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The Blue Guitar

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  999 Ratings  ·  239 Reviews
John Banville, the Man Booker Prize–winning author of The Sea and Ancient Light, now gives us a new novel - at once trenchant, witty, and shattering - about the intricacies of artistic creation, about theft, and about the ways in which we learn to possess one another, and to hold on to ourselves

Equally self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating, our narrator, Oliver Otway Orme
Hardcover, 255 pages
Published September 15th 2015 by Knopf (first published 2015)
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Richard French A fascinating question. I'd thought of it as set just before the time of writing, but Ann's question invites me to think differently. It could be that…moreA fascinating question. I'd thought of it as set just before the time of writing, but Ann's question invites me to think differently. It could be that a man as discouraged as Oliver could have lived in post-WW2 northern Europe. But I don't recall that Banville mentioned the war or its aftermath either. Maybe Banville had in mind a conflation of time periods. And what country does it take place in? Banville wrote about his sister's friend Dodo as "coming up from Lancashire". A possible second conflation?
I found a clue about the date of the story on the next-to-last page, where Oliver remembers that his mother feared that he'd come down with polio. The polio epidemic -- at least in the U. S. -- occurred during the mid-to late-1950's. Oliver is middle-aged at the time he writes his memoir. If he was 15 or so at the time of the polio epidemic and 45 at the time of writing, the the story could have been set in the mid-1980's. (less)
Richard French A fictional memoir by a talented, intelligent man who knows he's got off course.

Community Reviews

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Oct 01, 2015 rated it really liked it

Well, Banville has done it again. Yet another of his books that has enraptured me. Of course there is his brilliant writing, but I will not attempt to discuss this too much. I can only put myself to shame babbling away in decrepit prose trying to paint his godly ability – his full control of every word he pins and pens down and his hand at effective and captivating turns of phrases (view spoiler)

The n
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Paint your pain in blue
Shelves: read-in-2015
The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso.

“Are you still doing your stories?” Olive asked.
“Stories?” I said. “What do you mean, stories? It’s pictures I do – did. I’m a painter. Was.”
“Oh. I thought it was stories.”
“Well, it isn’t. Wasn’t.”

Or is it… was it?
The triviality of this short exchange between Oliver Orme and his older, gawky sister Olivia is far from inconsequential. And so it is the coincidence of names, the recurrence of vowels and the androgyny of its owners. Words and proper names are the t
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Call me Autolycus. Well, no, don't. Although I am, like that unfunny clown, a picker-up of unconsidered trifles. Which is a fancy way of saying I steal things.

As opening lines go, this one is quite promising with its multitude of possible interpretations and even with the playful plagiarism (thievery) of the better known Herman Melville opening gambit. All artists 'borrow', don't they? Few though admit it so blandly as Oliver Ottway Orme, the self-styled Autolycus of the opening monologue. I'm
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-books
My first by this author and I will be looking out for more especially as many of the reviews tell me this is not his best book! It was still a very good book!

I think what I appreciated the most was the author's talent with words, many of which I have never come across before. I doubt that I will ever use asportation or haruspicate in conversation or in print but I am very glad that John Banville did. And it was not just his knowledge of vocabulary. He also has a gift for putting the words togeth
Dec 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Almeno sii onesto e ammetti di essere un bugiardo”

Inizialmente indecisa tra le tre e le quattro stelle, mi sono decisa per le quattro perché è un libro su cui mi sono fermata spesso a sottolineare e trascrivere, e questo direi che è un inequivocabile segno di gradimento.

Dico subito però che ho avuto i miei momenti di noia, in particolare verso i due terzi del romanzo, quando la storia sembrava impantanata in una interminabile serie di immobili digressioni di rilevanza non immediatamente percepi
guizzi descrittivi e felici, sparse, intuizioni. sulla superficie placida di un bacino d’acqua. troppo placida. yawn.
aggiungo che il lungo sfogo in prima persona da cui affiorano il dramma della morte dell’unica figlioletta, e il post-traumatico congelamento umano della moglie, e l’insistita ammissione di essere imperfetto e impostore ricordano troppo da vicino il canovaccio de la coscienza di andrew. romanzo di doctorow ben più potente, e in metà delle pagine.
tre stelle per generosità.
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016, modern-lit
At first glance this book's starting point is not promising - a mid-life crisis novel told by an unsympathetic, unreliable and self-pitying narrator, but Banville is too good a writer to be limited by cliche.

The narrator is Oliver Orme, a painter who has stopped painting and a petty thief, looking back at a series of events triggered by an affair with his friend's wife. Banville shows a painterly eye for detail, he is an expert at capturing moods and emotions, and there is plenty of dry humour.
Absolutely fantastic.

This is a book you read for its lines and what these lines conjure in your head.

