Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Black Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black


Crime based noir + literature = The Black Eyed Blonde... John Banville writing as Benjamin Black, the same John Banville who won the Man Booker in 2005 for his novel The Sea, which I most definitely will soon read.

I can think of a few writers of this genre whose works are literary.

Take Raymond Chandler for instance.

The thing is that Banville/Black purposefully channels Chandler, his protagonist being Philip Marlowe, agonizingly self conscious, so sad and so self disappointed but, too, self accepting and comfortable in his own skin, wonderfully articulate in the vernacular, totally down to earth, wry, vulnerable, sometimes a tough guy, sometimes overwhelmed, well read, a perceptive judge of others, often cracking wise though not hard boiled, but, above all, honorable, living unflinchingly according to his own code of honor, ethics and morality. 

If every work of literature, (poetry too, in a way), is, as I argue it is, a search for self, a questing in the way of that by accumulating self knowledge borne of experience, then the Black Eyed Blonde exemplifies it as Marlowe comes to certain terms with himself over the progression of what happens. 

And the writing, born of first person narrative, is, I think, flawless, perfect, with Marlowe having a distinctive come-alive voice and fully realized, compelling and believable sensibility. 

Examples of this writing: 

p 89 ‘I’m just your ordinary Joe, trying to earn a buck and stay honest. There are thousands like me, Mrs. Langrishe — millions. We do our dull jobs, we go home tired in the evenings, and we don’t smell of roses.’

p 106 ‘A tabby cat that had been sleeping by the door opened one eye and looked at me, then got up slowly and padded away, its tail lazily twitching. What is it cats know about us that makes them disdain us so?’

p 132 ‘You don’t realise how narrow the space you’re living in is until someone else steps into it.’

And in places the writing is beautifully evocative too: 

p 134 ‘”To you a solitary life is unimaginable. You’re like one of those big fancy cruise ships, clambered all over by sailors, stewards, engineers, fellows in crisp uniforms with braid on their caps. You have to have all this maintenance, not to mention beautiful people dressed in white playing games on the deck. But see that little skiff heading off towards the horizon, the one with the black sail? That’s me. And I’m happy out there.”’

p 165 ‘Outside, the street was deserted, and a warm mist was wafting down from the hills. Across the way, the eucalyptus trees stood motionless in the light from the streetlamp. They were like a band of accusers staring at me silently as I got into the Olds. Hadn’t they told me so? Hadn’t they said I was a fool..?

…Ghostly waves were breaking in the moonlight, and farther out the night was an empty blackness, with no horizon…’

I don't know if Banville/Black out-Chandlers Chandler. I guess I'll have to reread some Raymond Chandler to find out 

I can't recommend this novel strongly enough for sheer reading pleasure.

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