John Banville: ‘I don’t want to leave the world’

Because I’m between real interviews, and because I’m such a swooning fan of John Banville’s, and because I’ve been unable to locate Banville to see if he’d participate in one of my little Q-and-A’s, I’ve invented one to fill my spot this week.

Banville is an Irish writer who often writes about horrible men in astonishly rich, beautiful prose — the cliched comparison is to Nabokov, and for whatever reason, it’s a combination that I find irresistable. He’s an incredibly vivid writer, and he makes you feel his world distinctly. The language itself is complex and ambitious and lush — verging on the too-pretty, but never quite getting there. Some of his books seem, at times, virtually plotless, while others develop the tension of a great mystery. He also writes thrillers under the pen name Benjamin Black, which I will read the moment I finish the Banville catalog.

Anyway, here is my pretend interview with John Banville.

How are you feeling about death these days, John?


We seem to live in a state of constant anxiety about the book, about reading. Should more people read?


Why did you begin writing crime fiction under the name Benjamin Black?



Did you ever do a reading and interview with the National Post about your recent book, The Infinities?


OK, good enough. If you’re interested in reading Banville, I recommend The Book of Evidence or The Sea as places to start.

And next week I’ll be back with a real interview — a Q-and-A with Ecotone editor Ben George.


  • Scott Eubanks says:

    Pitch-perfect, Shawn. Banville is a writer or rare bravura. I just read Ghosts a couple months ago and the lines, the rhythm in particular, blew my mind. In the best sense, it read like a thousand pages compressed into a short novel. It was one of those books I wasn’t prepared for though. I was disappointed when I realized it was basically The Tempest, even more so when I’d heard that it was an unofficial sequel. I put off finishing it until it went cold, and I regretted it. I’ll try The Book of Evidence.

    • Shawn Vestal says:

      I read Ghosts not long ago, too. That’s one of the uneventful ones — and I loved it.

      Book of Evidence is actually linked to it loosely — Ghosts is kind of sequel. But only in the absolutely most limited way — i’m not sure I would have even noticed it if I hadn’t been told beforehand. He had other instances like that, where a character reappears in more than one story, but the connection is very loosely made.

  • Please do more of these Sean. Loved it!

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