Sunday, 20 September 2009

John Banville reading

The setting for this reading was in a small private church on an estate on the shores of Strangford Lough and getting there entailed a torchlit walk along a dark tree-lined path.
During the reading itself the lights were dimmed and the church was lit by candles, with spotlights for Banville and violinist Ruby Colley.
Colley uses an electronic violin and lays down her own backing tracks as she performs that are then played back on a loop and gradually builds to create layered pieces that musically seemed to be inspired by Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Michael Nyman.
The musical interludes sat well in the candle-lit church and might well have been composed as a soundtrack to a movie adaptation of John Banville's new novel The Infinities.
He read two pieces from his just-released book that I thought were not particularly representative of the novel as a whole or at least didn't give a real sense of the novel. However, they went down well and it was interesting to hear the clipped diction of someone who is in Ireland's premier division of novelists.
The question and answer session that followed was less structured and gave a good insight into the mindset of Banville the novelist. He is often portrayed as an arrogant novelist who antagonises other writers and his critics but came across as quite humble about the impact his novels have on the reader.
He often refers to himself in the third person as Banville and seems to have, in his own mind, distanced the man John Banville from the writer Banville and his crime-writing offspin Benjamin Black.
He said that quite often when reading back on what he had written he has no recollection of writing it, as if it comes from somewhere outside of himself. When he gets up from the desk at which he works in a Dublin flat he said leaves a "simulacrum" still sitting there that is Banville the writer while he returns to being Banville the man.

2 comments:

Fionnchú said...

I'm not surprised to hear the muse overtakes Banville in his creation. Parts of his fiction for better and worse do read as if he's detached from the concerns of more mundane writers. Thanks for setting the scene for us; the one time I heard him (two years ago reading the kernel from what'd bloom into "The Infinities") it did seem he was humbler than I'd expected; not so high and mighty as your Famous Seamus after all.

Gerard Brennan said...

"The musical interludes sat well in the candle-lit church and might well have been composed as a soundtrack to a movie adaptation of John Banville's new novel The Infinities."

Yeah, man. I was thinking of movie scores too. Definitely the most atmospheric reading I ever attended.

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