Mike Ingram's Reviews > Coming Through Slaughter

Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje
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Apr 23, 12


I really wanted to love this book. I'm a sucker for books about musicians, and the real-world inspiration for the novel, Buddy Boldin, seems like a fascinating figure: a jazz pioneer about which not a whole hell of a lot is known, except that at the age of 31 he "went crazy during a parade" and was institutionalized, probably for schizophrenia.

I like the idea of using fiction to speculate about that real figure's internal life. My issue, I think, is with what Ondaatje plugs into that gap, which is well-written and pretty engaging but, in the end, kind of a rehash of the "crazy genius too intense for this world" archetype.

Maybe I'm just wary of the ways mental illness is romanticized, particularly in artists.

That said, I enjoyed reading the book, and I appreciated the collage style. I like books that play around with the line between fiction and nonfiction, which this one definitely does.

My friend and fellow Barrelhouse editor, Tom McAllister, and I talked about all this at some length on our podcast, which you can listen to if you want:

Book Fight Episode 2: Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter

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