The day of which I speak I was walking along the main street of the town. It was November, or March, not cold, but neutral. From a lowering sky fine rain was falling, so fine as to be hardly felt. It was morning, and the housewives were out, with their shopping bags and headscarves. A questing dog trotted busily past me looking neither to right nor left, following a straight line drawn invisibly on the pavement. There was a smell of smoke and butcher's meat, and a brackish smell of the sea, and, as always in the town in those days, the faint sweet stench of pigswill. The open doorway of a hardware shop breathed brownly at me as I went past. Taking in all this, I experienced something to which the only name I could give was happiness, although it was not happiness, it was more and less than happiness. What had occurred? What in the commonplace scene before me, the ordinary sights and sounds and smells of the town, had made this unexpected thing, whatever it was, burgeon suddenly inside me like the possibility of an answer to all the nameless yearnings of my life? Everything was the same now as it had been before, the housewives, the busy dog, the same, and yet in some way transfigured. Along with the happiness went a feeling of anxiety. It was as if I were carrying some frail vessel that it was my task to protect, like the boy in the story told to us in religious class who carried the Host through the licentious streets of ancient Rome hidden inside his tunic; in my case, howeber, it seemed I was myself the precious vessel. Yes, that was it, it was I that was happening here.This kind of paragraph is why I read. Circumstance transforms person as smells are smelled, sights seen, and a complex experience develops inside a person. An experience that requires a similie, since the circumstances are not extraordinary - only the experience of it is. The person is transformed and then, in turn, transforms the environment - a shop door breathes and not only breathes, but does so 'brownly.' John Banville writes here to get at the birth of self awareness in a boy. This boy becomes the man we then read of in his novel Eclipse - an actor - who has suspended his career having frozen up on stage one night. Banville actually spends less than a page taking us through the interior actions carried out in this man on that day in his boyhood, but I feel like I have known him always, so well imagined is this small moment.
Sheila tells me that Banville has an alternate writing persona in Benjamin Black, where he drops his care and can write fiction in a pulpier vein. It sounds like the way some actors are freed by working in a mask, or playing a character behind a big beard or false nose. Knowing they are 'not themselves' they can take risks they would not otherwise take. Now that I'm getting to know Banville I am going to have to check out Christina Falls and meet his alter ego.