~by Kaya Genç
In The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., her exquisitely composed debut novel, Adelle Waldman gives us Nathaniel (Nate) Piven, a young novelist obsessed with imagining the feelings and ideas of female characters around him. Like Nate, Waldman worked as an essayist for numerous print and web publications. But despite the resemblance between them Waldman’s literary creation is a very dislikable creature: a selfish man lacking the faculty of empathy that is crucial for the novelist he is struggling to become.
On the face of it Nate is a likeable figure. He is successful, well-groomed and attractive. His prospects as a writer are excellent. He has a six-figure book deal and a growing reputation among Brooklyn’s literati. The story sets off months before the publication of his debut novel and quickly reveals how Nate’s gentlemanly façade is a mere ploy that conceals his womanising ambitions. Continue reading
John Banville’s mesmerizing new novel, Ancient Light, is the latest installment of a trilogy, which began in 2000 with the publication of Eclipse, a book much praised for the beauty of its prose. The elderly protagonist of that book, Alexander Cleave, returns here in the form of a fifteen year old boy who falls in love with the mother of a childhood friend. “Billy Gray was my best friend,” he informs us in the straightforward first sentence of the novel, “and I fell in love with his mother.”
The Cleave trilogy consists of three books (Eclipse, Shroud and Ancient Light) featuring three protagonists. In the humble opinion of this writer, these novels are already comparable to Marcel Proust’s seven-volumed A la recherche du temps perdu, published almost a century earlier. Banville’s books are as ambitious in scope and as inventive in devising new ways of story telling. A Proustian project for modern times, the trilogy is among the most exciting examples of literary fiction we’ve been offered over the last decade.
Obsessed with his childhood, the protagonist of the first book, Eclipse, suffers from a strange type of melancholia which employs him with psychic powers. A retired actor, Alex sees ghosts from his past. As he recollects scenes from his childhood, family members and old acquaintances materialize before his eyes. Alex has a psychologically disturbed daughter, Cass, who commits suicide at the end of Eclipse. She takes the lead role in Shroud where she investigates the past of a shady character called Axel Vandel, a philosopher who narrates the second book in which they become lovers. At the beginning of Shroud, Cass makes the disturbing discovery that Axel had long been an impostor, la Tom Ripley, having taken over the identity of an old friend during the turbulent post-war years in Europe. Continue reading