I originally bought this as a remainder and left it unread for several years, suspecting it might be a vain or indulgent expThe End Justifies the Mean
I originally bought this as a remainder and left it unread for several years, suspecting it might be a vain or indulgent experiment in crime genre fiction by one of my favourite authors, John Banville.
Instead, it’s a masterful and easy to read pathological, if not necessarily surgical, dissection of family, social and religious issues in 1950’s Irish Catholic Dublin and Boston. Banville subtly utilises all of his literary skills to conjure a convincing irreverent, if not slightly sacrilegious, crime thriller.
Writing in the guise or disguise of Benjamin Black, he juggles adoption, abortion, murder and petty thuggery; parenthood actual, surrogate, foster and unsuspecting; sisters spiritual, nursing and consanguine; life lived and tasks undertaken with both caution and abandonment; systemized vice and spontaneous virtue; evangelism, charity, love, violence and power all dispensed and discharged in the name of the Father and of the father.
Black’s target is those who would argue that we know what’s good for you better than you do, and that the end justifies not just the means, but the meanness. Religion is less under threat from those who would question it than those who would declare false allegiance.
Quirke of Love and Fate
The protagonist, Quirke, himself a motherless child, a black sheep, a widower, an uncle, a coveter, a doubter, and a dreamer, is flawed but tenacious in his pursuit of the truth, even if he risks pulling the temple of family, employment, society and religion down around him.
I originally wondered whether "Christine Falls" was a natural water feature. It turns out to be the name of the victim who triggers the Quirke’s rollercoaster ride, but I wonder whether it symbolizes the decline and fall of virtuous religious influence on society through the eyes of a mother and daughter who would have had every right to feel let down by the powers that be, both mortal and immortal. ...more
In 1996, Ellroy toured Australia with one of my favourite bands, the Jackson Code. Ellroy did a number of readings from AT, then the band playedOn Tour
In 1996, Ellroy toured Australia with one of my favourite bands, the Jackson Code. Ellroy did a number of readings from AT, then the band played and then he sang/narrated with the band. It was a great night, although I am hazy on the detail. It was an early date with my wife, and I didn't get as drunk as I would otherwise have done (and do now), but I am hazy nevertheless. I don't know how they got the idea to do a gig like this. I remember that Ellroy wore a great Hawaiian shirt. He looked like he had just given up alcohol, but still had a hangover. He was still hurting from his last hangover and he was now hurting from the abstinence as well. Sounds like Purgatory. Of course, my memory might have totally failed me and he might actually have been swigging from a bottle of bourbon the whole way through the gig.
The Jackson Code conjure(d) up beautiful geographical atmospheres that suggest early settlement Sydney Cove, France, California, anywhere noir where people are desperate to make a quid. Their singer, Mark Snarski, has one of the best male rock voices I've ever heard, if you're into David McComb of the Triffids and/or John Cale and/or Mark's nearly equally talented brother, Rob Snarski (Black-eyed Susans). I think Ellroy sang a few covers, as well as talking over the top of their soundtrack. If I said one of the covers was "Blue Velvet", I might be wrong, but I hope you get the drift. The gig was a unique opportunity to see a side of someone you wouldn't otherwise see.
Ellroy signed books and chatted after the gig. I already had a copy of AT, which I was reading and hadn't thought to bring to the gig. I decided to buy another copy for a friend and get him to sign it. I stupidly decided I would give the autographed copy to an ex-girlfriend. When I gave it to her months later, she grunted some sense of unenthusiastic recognition, but she ultimately thought the book was too long and the sentences were too short and never finished it. Don't you hate ungrateful gift recipients? Don't you hate ungrateful ex-girlfriends (or boyfriends)? One day, I'll break into her place and steal it back.
How Dedicated Can You Be?
Some readers might wonder why I didn't just keep the book. I wouldn't have to break in and confront her husband who's a bouncer. Good question. Well, I had made the mistake of asking Ellroy to dedicate it to my friend, Janet. He asked me what I wanted him to say and I said, "I hope this book doesn't remind you of your ex-boyfriend, because he gives me the shits." In Janet's eyes, that would be definitive evidence that I had actually met him and I wasn't bullshitting her. He looked at me quizzically, then he tittered politely like a Hollywood exec rejecting a pitch, and I could tell he wasn't going to comply with my request. Still, he scribbled away and handed the book back to me in a way that suggested that he and my ex had just signed a pact and maybe, perhaps, I shouldn't sneak a peek at what he had written. Obviously, my wife grabbed it when we got in the car (she was driving) and she exclaimed, "What's this all about?" I know better than to answer when she asks that question, so I signalled for her to show me the book. Inside I noticed that Ellroy had written: "Janet, you remind me of my mother, you've got really great tits. James Ellroy" I did get one side-benefit out of this experience, and that was I got to do a near-perfect replica of Ellroy's autograph on my copy of AT. But don't tell anyone.
The waiter set a glass down on the table in front of me. It was my sixth drink in an hour. I couldn’t even remem"A Little Quiet Fun At My Own Expense"
The waiter set a glass down on the table in front of me. It was my sixth drink in an hour. I couldn’t even remember ordering it. I drank it. It seemed like the right thing to do. The waiter watched me put down the empty glass. “Another shot?” he asked. I nodded. “You’ll have to pay for this one.” I looked around the room in search of my benefactor. I saw her first, sitting alone at a nearby table, then I saw her legs. They didn’t look like any legs I had seen before. Then they moved. She could see I was watching them. She crossed her legs, and I hoped to die, but not straight away. She reached into her handbag and withdrew a packet of cigarettes. She flipped it open and put one in her mouth. Her lips glistened the whole time. Then she fumbled around in her bag for a lighter. She returned the bag to the chair beside her, empty-handed. She looked at me. I shrugged. I had given up smoking since my last novel, only I hadn’t told my author. There was much I hadn’t confided in him. The time had come to make some changes in my life. I didn’t move. I watched her mind working. It’s not as easy as it sounds. I wasn't sure whether she was my type. “Well…” She paused. She was improvising. It wasn’t something she was normally expected to do. My author usually made our decisions for us. “If you won’t light my cigarette, will you at least kiss me?” I ambled over to her table and sat down. But first she had another request:“Stop looking at my legs.” I did as I was told. I was hoping the effort would be rewarded. She returned her cigarette to the pack and put it back in her bag. I looked into her eyes. I could see nothing unless you want to count lust, or was that just a projection on my part? I wondered what she saw in my eyes. The same? I moved closer to her, and had another look. I clasped my hands around her face. Then I pulled her closer and kissed her. She licked her lips, inquisitively. “Christian Dior?” She asked. “Of course,” I replied. Her lips embarked on the most direct path towards mine. “Kiss me harder.” I did. She slipped her hand inside my blouse and squeezed my breast. Maybe I could like her after all. ...more