So what will you think about as you read this? Love relationships – the good ones and those on the rocks. What makes them sparkle and what makes them go flat. Childhood memories. No, not just ones of our childhood, but all of them. Which are distorted, and which are not? Are any of them true? Suck on this line: “And anyway, who’s to say that what we see when we’re drunk is not reality, and the s
Domenico Fina
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
La chitarra blu (2015), tradotto quest'anno da noi, comincia con i versi di Wallace Stevens: Le cose come sono / cambiano sulla chitarra blu. Wallace Stevens è oscuro e John Banville non lo è da meno. C'è un pittore in crisi d'identità e di ispirazione, si chiama Oliver Otway Orme, è sulla soglia dei cinquant'anni ed è sposato con Gloria, più giovane di lui di vent'anni. "Non avrei mai dovuto sposare una donna più giovane. Quella sua vivacità sbrigativa alla mia età non è più sopportabile".
Il s
João Carlos
Sep 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: l2016
4 Estrelas Azuis
1 Estrela Mr. John Banville

John Banville - 86º Feira do Livro - Lisboa - Portugal (2016-05-28)

Oliver Otway Orme, o narrador de ”A Guitarra Azul”, o décimo sexto romance do escritor irlandês John Banville (n. 1945), é um Autólico - ”É o meu segredo vergonhoso, um dos meus segredos vergonhosos, do qual, todavia, não me envergonho tanto como devia. Não roubo por dinheiro. Os objectos, os artefactos, que furto – aqui está uma bonita palavra, contida e decorosa – têm, regra geral, po
Occasionally, I feel uneasy and uncertain when it comes to writing a book review. But never as much as on this occasion. I felt totally self-conscious because I don’t have the skills to write a review that is worthy of such a tremendous novel. So bear with me as I stagger through writing this review.

This was my first John Banville novel. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of him, but when I saw that he’s a Man Booker Prize winner, the literary snob in me I decided that I should request it on NetGalley
Jan 11, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Borgorygmic and just a little haruspicating

Banville ha un alter ego: scrive gialli con uno pseudonimo. In internet ho trovato un’intervista in cui dichiara che come Banville, la sua è una scrittura ricercata. Come Black invece usa un linguaggio più diretto.
In un’altra intervista invece, a proposito di un suo noto Banville-romanzo, che non ho letto, si esprime così:

mi auguro di non dare l’impressione di voler rendere le parole scritte il più possibile diverse da quelle pronunciate. Infatti il mi
Sep 25, 2015 rated it did not like it
I really struggled with this one. I’ve never enjoyed John Banville’s books and his latest hasn’t converted me. Too wordy, too much obscure vocabulary for no good reason, a self-obsessed narcissistic male narrator – none of it calls to me. This time he seems to be covering old ground again, with a very typical Banville protagonist, in this case Oliver Orme, a painter and a thief, a painter who can no longer paint and whose latest theft is that of his best friend’s wife. In order to escape the con ...more
Jan 14, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Da un po’ di tempo mia madre suole ripetermi che col passare degli anni sta diventando sempre meno paziente: ignoro se si tratti d’una questione genetica, eppure anch’io sento che sto diventando via via meno indulgente con gli scrittori nei quali m’imbatto; e così può darsi che nei confronti dell’irlandese John Banville, di cui questo è il primo libro che ho letto, qualche lustro addietro non avrei fatto il viso dell’armi: adesso invece lo trovo soltanto noioso e irritante. Sulle prime a dir il ...more
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish-lit, fiction, print
Αυτό που μαθαίνεις από τον Μπάνβιλ είναι πως η ζωή είναι μια σειρά από μικρές απώλειες και τίποτα άλλο.
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: irish-lit
I don't remember the source, but back in art college there was a saying that all artists are thieves. We steal or borrow freely an image, an idea to create our own. Then someone steals from us. What happens when the main character, an artist in John Banville's The Blue Guitar is actually a thief?

From young, Oliver Orme stole things. It was an almost perverse, erotic act that thrilled young Oliver. He kept doing this even as he established an art career. But the greatest act of theft, would be to
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
La Versione di Oliver

Arrivato alla soglia dei 50 anni Oliver Orme, pittore famoso e ormai benestante si trova costretto per una sequenza di “sfortunate” circostanze a fare un bilancio della propria vita. La conclusione del bilancio è a pagina uno del romanzo: “ero un pittore e adesso sono un esperto di dolore” (la traduzione è mia). Il resto del libro è un flusso di coscienza che con una continua sovrapposizione di piani temporali tra passato remoto, passato recente e presente racconta la vers
Ecco, l'ho finito, finalmente sono riuscito a portare a termine quest'impresa titanica direi, o forse no. Forse si tratta soltanto di una lettura di una grande quantità di parole.
Certo la storia è interessante o, se vogliamo, potrebbe essere interessante per qualcuno a cui interessano storie di questo tipo.
Perché, vedi, lui ci racconta con sapiente uso di termini e con accurate descrizioni di particolari e situazioni che alla fine si rivelano di poco o nessun interesse, una storia che tutto som
The end of the affair...

Olly Orme used to be a painter, but his muse has left him. He's still a thief though. He doesn't steal for money – it's the thrill that attracts him. He feels it's essential that his thefts are noticed or they don't count as theft. Usually it's small things he steals – a figurine, a tie-pin. But nine months ago, he stole his friend's wife, and now that theft is about to be discovered.

