Stare Into Space

A Nice Cup Of Tea And A Book: The Infinities

Posted on | April 13, 2010 | 1 Comment

The day you start a new Banville is always a good day.

I haven’t done one of these Tea-And-Book posts for a while.  This is chiefly because my brilliantly fractured skull (and I’m certain it was fractured brilliantly, despite that I can’t remember the incident) gave me a headache that lasted about a month and I didn’t feel much like focussing on text.  Rest assured, however, that I have consumed just as many cups of tea as normal.

Anyway, Banville.

I’ve been a Banville fan for quite a few years now.  The logophile (word-geek) in me loves the thesaural manner in which he spills intriguing words onto the page.  I love the fact that I always have to dig into a dictionary on a couple of occasions when I read one of his books.

The prose-geek in me, however, practically wets himself at the promise of a new Banville because it’s not possible for the man to write a single sentence that isn’t so polished it gleams, blindingly, from the page.  Lyrical, evocative, poetic, beautiful; to quote the vernacular of the Youth, Banville the man (ahem).

The Infinities is Banville’s first novel under his own name since he won the Man Booker with The Sea (he’s written as Benjamin Black in the interim – I have these on my shelf and really must get around to them).  Set in a big, old country house somewhere in the middle of Ireland over the course of a single midsummer’s day, The Infinities follows the members of the Godley family as their father lies, comatose from a stroke and dying, in bed.  Banville chucks in a number of themes that he’s touched on in previous books including a massive helping of Greek mythology.  You see, the book is narrated by one of the old Gods, Hermes to be precise.  Even big daddy, Zeus himself, features as do some minor deities. The gods watch the family through the day, plotting and intervening here and there (Zeus in his own inimitable fashion).

The Infinities contains something that I don’t remember reading from Banville before – a dash of what’s essentially speculative fiction.  Maybe I’ve become a Banville purist or something but it seemed a little incongruous to me; and like an easy path to showing the breadth of impact the dying Godley patriarch’s intellect has had on that world.  It’s probably also possible to accuse Banville of over-egging the pudding slightly on The Infinites. It’s a little plump around the waist and not quite so pared and perfect as The Sea or The Book Of Evidence was.

Still though, it is a beautiful read.  Even a bad Banville (which this most certainly isn’t) is preferable to most of the books on Amazon.  For the odd, little thing that pulled me from the story, there were chapters and chapters of wonderful, rich, flowing prose to pull me back and carry me along, happy as a metaphor mixer in shit.

I will sing Banville’s praises all day, to be honest.  I love his writing.  If you’re not familiar with him, don’t just sit there, pop off and get something he’s written (pretty much anything).  I challenge you not to like it.

Are you still here?


Gerry Hayes

Gerry Hayes

I mostly sit around all day and drink tea. Occasionally, I write stuff and send it to strangers so they can humiliate me and deride my efforts. Other than the self-harm to dull the shame of failure, it's not a bad life. Like I say, there's tea.

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