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Posts Tagged ‘John Banville’

From Sand and Cactus

May 14, 2015 | by

Raymond Chandler the environmentalist.


The wise man, as Biblical lore has it, built his house on the rock, his foolish compatriot on the sand—guidance that mankind has ignored for millennia. In the late nineteenth century, the pioneers, or developers, or “boosters” who founded and promoted Los Angeles as a new “instant city” were among those to lay substantial foundations in what was essentially sand. Not on a desert, exactly—that myth’s been debunked—but perilously close to one, and on the shore of an undrinkable ocean.

Today, it’s not an excess of water—as in the scriptures and children’s song—that threatens Southern California, but a scarcity of it. The state is considering implementing desalination centers. As has been remarked in Europe, the city defines itself against its medieval origins; American metropolises define themselves against the wilderness. In John Fante’s 1939 LA novel, Ask the Dust, his alter ego, Arturo Bandini, revels in his adopted home’s mastery of nature: “This great city, these mighty pavements and proud buildings, they were the voice of my America. From sand and cactus we Americans had carved an empire.” Read More »

Pulling a Rabbit Out of a Glass Hat

February 11, 2015 | by

Richard Price and the evolving role of pseudonyms.


From the cover of The Whites.

Richard Price’s new novel, The Whites, isn’t by Richard Price, except that it is. It’s by Harry Brandt, Price’s pseudonym, but it’s also not really by Brandt—Price’s name is on the cover, too, and so Price is Brandt, obviously, and it follows then that Brandt is Price, and thus, uh …

Let’s start over.

Richard Price’s new novel, The Whites, is by Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt. It says so right there on the cover. Big deal, you might say; another author slumming it in genre fiction by creating a false identity for himself. But by publishing both his name and his pseudonym on the cover, Price has parted with centuries of pseudonymous convention. He hasn’t just pulled back the curtain. He’s brought up the house lights and waved to the audience. And he did it all, according to the New York Times, because he got sort of annoyed. Read More »


“All They Do Is Eat,” And Other News

April 29, 2013 | by


  • “It’s about eating lunch. They eat salad and cake. All they do is eat”: in which a two-year-old judges books by their covers.
  • “He tends to devoice a lot of the fricatives, but I take that purely as an idiolectal variant”: an (in-depth) interview with the linguist who created Game of Thrones’ multiple languages.
  • Fifty authors, including Hilary Mantel, Tom Stoppard, and John Banville, have contributed annotated first editions to an English PEN auction. Which is to say, they can (theoretically) be yours.
  • The Henry Miller Memorial Library decamps temporarily to Miller’s hometown of Brooklyn for the Big Sur Brooklyn Bridge festival.
  • Ishiguro on film, Tóibín on opera: six novelists on their second-favorite art forms.



Music to Write By, and Other News

November 26, 2012 | by

  • The six-hour duration may be aspirational, but you have to love this writing sound track.
  • Ann Lamott tweets that she will stake her reputation on the varied titles mention in her New York Times “By the Book” column.
  • And speaking of mutual admiration: authors choose their favorite books of 2012.
  • “The first hard-boiled female protagonists were written by men.” A brief history of tough dames.
  • “Those poor scribes … had their work cut out for them.” John Banville on the Book of Kells.
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    Buy Elvis’s Library Card

    August 9, 2012 | by




    The Driftwood Remains: My Search for A Bankable Title

    December 19, 2011 | by

    Hope: A Tragedy was the first title I suggested to my editor. I really thought it was right.

    “No,” he said.

    My parents didn’t love me, so I have low self-esteem, and I agreed to keep working. These are some of the alternate titles I presented, and the reasoning for or against them:

    The Diary of Anne Frankenstein:
    My working title; I never really intended to use it—too Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters—but it had grown on me, and I mentioned it to my editor as I was finishing the manuscript. This caused him to proclaim a couple of “title rules” for this novel:

    1) Nothing funny.

    2) No mentioning Anne Frank.

    Apparently, people don’t buy “funny” novels, and they don’t buy books about Anne Frank. Which is, ironically enough, pretty fucking funny.

    It’s a Wonderful Ka-Pow:
    Too funny.

    Did I Ever Tell You How Unlucky You Are?
    Too funny.

    To Those About to Be Consumed by Flames:
    Too Sedaris.

    Nowhere Ho:
    I liked this title quite a bit, a play on the old expression “Westward Ho.” Kugel, the main character, wishes for nothing more than to be nowhere—a place with no past, no history, no wars, no genocides. My editor liked it as well, and began mentioning it to people, testing it out. It turns out young people don’t know that expression anymore. The poor dears were very confused. My editor was disappointed. I wanted to run to Nowhere even more than I had before.

    There was a brief concern that they wouldn’t know who Anne Frank is, either, which, we decided, would be pretty fucking funny.

    The Sufferers:
    I do my best to stay out of bookstores because they make me want to kill myself, but apparently The X is a bit of a trend now. The Informers, The Intuitionist, The Imperfectionists. Et cetera. There was some concern it would be seen as that. I had a difficult time believing that things had gotten so bad that the word “The” was a trend.

    “Like the Bible?” I asked.

    “Keep working,” I was told.

    The Lacerations and The Crematorians died for the same reason. Probably for the best, those. Read More »