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

John Banville

Friday 28 August 2015  The Guardian

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

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