Iridescent Surplus

Now at Verdicts, Anthony Domestico on John Banville's The Infinities.

Banville is such a beautiful stylist that Im tempted to simply quote some of his most lyrical turns of phrase: a blushing characters face is tinged with palest pink, like milk with a drop of wine in it; an estuary has sheets of shiny, indigo-tinted mud arrowed all over with the prints of wading birds (what a strange, wonderful use of the word arrowed); a child blows bubbles from a clay pipe, and the bubbles seemed to be rotating inside themselves, as if the top was always too heavy, and the iridescent surplus kept cascading down the sides. Banvilles prose is itself an iridescent surplus: his physical descriptions offer us shimmering beauty that exceeds what we might expect (and what the plot strictly requires).

Banvilles lyricism is impressiveand, in this case, justified by his choice of narrator, since Hermes is the inventor of the lyrebut its relentlessness runs the risk of alienating the reader. When every page, almost every sentence, contains a gem-like descriptive beauty, surplus can turn into surfeit: we all love ice cream, but few of us would want to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Read the rest here.Banville was on Charlie Rose last night talking about one of the crime thrillers he's written under the name Benjamin Black.

Matthew Boudway is senior editor of Commonweal.

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