John Banville, The Infinities
The most wonderfully WTF book in years
“The world is always ready to be amazed, but the self, that lynx-eyed monitor, sees all the subterfuges, all the cut corners, and is not deceived.”
Cars powered by brine, evolution and relativity debunked, Greek gods seducing modern maidens: The Infinities might be the most wonderfully WTF book in years. The story, mostly narrated by a guy who says he’s Hermes (though you’ll have your doubts), concerns one day in the life of the Godleys, an emotionally complicated Irish family whose patriarch lies comatose and stroke-stricken. They, along with a chorus of grotesque bit players, gather to fret and fornicate and ponder the likelihood that Old Adam will finally kick the bucket. (“To make a happy ending one must stop short of the end,” Hermes sighs.) Banville is a sensuous writer, compulsively stopping to tell us how cold the silk feels, what the pond water smells like, how a plucked chicken resembles the skin of an old man’s back. We’re talking near-Woody Allen levels of over-contemplation of the everyday, except it’s not worry or paranoia but a kind of hyper-perfectionism that drives these characters to aver and then amend nearly every description of this foible or that emotion. And yet, The Infinities — endlessly agile and grimly humorous — never gets so lost in its metaphors and detours that it can’t safely return to those lovably self-concerned Godleys. Oh yeah, even Rex the family dog takes a turn at the storytelling. And he’s pretty good at it. WTF FTW.