Sunday, October 19, 2008

Whatever happened to...? (Books - Christine Falls by Benjamin Black aka John Banville)

Jude the Obscure
(in progress)
Among the Russians
Proust and the Squid

Red Cavalry (in progress)
The Solitudes (started, don't know if I'll get through it)
Rhythms of the Brain
Neuroscience of Cognitive Development
(in progress)
Attachment, Play, and Authenticity (in progress)
The Dead Fish Museum
In the Land of No Right Angles

Do you see Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, Christine Falls, or Beneath the Wheel anywhere on this list? Not to mention Old School or The Meaning of Night (soon to arrive in the mail). No? Well neither do I. I guess it's official. I've fallen off the list. It was bound to happen, I can only comfort myself with the fact that it took two months rather than two weeks. So much in the rest of life is obligatory. Pleasure reading must be frolicsome, I need to feel free to roam.

That being said
It was not the dead that seemed to Quirke uncanny but the living. When he walked into the morgue long after midnight and saw Malachy Griffin there he felt a shiver along his spine that was to prove prophetic, a tremor of troubles to come. Mal was in Quirke's office, sitting at the desk. Quirke stopped in the unlit body room, among the shrouded forms on the trolleys, and watched him through the open doorway. He was seated with his back to the door, leaning forward intently in his steel-framed spectacles, the desk lamp lighting the left side of his face and making an angry pink glow through the shell of his ear. He had a file open on the desk before him and was writing in it with peculiar awkwardness. This would have struck Quirke as stranger than it did if he had not been drunk. The scene sparked a memory in him from their school days together, startlingly clear, of Mal, intent like this, sitting at a desk among fifty other earnest students in a big hushed hall, as he laboriously composed an examination essay, with a beam of sunlight falling slantways on him from a window somewhere high above. A quarter of a century later he still had the smooth seal's head of oiled black hair, scrupulously combed and parted.

This is John Banville's alter-ego Benjamin Black's opening paragraph to Christine Falls, and while Banville may be slumming in another genre and feeling as frolicsome in his writing as I do in my reading, it doesn't seem to compromise the quality any. In just one paragraph and we have setting, characters established - drunk and dreamy versus earnest, angry and scrupulous, and character background promising the tension of the emotions of early friendships, a stark image, and an atmosphere of forboding - all written with clarity and beauty.

Mal is the son of a powerful judge Garrett Griffin. In his childhood, Griffin adopts Quirke from an orphanage and seems to favor Quirke as the boys grow up. But Malachy marries the woman Quirke loved and becomes a reputable obstetrition while Quirke becomes a pathologist and, his life not quite dealing him what he had hoped for, takes to drinking. The first fifty pages are reminding me a bit of East of Eden, with that brotherly theme playing prominently. Thanks for the recommendation, Sheila. I have also begun a nostalgic re-read of Beneath the Wheel as I have seen a German book challenge floating around the blog-o-sphere. I'm not doing the challenge, owing to my frolicsome nature, but I have been inspired by it. I was crazy about Hesse in my early twenties, so I am curious to see how he holds up to re-reading.

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