Art is like life: some fiction writers are familiar to us, in the way some physiognomies are familiar; while others—the misfits—prove always strange. With them, each new creation is like the unfurling of an undiscovered flower, the shape and color and scent of which must surprise. It is naturally safer to be—and to read—writers of the former sort; but infinitely more exciting to encounter the latter. For those of us who also write, the eccentric imaginations are not simply a focus of admiration, but a source of inspiration, even awe. Each book by Michael Ondaatje is, thrillingly, a departure, in some way unclassifiable.