To Banville, an apostle of the ordinary, the deep appeal of city life is that here the ordinary may be made magical ... Pity the fool who’s reading this book to get a clear and orderly picture of Dublin. But oh, what a topographical map has been drawn by Paul Joyce’s evocative photographs and Banville’s observant eye ... Banville’s soarings, like a hawk’s, are both wild and comprehensive, taking in everything and imagining more. One can’t distinguish his descriptions from the things described, the dancer from the dance ... The better memoirs tend not to be principally about the suffering of the author but rather about what the author has noticed in his or her life, what is cherished or abhorred — often about pure information worth imparting. The better memoirs are the more generous, looking outside the self. I don’t think it’s an accident that the photographs of Banville in this book are shot from behind, showing him looking away.
Away from Everyman and, at least in part, toward getting inside the perceptions of the singular self — the 'I.' I say this without prejudice. The macroscopically and collectively seen Dublin of Joyce becomes the idiosyncratically inhabited Dublin of Banville ... If Joyce worked with a cartographer’s attention, using the most minute place details to create paths through the city — paths that are still regularly walked by Ulysses aficionados — Banville goes the other way. He puts himself almost entirely in the care of chance and the seemingly unscripted logic of personal association, allowing memories and digressive asides to proliferate as they will. His memoir has almost no sense of sequence. Instead, a curious constraint is imposed ... Though billed as a memoir, Time Pieces is only occasionally personal in the memoiristic way. Banville works in many pages of chatty travelogue, complete with pocket histories of this or that building or event. There are also occasional philosophical interludes, even a few teasing personal asides. Such a mash-up of things may sound like a liability — to some extent it is — but it does also free the author from his penchant for full-on lyricism ... Time Pieces comes across as a vexingly undecided little book. But though it doesn’t always live up to what had seemed its larger promise — that it will be a deeper mining of place and time — there are pleasures to be had ... Time Pieces does not find a logical place to stop. There is no real culmination, no sense of circuit completed. The book ends because — well, maybe just because everything ends.
His reputation tends more to the dour and acerbic. Thus it isit is a welcome surprise to read his generous and inventive new book ... If Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory showed us the memoir as riddle and Martin Amis’s Experience gave us the memoir as history, Mr. Banville has written the memoir as place ... The author is first of all a storyteller, and several of the stories in Time Pieces present the many-sided gem of Irish magic ... Mr. Banville gives himself something of a premature epitaph: 'Should have lived more, written less,' he laments. Fair enough. But what he has written here is beautiful.
...a lovely quasi-memoir and multi-leveled portrait of Dublin ... Time Pieces has much more to it than nostalgia and regrets. It's an inquiry into memory, shifting attention, and, above all, inexorable time, that ultimate unfathomable ... [a] shimmering, meandering, frequently beautiful but somewhat elusive book.
If you’ve ever wandered the streets of Dublin, you’ve heard the music of the voices; it’s a place where everyone, in one way or another, seems to be singing. Short of flying there for St. Patrick’s Day (ah, if only), you can hear that music in John Banville’s companionable new memoir-of-a-city ... I read the book breathlessly in one go, falling a little bit in love with the author (as one should, for all memoir) and wishing myself on those ankle-twisting sidewalks.
This breezy volume is both personal and historical. And though it can easily be read over a weekend, it spans the centuries and provides valuable insights not only into this ancient, shape-shifting city, but also into Banville's life and work ... For better or worse, this being John Banville, we come across words like execrated and epicene. And though Banville offers up some straightforward history, it would have been interesting to hear more about how this most Irish of places is actually entirely different from the rest of Ireland. Nevertheless, when you are done with Time Pieces, you will know Dublin - and John Banville - a whole lot better, and will want to learn even more.
[Banville] seamlessly blends personal history with the story of Dublin to produce a rich non-traditional autobiography suffused with compelling descriptions and captivating anecdotes ... Time Pieces concludes with Banville wondering, almost nostalgically, like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 'boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,' what path time will take him on next. The reward for the reader of this fine memoir is that Banville has already provided an indelible image of his impressive footprints.
Banville often gives his narrators an anguished sensitivity to the sublime, while also making them aware of their own sordid compulsions and ruthlessness. In his new memoir he drafts a self-portrait in the general likeness of these hard-hearted, heartbroken anti-heroes ... Banville is an expert in melancholy urban phenomena: the pleasures of dilapidation and overgrown parklands, the long-gone, gaudy shops of one’s past that blaze in the memory ... beautifully true and vaguely obscene, with people and place and weather positioned in artful, erotic balance.
Banville’s professed ambivalence about his local turf is an obvious challenge for a memoir that’s ostensibly about place. If he doesn’t seem much interested in his native locale, why should we be? The shrug with which he addresses his subject is apparent at various points in the narrative ... Even so, Time Pieces can be can invitation to wonder, a quality invoked by the accompanying photographs by Paul Joyce, who captures his landscape scenes as living characters in a centuries-old drama.
The recollections on display in Time Pieces are episodic and very personal. Accompanied by Paul Joyce’s cityscape photos, the text blends dreamlike recollections with wry character sketches and glimpses of civic strife. Although he devotes an abundance of maudlin, occasionally flabby pages to a single short-lived courtship, most of Banville’s anecdotes are quite vivid.
Addressing his departed aunt, with whom he lived on first moving to Dublin but whose death he ignored, he writes, 'Forgive me, dear old aunt ... one’s inner monster stays forever young' ... That kind of introspection is rare in this book. It’s about Dublin. Of the book’s 49 striking photographs taken by Paul Joyce, only a few include Banville. He’s facing away from the camera in all of them.
Forays into Dublin’s streets and pubs and Ireland’s history mix with memories and images flickering about like film running in a darkened room, all brought to life with picturesque-perfect details ... The text is beautifully complemented with Joyce’s well-chosen photographs. Told in a conversational style both luscious and luxuriant, this is exquisite work by a master craftsman.
...[a] subtle, elegant memoir ... The real unity of the narrative rests in the remarkable interplay between text and image ... Dublin could not have asked for a more perceptive observer, or a more enchanting portrait.