In The Skin of A Lion

Cover of the first edition

I’m re-reading and pondering Michael Ondaatje’s book, In The Skin of A Lion.  I love this book. For me, this is a book to read again and again, to study and learn from.  This novel is an open apprenticeship.  Any good novel might be like that: think about which novel yours might be.  This one speaks to me.

Tonight, this passage from p. 157 seems like one definition of community:

“Alice had once described a play to him in which several actresses shared the role of heroine.  After half an hour the powerful matriarch removed her large coat from which animal pelts dangled and she passed it, along with her strength, to one of the minor characters.  In this way even a silent daughter could put on the cloak and be able to break through her chrysalis into language.  Each person had their moment when they assumed the skins of wild animals, when they took responsibility for the story.”

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10 responses to “In The Skin of A Lion

  1. LOVE that book. I grew up in Toronto and so feel quite homesick when I read it. Beautiful language.

    I’d suggest you read his “Divisadero” as well. It’s lovely…feels like a Terrence Mallick film.

  2. What a great recommendation. I love the Terrence Malick films I’ve seen. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. it’s been a few years since i’ve read “lion.” i need to prowl back thru it a bit, i think. funny, i was thinking randomly today of rereading “the english patient,” which has also been a few years. somebody said something the other day that made me think of the book.

  4. and btw, any malick film is worth it.

  5. Ron, thanks for stopping by. I agree about Malick. I need to re-read The English Patient, too, because for me, it stands in the shadow of Lion. And I want to give it another chance! After all, Ondaatje’s writing makes me swoon, so what am I waiting for? Funny coincidence. Maybe for a bit of The Cinnamon Peeler this evening. I love “Elimination Dance (An Intermission)” It’s been a while since I read his poetry.

  6. Pingback: The hands of a storyteller | Being the Blog of Rebecca Kuder

  7. Rebecca,

    At last!! A lover of this book!!!! This is one of the best novels I’ve ever read — it’s what made me want to write what I do, the way I do, how I do. One more reason to like you…=)

  8. ronansmom! This makes me so happy to hear. That’s precisely how I felt upon reading the novel the first time. (Well, my first impression was, “How do I ever think I can write a novel!” but that was before I understood there is room for anyone who’s serious about writing to write.)

    I think it’s one of the loneliest novels I’ve ever read, too, and one of the most human. (There are a ton of other sprawling thoughts that I will inflict on students in my class this fall–in part, we’re reading Lion because it’s got some great lessons in breaking rules of point of view, but also just because I’m greedy to read it again. Ahh, the power of the reading list!)

  9. I am so happy to find people who like this book. This is by far my most favorite book of all time. It changed the way I looked at literature and writing. It’s simply spellbinding. Scenes from this book have remained in my head for always… a nun falling off a bridge, a little boy drawn to moths in the kitchen window, two women drawing a man psychically and then running off into the rain, Alice picking up the wrong bag which has a bomb in it, blowing up a hotel, Alice and Patrick reading to each other in her flat, so much beauty in these pages…

  10. Phil, thanks for finding the post! I’m glad to hear of others, too–I was just yesterday thinking, hmm…should I use this book again for this fall’s class? Your comment must be a sign that yes I should. And yes, so many of those images haunt me, too.

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