Wednesday, August 29, 2007

the last book I read

Eclipse by John Banville.

So: actor Alexander Cleave has an attack of stagefright and flees the theatre scene to take refuge in his childhood home in the country. There he finds down-at-heel local solicitor Quirke and his feral daughter Lily squatting on the premises, is pursued by his wife Lydia and reflects on his childhood, career and marriage and his strained relationship with his troubled daughter Cass, while being troubled by what appear to be occasional ghostly apparitions.

All of which is well and good, but largely this is a book that dispenses as much as possible with all but the bare minimum of plot in favour of a whole lot of internal reflection. And very beautifully written internal reflection it is too, in a chilly sort of way. You could certainly make the same criticism as I did some time ago of The Heather Blazing, which is that the central character is a bit too cold and unsympathetic to really engage with or care much about. And you need to care at least a bit to be moved by the moment when reality intervenes at the end and Cleave's apparitions are revealed (in his mind at least) to be premonitions of disaster.

I had a similar slight problem (i.e. technical brilliance accompanied by a slightly chilly forbiddingness) with the only other Banville I've read, The Book Of Evidence, which was nominated for the Booker Prize in 1989 (Banville finally won the Booker with The Sea in 2005). Not that I'm knocking books that are a bit "difficult"; I can read a Harry bleedin' Potter every day of the week, just as soon as my intellectual self-respect deserts me completely. Probably any day now.


The Black Rabbit said...

Regarding Harry Potter (and I'll watch it here, I'm probably on dangerous graand), you may be interested to know that J.K.Rowling is gonnae take a few years off, then move into "intellectual" adult novel-writing - right up your street then?

It was a little surprising that Captain Corelli's Mandrill was NOT the holiday read of choice on Kephalonia's beaches during our sojourn there - everybody and their dog had that HYOWGE hardback final Harry Potter book under their beach parasols.
One other Lee Child book we saw (other than Anna's) during those two weeks, and only one "The Odyssey", and that was me.

There endeth the summer holiday book club report.

electrichalibut said...

I've only ever read the Ladybird kiddie versions of The Odyssey, and I'm pretty sure they miss out some of the really good bits. Like the mass bow-and-arrow slaughter of the suitors at the end. And all that hot Siren-on-Siren action. Or did I dream that bit?

The Black Rabbit said...

I don't suppose my Oxford English Classic (translation of course) told it all, and there was no nymph on nymph(o) action - worst luck!

electrichalibut said...

What, not in the original Greek?

The Black Rabbit said...

I'll leave that to my father (classics, St.Andrews).
I thought I'd done ok by asking for the bill, etc, in (modern) Greek at the restaurants we visited.

Actually, Dad thought he could speak Greek when him and ma went out there, many moons ago.
He was mistaken though and actually knew the lingo of the ancient Greeks, which caused much hilarity when he spoke Greek out there.
He was effectively speaking Greek in an equivalent style to our Shakespeare.
"Canst thou bringeth me doth beers, mine proud warrior" etc...
Brilliant stuff!

electrichalibut said...

That's how I talk in pubs all the time. Well, towards the end of the evning anyway. I prefer "stout yeoman", though.