Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Saturday, August 29, 2015
The Blue Guitar by John Banville review – a tale of art, theft and adultery
A lapsed painter wonders
where it all went wrong in the latest novel from the Man Booker winner
Novels with plots that are slight or familiar-seeming tend to compensate
by pumping up the idiosyncrasy of the narrative voice. Even the most
humdrum events become interesting, if the person telling us about them is a
“character” of some definite kind: amusing, monstrous, self-deceiving,
knowingly unreliable, even just quirky.
This is certainly what seems to be on offer in John Banville’s The
Blue Guitar, of which the title, which nods at Wallace Stevens, warns us to expect a
cubist approach to “the truth”. In fact, its plot contains very little in the
way of surprise or novelty (man has affair, runs from beloved when rumbled,
has guilty fit, reunites with wife – who has also been carrying on
elsewhere – is diminished, and finally becomes the caretaker of former
beloved’s ancient dog), and the manner of its telling is no more daring.
Although Banville’s narrator, Oliver Orme, articulates a gradual descent
from sprightliness to gloom cleverly enough, he does so without any
significant artistic sleight of hand. He provokes his fate, suffers it and
writes it down. He’s a straightforward sort of sucker