Staff Picks: What Book World critics and editors are reading now


Steven Levingston, senior editor

I confess I’d never read a word of Irish novelist John Banville until I’d watched the irresistible three-part crime series “Quirke” (2014). Quirke is a dipsomaniacal pathologist tortured by his past who gets obsessively caught up in the mysteries that sometimes land on a slab in his Dublin morgue. After watching the first episode, based on “Christine Falls,” the first book in the series, which Banville first wrote under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, I was intrigued to see how the Nobel-worthy author created his 1950s world in words. The novel “Christine Falls” fills in deep, dark patches missing from the television adaptation as Quirke investigates something shady involving his own family and the church. Banville, who won the Booker Prize for “The Sea,” has heard every accolade for his craft, imagery, thematic complexity and psychology of his characters. So I can add little other than to say it astonishes me how he achieves perfection with every word choice, every sentence, every paragraph and chapter. Reading him is a lesson in precision. One sentence should suffice. When Quirke is left alone after an awkward conversation with a woman he once loved (and probably still does), Banville writes: “He had the hot and guilty sense of having tinkered with something too delicately fine for his clumsy fingers.”


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