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Mundwiler, Leslie.

Vancouver, Talonbooks, c1984. 160pp, paper, $8.95, ISBN 0-88922-216-9. (The New Canadian Criticism Series) CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Alan Thomas

Volume 13 Number 5
1985 September

Michael Ondaatje has been one of the most successful of the post-1960 generation of Canadian poets. His long narrative poem, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (August, 1970) won him the Governor-General's Award when he was still well under thirty years of age. Moreover that work, and others which followed, have displayed a brilliance of technique in working with concrete and often startling imagery, (which Mundwiler terms a style of "magical naturalism"), such that Ondaatje appears effortlessly contemporary, a post-Modernist. Mundwiler does not use this term; he describes Ondaatje as in the "throes of Modernism." Whatever category or term it graces, Ondaatje's work presents problems to students in that it is immediate in impact and apparently accessible but nevertheless difficult to describe critically. Mundwiler's book can provide some help here in registering the novel and unique features of the writing. But in attempting to come to intellectual terms with the work, in an absolute sense, Mundwiler sets off through renaissance and modern theories of memory, image-making, and imagination that grow swiftly into thickets of entangling argument. This is a journey Mundwiler evidently felt was necessary, but he should not compel his readers to accompany him.

Alan Thomas, Scarborough College, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.
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