Do You Want to Be Happy and Write?: Critical Essays on Michael Ondaatje (Hardcover)
Michael Ondaatje has achieved international prominence and recognition in a way that few other writers have, let alone Canadian writers. This popularity is most pronounced for works of historical fiction such as The English Patient, winner of the Golden Man Booker Prize, and In the Skin of a Lion, set in 1930s Toronto, shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and winner of the Canada Reads competition in 2002. But Ondaatje has been writing for over fifty years, and his innovative works include some of the most accomplished poetry in the English-speaking world. Taking its title from a question in his poem “Tin Roof,” Do You Want to Be Happy and Write? reassesses Ondaatje’s writing and the role of the poet, from his troubled explorations of the self-reflexive artist to his most recent novels. Comprehensive in both approach and coverage, this new collection offers groundbreaking analysis informed by an understanding of Ondaatje’s entire oeuvre, placing early poetry collections like The Collected Works of Billy the Kid and There’s a Trick with a Knife I’m Learning to Do alongside the full range of his novels and his extensive work as a literary editor. The book highlights the transnational, postcolonial, and diasporic issues that have become increasingly apparent in Ondaatje’s work. Contributors explore key interests that have reappeared and been rethought across his fiction and poetry: the construction of identity; the nature of memory and its relation to family origins and history; the human body as a site of contestation and struggle; the contrast between Eastern and Western values and the Southeast Asian diaspora; the writer’s responsibility in depictions of war, psychic trauma, and genocide; and an ongoing fascination with the visual and the media of photography and film. An eclectic celebration of an iconic author, Do You Want to Be Happy and Write? offers an authoritative reference point for scholars and students of literature and reveals new facets of a major author to his readers around the world.
Robert Lecker is Greenshields Professor of English at McGill University and author of Who Was Doris Hedges? The Search for Canada’s First Literary Agent.
“Chock full of complex theoretical language, Do You Want to Be Happy and Write? will likely appeal to academic audiences (and determined CanLit enthusiasts). But general readers may find this insightful analysis a welcome supplement to their continued enjoyment of Ondaatje’s enduring works.” Literary Review of Canada