic bags of water with her and leans forward and smashes them onto his neck so the animal believes it is his own blood and will calm for a minute. When Claire is on a horse she loses her limp and is in charge of the universe, a centaur. Someday she will meet and marry a centaur.

The fire takes an hour to burn down. The Glen Ellen Bar has always been the location of fights, and even now she can see scuffles starting up on the streets, perhaps to honour the landmark. She sidles the animal against the slippery red wood of a madrone bush and eats its berries, then rides down into the town, past the fire. Close by, as she passes, she can hear the last beams collapsing like a roll of thunder, and she steers the horse away from the sound.

On the way home she passes vineyards with their prehistoric-looking heat blowers that keep air moving so the vines dont freeze. Ten years earlier, in her youth, smudge pots burned all night to keep the air warm.

Most mornings we used to come into the dark kitchen and silently cut thick slices of cheese for ourselves. My father drinks a cup of red wine. Then we walk to the barn. Coop is already there, raking the soiled straw, and soon we are milking the cows, our heads resting against their flanks. A father, his two eleven-year-old daughters, and Coop the hired hand, a few years older than us. No one has talked yet, theres just been the noise of pails or gates swinging open.

Coop in those days spoke sparingly, in a low-pitched monologue to himself, as if language was uncertain. Essentially he was clarifying what he saw—the light in the barn, where to climb the approaching fence, which chicken to cordon off, capture, and tuck under his arm. Claire and I listened whenever we could. Coop was an open soul in those days. We realized his taciturn manner was not a wish for separateness but a tentativeness about words. He was adept in the physical world where he protected us. But in the world of language he was our student.

At that time, as sisters, we were mostly on our own. Our father had brought us up single-handed and was too busy to be conscious of intricacies. He was satisfied when we worked at our chores and easily belligerent when it became difficult to find us. Since the death of our mother it was Coop who listened to us complain and worry, and he allowed us the stage when he thought we wished for it. Our father gazed right through Coop. He was training him as a farmer and nothing else. What Coop read, however, were books about gold camps and gold mines in the California northeast, about those who had risked everything at a river bend on a left turn and so discovered a fortune. By the second half of the twentieth century he was, of course, a hundred years too late, but he knew there were still outcrops of gold, in rivers, under the bunch grass, or in the pine sierras.

*

Now and then our father embraced us as any father would. This happened only if you were able to catch him in that no-mans-land between tiredness and sleep, when he seemed wayward to himself. I joined him on the old covered sofa, and I would lie like a slim dog in his arms, imitating his state of weariness—too much sun perhaps, or too hard a days work.

Claire would also be there sometimes, if she did not want to be left out, or if there was a storm. But I simply wished to have my face against his checkered shirt and pretend to be asleep. As if inhaling the flesh of an adult was a sin and also a glory, a right in any case. To do such a thing during daylight would have been unthinkable, hed have pushed us aside. He was not a modern parent, he had been raised with a few male rules, and he no longer had a wife to qualify or compromise his beliefs. So you had to catch him in that twilight state, when he had ceded control on the tartan sofa, his girls enclosed, one in each of his arms. I would watch the flicker under his eyelid, the tremble within that covering skin that signalled his tiredness, as if he were being tugged in mid-river by a rope to some other place. And then I too would sleep, descending into the layer that was closest to him. A father who allows you that should protect you all of your days, I think.

From the Hardcover edition.

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lbelyavski, November 17, 2008 (view all comments by lbelyavski)
Although I initially fell in love with Michael Ondaatje when I read his most famous book, The English Patient, it was Divisadero that made Ondaatje one of my favorite writers. His usage of time makes the story unfold in surprising ways, and the relationships of the characters seem even more deeply rooted. His understanding of human emotions and actions is evident in his story of family and obsession. Ondaatje's command of language makes the plot itself even more beautiful. I would (and do) recommend this book to everyone.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307279323
Author:
Ondaatje, Michael
Publisher:
Vintage Books USA
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Sisters
Subject:
Adopted children
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage International
Publication Date:
20080431
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
7.94x5.28x.85 in. .68 lbs.

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Related Subjects


Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Divisadero (Vintage International) Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 288 pages Random House - English 9780307279323 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Reading Ondaatje's new book, Divisadero, is like listening to great music. You are caught up in the moment, the elegiac writing, and propelled into a different reality. The crescendo brings it altogether, the passion, the years of hurt and pain, and the healing power of time. Like great music, you will need to listen to this book again and again, each time discovering new depths and greater understanding.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Ondaatje's oddly structured but emotionally riveting fifth novel opens in the Northern California of the 1970s. Anna, who is 16 and whose mother died in childbirth, has formed a serene makeshift family with her same-age adopted sister, Claire, and a taciturn farmhand, Coop, 20. But when the girls' father, otherwise a ghostly presence, finds Anna having sex with Coop and beats him brutally, Coop leaves the farm, drawing on a cardsharp's skills to make an itinerant living as a poker player. A chance meeting years later reunites him with Claire. Runaway teen Anna, scarred by her father's savage reaction, resurfaces as an adult in a rural French village, researching the life of a Gallic author, Jean Segura, who lived and died in the house where she has settled. The novel here bifurcates, veering almost a century into the past to recount Segura's life before WWI, leaving the stories of Coop, Claire and Anna enigmatically unresolved. The dreamlike Segura novella, juxtaposed with the longer opening section, will challenge readers to uncover subtle but explosive links between past and present. Ondaatje's first fiction in six years lacks the gut punch of Anil's Ghost and the harrowing meditation on brutality that marked The English Patient, but delivers his trademark seductive prose, quixotic characters and psychological intricacy. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "My life always stops for a new book by Michael Ondaatje. I began Divisadero as soon as it came into my possession and over the course of a few evenings was captivated by Ondaatje's finest novel to date....Divisadero is a deeply ordered, full-bodied work, illuminating both what it means to belong to a family and what it means to be alone in the world."
"Review" by , "Ravishing and intricate....Few experiences in contemporary fiction are as sensual and absorbing as making one's way through the pages of an Ondaatje novel....Divisadero extends the liberating and original territory of that earlier triumph [The English Patient] so unforgettably that it's hard, on finishing, not to turn back to the opening page and start all over."
"Review" by , "Brilliant....Divisadero plays whimsically with chronology and memory, with fantasy and historical fact."
"Review" by , "Page for page, Divisadero is an exhilarating read....The rise and fall of every well-turned sentence could be set to music, and his writing has a vivid physicality."
"Review" by , "Magnificent....Ondaatje pulls off the plotlines masterfully....He introduces memorable characters [and] scenes of majestic texture and captivating imagery....From its first to last telling sentence, this aesthetic tale, poetic with human detail, is a rare and precious pleasure."
"Review" by , "Divisadero is powered by narrative force and contains finely chiseled characters. [It] is also a book profuse with poetic imagery, profound themes and the delicate architecture of open verse....Stunning bits of lyrical observation turn up on almost every page....Breathtaking."
"Review" by , "A mesmerizing saga....Ondaatje has woven a tale of loves lost and families sundered in a brilliantly poetic voice — a tale that lingers long after its telling."
"Review" by , "Poetic intensity trumps structural irregularity and storytelling opacity in the celebrated Ontario author's intense fifth novel....Not to be missed."
"Review" by , "[Ondaatje] is a writer of intense acuity. His eminence is well earned. This book is initially difficult, but the more you give Divisadero, the more it gives in return."
"Synopsis" by , From the celebrated author of The English Patient and Anil's Ghost comes a remarkable new novel of intersecting lives across continents and time.
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