Very Good Paragraphs

This one’s from Acocella’s review of Banville’s new one in the 8 October 2012 New Yorker. The paragraph turns to Banville’s ickiness in terms of personality, which isn’t why I think it’s very good. Banville can be whoever the hell he wants if he continues writing such sentences as “Remember what April was like when we were young, that sense of liquid rushing and the wind taking blue scoops out of the air and the birds beside themselves in the budding trees?” But look at what happens with time in this graf, the way Acocella runs through an event twice to kind of cross-list it in separate categories:

For some people, Banville is not a defender of art but a cold fish. His arrogance is legend. When he received the Booker for “The Sea,” he declared, in his acceptance speech, that it was “nice to see a work of art win the Booker Prize.” Soon afterward, he uncharacteristically tried to mitigate the offense. All he was trying to say, he explained, was that “there should be a decent prize for real books,” by which he seems to have meant heavily crafted, highbrow books like his own. That way, he figured, more publishers would buy such books, as opposed to what he called the “good, middlebrow fiction” that the Booker judges favored. This explanation, needless to say, made everything worse. [Ha!] As he tells it, he despises even his own work. His novels, he said to Belinda McKeon, in a 2009 Paris Review interview, were to him “an embarrassment and a deep source of shame. They’re better than anyone else’s, of course, but not good enough for me.” In 2005, he reviewed Ian McEwan’s novel “Saturday” in The New York Review of Books, and called it “a self-satisfied and, in many ways, ridiculous” book—a judgment that was met with considerable indignation in many quarters of London’s literary world, where McEwan is widely respected. In was later that year that Banville won the Booker, and honor that, under the circumstances, annoyed a lot of people. Then came his remarks on the middle-brow fiction being produced by his colleagues. Banville recalls that when he was young he had few friends in the literary world. By the end of 2005, he no doubt had fewer.

It ought not go unreported that my original transcription ended with the sentence, “By the end of 2005, he no doubt had a fever,” which might be better, Joan.

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