Thursday, August 17, 2006

John Banville's "Athena"

The narrator was not sympathetic, and he was presumptuous. He begins by bemoaning his loss and I'm supposed to care already? I couldn't figure out the plot. I had to go back and re-read passages to check I hadn’t missed something. I hadn’t. Still, the language was gorgeous, such sentences! And there were funny moments, and 2 or 3 characters I enjoyed hearing about. But the sadness was not sad. Mostly the sadness was maudlin and posed. The joy could hardly be called that. It was trying too hard. Soon I was thinking about that documentary on koala bears we saw recently… how cute they were… or the laundry… global warming. I began to skip whole paragraphs, just scanning for key words. I found out the book is part of a trilogy or something and I was supposed to read another first – yeah, good luck. I was only plugging away because of the prose, which was sublime. Not plugging away without complaint, of course. But things eventually picked up, if not in an entirely healthy way. The puzzle is solved at the end. And it all turns out to be fascinating. And the sadness is not sadness and the joy is not joy because overall the book is preoccupied with authenticity. It was marvelous!

But read the other book(s) first.

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