John Banville‘s name was surprisingly omitted from this year’s Man Booker Prize longlist. The Irish novelist has been shortlisted for the award several times, and won it in 2005 for his novel The Sea, and many were expecting his name to appear on the list for his forthcoming novel, The Blue Guitar. Banville is not an author for everyone: he pens novels filled with beautiful but abstruse prose, and his characters are seldom likable. Early reviews of The Blue Guitar indicate that the novel will once again bring readers into a story of memory and regret narrated by a narcissistic but self-loathing and highly unreliable narrator. The Blue Guitar is “at once trenchant, witty, and shattering—about the intricacies of artistic creation, about theft, and about the ways in which we learn to possess one another, and to hold on to ourselves,” according to its official synopsis.
If John Banville might be too high-minded for some readers, his alter-ego, Benjamin Black has written another densely-plotted and highly entertaining crime story. Black’s new Quirke novel, Even the Dead, will be released shortly after The Blue Guitar. Black’s prose is just as elegant as Banville’s, and both sides of the Irish writer explore similar themes, but Black is arguably much better at plot (a crucial factor in any crime novel.)