From the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea and the Benjamin Black mysteries, a memoir, complemented by photographs, that unfolds around the author's recollections, experience, and imaginings of Dublin.
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.