Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Even though I wasn’t especially enamored of the first book that I read by Benjamin Black (aka John Banville), when I saw his newest novel The Lemur on the library shelf I thought that it would be fitting to have the whole collection (3) of his Black works on our blog. For a refresher see blogs of 06.18.08 (Dorothea) and 03.06.09 (Charlotte).

Here’s the premise of the story: “I’m here to tell you, everybody has secrets, mostly guilty ones.” John Glass is a retired journalist. He has been hired for $1 million by his father-in-law to write the latter’s biography with “all the facts.” As Mr. Mullholland was an undercover CIA agent, one can expect that there may be some very interesting facts. Glass in turn hires a researcher to assist him, a young man who in physical appearance and mannerisms reminds Glass of a lemur (we’ll come back to this).

The research opens the proverbial Pandora’s Box with unintended, unanticipated, disastrous consequences. It’s hard to say too much without spoiling the story. In the end this reader was left with just as many questions as answers: Why did the father-in-law really commission this book? What will John Glass do with the secrets he has uncovered? What will happen with his own secret?

I found out after finishing the book that it was originally published as a serial in the New York Times Sunday Magazine beginning in January 2008. It would be interesting to know which came first: the writing or the decision to publish it as a serial. I would guess the latter as the serialization requires a certain pacing all its own. This may also explain why Black moves the setting from Dublin to New York and abandons the pathologist Quirke from the first two novels for the journalist Glass albeit Glass is still an Irishman.

And it’s a mystery to me why Glass (and Black) refer to the lemur as a rodent when in fact the lemur is a primate. Is this intentional? Is there a message there…or merely bad editing? I did enjoy this book – very good for a plane ride – but I still prefer John Banville to Benjamin Black.

No comments:

Post a Comment