This is Olly's own story, told directly to the reader in the form of a narrative being wr
switterbug (Betsey)
Jul 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Irish writer John Banville is known for his dark humor, patrician irony, and baroque, (but searing) prose. You don't read him for plot, and the story/characters are sometimes self-referential, or meta- sized; he will refer to characters or concerns that poke at previous novels, or even subtly refer to himself as he is perceived by other writers or critics. This is one novelist, I believe, whose novels can't be fully valued in isolation. To wholly appreciate Banville is to read his entire oeuvre. ...more
Carolyn Francis
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
Perhaps this novel is more intelligent than I am. Then again, perhaps it's just a deliberately obscure enterprise which is overly enamoured with its own exasperating and self-indulgent vocabulary list. ("Haruspicating" anyone? "Borborygmic" perhaps?) The story centres on Oliver, a decaying artist suffering the midlife ennui of feeling more like a spectator than a participant in life. For a novel about someone longing for passionate experience it is remarkably cold-blooded and I didn't like it at ...more
William Koon
Oct 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My lovely friend Claire when I mention John Banville says, “Oh that pretentious boor.” Or words to that effect. However, having just finished The Blue Guitar, I want to re-read it immediately. Like a glorious meal or a sparkling conversation it is too lovely merely to stop enjoying.

On the surface the novel reveals the story of a painter –someties called a “painster”--who steals, who is trying to come back home, who is comfortable with sex but not love. But here the plot is not important. Instead
Kasa Cotugno
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: loc-europe-uk, arc
I started this book several times before finally making it through. There is simply too much book here for the story.
The world forgetting/by the world forgot

L'inizio della lettura è stato pessimo, messa subito alle strette dalla caratteristica dell'opera, ossia un eccesso di digressioni che tradisce forse un po' di auto compiacimento dell'autore.Credo volesse strizzare l'occhio a Barney Panofsky, ma divaga, appunto, un po' troppo.
Nel fiume di parole coglie immagini vivide della natura e degli ambienti in cui fa muovere il personaggio, paradossalmente c'è forse più mondo che anima in questo libro pur introspett
Saleh MoonWalker
Onvan : The Blue Guitar - Nevisande : John Banville - ISBN : 385354266 - ISBN13 : 9780385354264 - Dar 255 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2015
Roger Brunyate
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ireland
Too Much Already!

I should have known. Banville is an author who requires long periods of recuperation for his readers between books. A few weeks ago, I reviewed the beautiful Everyman edition of Banville's The Book of Evidence and The Sea. Coming to him then, after a gap of several years, I was struck how well his florid gourmet style played against his subjects in each case, the one justifying the other. But this time, the style seems merely self-indulgent, and the story—a warming-over of all
Deborah Pickstone
I now see why John Banville is admired as a writer. I had only read his Benjamin Black incarnation and was not impressed with Quirke. This is written very much as a stream of consciousness in whatever point in time he is at (this moves) and provides an interesting picture of a very human and fallible human being who is in many ways unlikeable for his actions but remains likeable withal. There were moments when I just stopped to think about a perspective new to me or just to play with the words u ...more
Debbie Robson
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There has been a lot written lately about the difficulty of reading John Banville. A writer for the New Yorker recently pointed out that his books are actually prose poems. I would agree. I have now read five novels by Banville, The Sea, The Ancient Light trilogy and this latest The Blue Guitar.
I have some advice to offer that I even had to remind myself of, whilst reading The Blue Guitar. Don’t expect a lot of plot. There just isn’t much in a John Banville. Expect him to go off at a tangent (o
Stephen P
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: interiority
It’s about the veneer. The transparent polished surface so fragile at first reflecting the gleam and shards of light. A surface appearance of highly polished gloss. A discovery made upon opening the top cover and peering into Banville’s prose. Entering into it, an eased slide, to find an artist who no longer paints. A despicable man. Consumed within himself, fraught with unconscionable betrayals while pandering to his other art of thievery.

Soon though I tired of this contemptible creep who gaine
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-kindle, netgalley
Oliver Orme is not an attractive character. He's self-centred, self-obsessed and careless of other people's feelings and the lives around him that he is destroying. He returns to his home town which, in typical Banville style, could be anywhere on the coast of Britain and at during any time period in the last 60 years, and slowly disintegrates into apathy. When we meet him, he can no longer paint, and he has just started an affair with his best friend's wife. His own wife, Gloria, is still griev ...more
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Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland. His father worked in a garage and died when Banville was in his early thirties; his mother was a housewife. He is the youngest of three siblings; his older brother Vincent is also a novelist and has written under the name Vincent Lawrence as well as his own. His sister Vonnie Banville-Evans has written both a children's novel and a reminiscence of growing up ...more

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“This is the way it is with me, always looking in or looking out, a chilly pane of glass between me and a remote and longed-for world.” 9 likes
“… a thief’s heart is an impetuous organ, and while inwardly he throbs for absolution, at the same time he can’t keep from bragging.” 1 likes
More quotes…