Finished but not Consummated

1.

Ah, yes, love, what they call love, it drives him to distraction, for it is one of that pair of things our kind may not experience, the other being, obviously, death.

Hermes, messenger to the Greek gods, son of Zeus, narrates John Banville’s novel, The Infinities. Centred around ‘old’ Adam (father and son are both named Adam), who lies in a coma, over the course of a single day each member of the family is dutifully paraded for the reader reacting to each other and to a mysterious family visitor. Hermes is given the best lines like the one above, otherwise the novel is disappointing after Banville’s previous brooding novel, The Sea. The ending is risible, pulling each divergent strand into a tidy conclusion in a manner akin to an Edwardian farce.

2.

Nature writing requires more than an account of a journey and representation of what a writer sees and hears to lift a narrative beyond a minor work. In Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places the writer’s fears and sensitivities raised the account to the luminescent. I persevered with his latest book, The Old Ways, but struggled to read more than five pages at a time without the soporific narrative inducing drowsiness. A mixture of tenacity and loyalty drove me to finish the book, but not without skipping whole paragraphs.

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