Archive for the ‘John Banville’ Category

Banville writes so well–so elegantly! This plot was a grand idea, also–taking up where Henry James left off in Portrait of a Lady: Isabel Archer having discovered how mistaken she was about her husband, and how terribly naive she has been. As this is literature, not pop romance, it does not end with a happily-ever-after embrace, though her earnest American suitor continues to linger in the background. The delicate and exquisite language is a treat to read, and it is pleasing to find that Isabel does finally get some kind of revenge on Gilbert and Madame Merle. A rather ingenious one, at that.
The descriptions of life in late 19th century Europe–the tiresome complexities of travel, clothing, of medical care–are fascinating and carefully burnished. Excellent book–Banville is a treasure.


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John Banville

In looking over my journal, I find I have read many many books by John Banville–fascinating, dense prose, and yes, difficult to read. At some point–years ago–I was in the midst of Banville’s The Sea, and during the same period was attempting to learn Java (computer code) without much success–and it suddenly occurred to me that being able to readily apprehend shade after subtle shade of meaning in a book like Banville’s, keeping the strands of plot distinct, feeling the resonances and reflections of other books, of quotations, poetry–is as complicated an affair as this business of keeping the different syntaxes of computer code in mind. More complicated, probably.
I just read another of his, called Wolf on a String (written under his pseudonym, Benjamin Black, which he uses for his fine series of detective novels). This is a historical novel, set in the 1600’s, in the Hapsburg empire–the mad Rudolf is on the throne, Prague is a fabulous and terrifying city, dense with intrigue and politics. Our hero stumbles in, and is caught up in a ghastly murder mystery. But really, it’s a contemplation of the time, of the people. The mathematician Kepler shows up, who was the subject of another of Banville’s books–he wrote several books based on the lives of eminent scientists–Kepler, Copernicus, and Newton–imaginative treatments of their times, their work, their struggles. Banville writes so extremely well, he is so subtle, so intelligent.
This book does not end happy, there is not much in the way of chuckles, and the vision of the world is bleak–but it is vibrant with real history in gorgeous detail, and such understanding of human emotions and actions.

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