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The Collected Works of Billy the Kid    by Michael Ondaatje order for
Collected Works of Billy the Kid
by Michael Ondaatje
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2009 (1974)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

From the author of The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje, comes one of his first published works (now available in paperback and featuring a new Afterword by the author): The Collected Works of Billy the Kid.

A short book of only 130-odd pages, it features a collection of stream of consciousness poetry, prose, and photographs surrounding the legend of Billy the Kid. In the Afterword, Ondaatje discusses how he began collecting pieces about Billy the Kid early on in his career, researching what he could, and writing short pieces of poetry, imagining what Billy the Kid (also known as William Bonney) was actually like. The poetry is written in the style of e e cummings, with short stanzas bursting with description and scenery as the reader sees through Billy the Kid's eyes.

The book is not your average story with a beginning, middle and end, but rather a collection of poetry, prose and photos, almost like a documentary, except that Ondaatje wrote a lot of the account, drawing from his own life experiences and incidents. The Collected Works of Billy the Kid is nevertheless a fascinating read, featuring Ondaatje at his best, revealing his skill and power with words, while offering up an interesting albeit unusual history of the legendary outlaw.

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