Monday, September 1, 2008

Black Is Back

THE LEMUR Benjamin Black

By their metaphors ye shall know them. Try these on for size: a policeman has a face like “an El Greco martyr”. A woman’s gaze is “as blank as the face of her son’s expensive watch, with a myriad unseen, infinitely intricate movements going on behind it”. And shelves of unread books are – how nice – “a battalion of rebukes”.

Yes, it’s the return of John Banville’s alter ego, Benjamin Black, with this slender novella that was serialized in The New York Times earlier this year. Unlike Christine Falls and The Silver Swan, The Lemur doesn’t feature the dour Quirke, but instead dwells on John Glass, a one-time intrepid, passionate journalist, now burnt-out, living in Manhattan, and commencing work on the authorized biography of his father-in-law, William Mulholland. (With a name like that, Mulholland is, of course, a billionaire entrepreneur and former CIA agent.) Glass ropes in researcher Dylan Riley to help him and it’s when the latter is found dead with a bullet in his eye that a Pandora ’s Box of family secrets is unlocked.

Though there isn’t as much depth as in the other Black novels, the prose is crisp and elegant, and things move at a fast clip -- interspersed by apt (and sometimes wry) descriptions of people’s appearances, their motivations and the geography of Manhattan and its environs. It seems clear that Banville had fun writing this one, and reading it affords the same pleasure.


Anirudh 'Lallan' Choudhry said...

beautiful blog.. woody scent of books here.. !! makes me feel at peace

Unknown said...

Thanks, and do keep returning.