Saturday, October 14, 2006


Booker winners revisited

I read John Banville's The Sea, over the last two evenings. I didn't get lost in it, the way I always hope to, in a truly great novel. It was too intellectually aware of itself and it kept reminding me of how smart it was, which jarred me out of deeply caring about the story. Which was a fine and moving story. On the up side, Banville's use of language is wonderful; he has a way with an unexpected simile or metaphor, like this:

"My father worked in Ballymore and came down in the evenings on the train, in a wordless fury, bearing the frustrations of his day like so much luggage clutched in his clenched fists." (p.26)

And this:

"The first time we came home for a visit - home: the word gives me a shove and I stumble - ..." (p. 155)

And methinks Banville has an OED close at hand, due to his use of words such as flocculent (adj. p.43), velutinous (adj. p.71), ichor (n. p.84), glair (n. p.118), boreens (pl.n. p.139), and refection (n. p.143). He obviously loves words, and in fact stops the flow of the text to comment on certain words and the choice of one word over another throughout the book. Is this a postmodern device? Cleverness or the love of words themselves, this worrying at them? Or an affectation of the novel's main character and narrator, a self-proclaimed dilettante? Hard to say. Overall, enjoyable, though I didn't empathize much with said dilettante, despite the terrible events of his life. Guess I'll leave off reading prize-winners for a while.

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