Friday, April 13, 2007

John Banville/ Benjamin Black

At Newsweek's website: "John Banville Confronts Benjamin Black…. or how an alter ego explains things to a noted author."

The prefatory remarks to John Banville's interview with his crime-writing alter ego:

April 13, 2007 - I find him living — I was about to write holed up — in an anonymous apartment building just across the river from Temple Bar, that God’s little acre laughingly known as Dublin’s Latin Quarter, and such landmarks as the Clarence Hotel, owned by Bono. This is a version of modern-day, tigerish Ireland I would not have associated him with. The quay on which his apartment building stands is named Bachelor’s Walk, which conjures swaggering Regency rakes, and this is a bit better, though not quite it, either. Fog, coal grit, whiskey fumes and stale cigarette smoke, these are the atmospherics of Benjamin Black’s Dublin.

He buzzes me in through the front door and I climb three silent flights of stairs. The silence tells me this is a childless establishment. Children do not figure in BB’s world except as victims, rejects, pawns in an appalling power-game. But immediately I have to make an adjustment: BB is not Quirke, the troubled and troubling hero of BB’s first novel, “Christine Falls.” For all I know BB may be a pipe-smoking family man in carpet slippers and a Fair Isle jumper.

He is not.

The apartment is small, and would be neat except for the books crowding everywhere. The window of the room that is his study looks into a courtyard with grass and not quite authentic-looking trees. “When I came here the building was brand-new and I was one of the first tenants. In that apartment opposite” — he points — “there was a girl who used to wander about her room naked in the mornings. She must have thought there was no one living on this side. I’m surprised she didn’t spot my bloodshot eye at the window. Or maybe she was an exhibitionist and happy to be watched.”

We are, of course, coevals, BB and I. How to describe him? Nowhere near as big as Quirke, the bull-man whom no woman can resist. As he crosses between me and the window—he is rarely still, preferring I suppose to make a moving target—he seems to me peculiarly blurred. He is less himself than the shadow of someone else. Does this explain the unease I sense in him? He avoids my eye; I suspect he avoids everyone’s eye.
Read the entire article.

--Marshal Zeringue