New & Noteworthy

More

Eclipse by John Banville

Eclipse
by John Banville
Knopf
224 pages, $23.00

Some writers trumpet every trick. John Banville is of a higher order. His graceful and precise prose, laced with apt and exquisite metaphors, so perfectly conveys its meaning that it calls little attention to itself. The reader is struck more by the truth of what he says than by the cleverness with which he says it. This is not to suggest, however, that his words don't sing. Here, for instance, the narrator describes lying apprehensively awake just after the birth of his daughter: "Triangles of watery light from the headlamps of passing motor cars kept opening across the ceiling only to be folded smartly again and dropped, like so many ladies' fans, into the drawer where she was asleep."

Unfortunately, in Eclipse the superb writing has to carry the story pretty much alone. Banville has chosen an intellectually compelling idea in exploring the struggle of an actor who discovers that he has never realized himself. Alexander Cleave returns to his childhood home "to locate that singular essential self ... that must be in hiding, somewhere, under the jumble of discarded masks." But such a quest requires so much self-absorption that not even the most interesting ideas and extraordinary writing can save it from becoming tedious. Ghosts and dreams visit Cleave, as he works his way toward an enormous sorrow, but the reader longs for substance. Cleave tells his wife that he is content in his childhood home, because "it offers me a way of being alive without living"; and that, alas, is exactly how one feels inside this novel.

Jump to comments
Presented by
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In