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FPP#12: Obvious to Each Other

This week's first paragraph was lifted from a novel scheduled for publication by Algonquin Books later this month:

I know my own kind. We're obvious to each other. I suppose this is true of other kinds, too: military brats, for example, anarchists, mattress salesmen, women who once got ponies as birthday gifts.

So, what kind are you?

One that prefers the intimacy of small towns? Drinks darker beer in colder climates? Sleeps on the left side of the bed? The kind of person who stores coins in a mason jar, versus a piggy bank, versus a sprawling pile that threatens to overtake whatever flat surface it finds? A junk bond trader, saxophonist, spot welder, Sunday golfer who heads straight from the eighteenth hole to an all-you-can-eat brunch? Some kinds, let's agree, are immediately obvious to each other: New Englanders, for example — and it's not always a Red Sox hat that gives us away. My waitress last night had only just started reciting the dinner specials before I placed her accent as coming from somewhere in southern New Hampshire or Maine.

Michael Ondaatje has a long, very funny piece called Elimination Dance in The Cinnamon Peeler, a collection of his early poetry. A crazed emcee barks out a series of one-liners. If dancers fit a description, they must leave the floor.

Those who are allergic to the sea.
Those who have resisted depravity.
Men who shave off beards in stages, pausing to take photographs.
All poets and actors who spit into the front row when they perform.
Any person who has burst into tears at the Liquor Control Board....

Ah, but Michael Ondaatje is not the author of this week's paragraph. How much can you really tell about the book from those three sentences? Enough to pass judgment? What "kind" might the narrator be?

For what it's worth, here's a hint: A portion of the novel will be read aloud at Wordstock on Sunday, April 23rd.

[Turn back to last week's First Paragraph Preview, or skip straight to its author and title.]

Update: Find the author and title.

÷ ÷ ÷

Dave interviews authors for Powell's. He created our Out of the Book film series. He likes cats and dogs.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems Used Trade Paper $6.95

Dave is the author of Out of the Book, Volume 3: State by State

3 Responses to "FPP#12: Obvious to Each Other"

    Shelly April 11th, 2006 at 7:50 pm

    My kind: brown-eyed, youngest child, southpaw with a weakness for southern cooking and guitar-based indie rock. But now I sound like someone writing a personals ad. So how about, instead: I have never received a pony as a birthday gift, though when I was six or seven my parents got me a golden retriever, who became, thereafter, "my dog," mostly, I believe, so that responsibility for backyard clean-up would fall to me.

    I've never read any of Ondaatje's poetry. Should I?

    Lauren Baratz-Logsted April 12th, 2006 at 10:12 am

    My kind: eclectic novelist with an eclectic life in CT, comes with own pool cue.

    Dave (Post Author) April 13th, 2006 at 8:53 pm

    Shelly-- The Cinnamon Peeler is an excellent collection, and I see we have a few used copies. If you like Ondaatje's prose, the poems are a great resource, small helpings you can return to again and again. Vivid but always human (and often funny):


    Two birds loved
    in a flurry of red feathers
    like a burst cottonball,
    continuing while I drove over them.

    I am a good driver. Nothing shocks me.


    But have you read In the Skin of a Lion? It's a gorgeous novel -- the book that made me read all the others.

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