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Volume 02, Number 2 (1977)

"Stories to Finish": The Collected Works of Billy the Kid

  • Anne Blott
May 22, 2008


Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid is a montage of techniques designed to catch and record the process of recollection. Machines – guns, camera, and pencil – are shown to fragment and isolate single impressions out of the movement of life. The transformation of nature to machine is linked through metaphor to the theme of madness, while metaphors drawn from the still photo and motion picture demonstrate the disintegration of living things. This collection counterpoints fixity with movement as the rhythms of the poetry and the composition of its pages flash forward and back in patterns that focus on the operations of perception and memory, exploring the process of recording both history and legend from a multiplicity of perspectives.