“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

On The Philosophical Potency Of Narrative

Two snippets that caught my attention in the weekend newspapers, the first being a line from an Irish Times review of John Kenny’s study of John Banville (Irish Academic Press) by Anne Fogarty, professor of Joyce Studies at UCD:
“[Kenny] successfully teases out many of the paradoxical features of Banville’s fiction: its refusal of, but underlying alignment with, an Irish aesthetic, its advocacy of a post-modern playfulness with a form that yet coincides with a late modernist belief in the philosophical potency of narrative and its simultaneous pursuit of silence and an exacting eloquence.”
  Then there was this snippet from Lynne Truss’s Sunday Times review of HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark (Penguin), to wit:
“Writing is not like figure skating, they say. Flashy stuff doesn’t earn you points and it doesn’t make you move up in the competition.”
  I’ll very probably read both these books in the coming months. Which one do you think is likely to be the more enjoyable?

8 comments:

Twenty Major said...

“[Kenny] successfully teases out many of the paradoxical features of Banville’s fiction: its refusal of, but underlying alignment with, an Irish aesthetic, its advocacy of a post-modern playfulness with a form that yet coincides with a late modernist belief in the philosophical potency of narrative and its simultaneous pursuit of silence and an exacting eloquence.”

If only there was an emoticon for the wanker sign.

Gerard Brennan said...

"If only there was an emoticon for the wanker sign."

Ah, Jesus. I near choked on my coffee there.

gb

Fiona said...

*snigger smiley*

I think you may already have formed an opinion, Dec.

Colin said...

I take it this guy is writing one of your crime fiction essays? Obviously you have just plucked out a particularly damning paragraph at random, choosing to ignore his one liners further down the review?

bookwitch said...

Post-modern? Figure skating?

Hmm.

Declan Burke said...

Leaving aside the fact that I'm a Banville fan, I'm curious as to how a narrative - potently philosophical, or philosophically potent - could simultaneously pursue silence and eloquence. Are we talking Beckettian / Pinteresque pauses? More to the point, why would any narrative want to pursue silence? Wouldn't that just logically lead to a blank page, guv?

If this is the kind of rot they're teaching the kids out in UCD, it's no wonder the literary novel is disappearing up its own fundament.

Cheers, Dec

Lrakyawnoc said...

Dec, I picked up 'How Not to write a novel' last April in the states when I was over for work in San Fran. Got to say I marked a bunch of pages where I said to myself 'Yup that's something I'm prone to that I need to have flagged from hre on in' - so there's lots of mini post-its jammed in my copy. The nonsense excerpts they create to illustrate how not to do things do grate after a while - though some are quite funny and absurd.
One of my favourite of the 200 not-to-do's was "The Unruly Zit - When the author has read too much Bukowski" i.e don't gross-out your readers with every paragraph and scene.
All in all a worthwhile book to sit beside the trusty dictionary.

As for Banville, don't know about the Kenny book but I saw some doc on rte at xmas and he's a big Sopranos fan! - though of course he had to place it in terms of representing some kind of modern Greek tragedy....ho hum

seanag said...

But I think writing might be like figure skating and flashy stuff might get you a few points. It's cant and jargon and specialist language that will kill your chances. To wit, see first example.