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Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir

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For the young John Banville, Dublin was a place of enchantment and yearning. Each year, on his birthday - the 8th of December, Feast of the Immaculate Conception - he and his mother would journey by train to the capital city, passing frosted pink fields at dawn, to arrive at Westland Row and the beginning of a day's adventures that included much-anticipated trips to Clery' For the young John Banville, Dublin was a place of enchantment and yearning. Each year, on his birthday - the 8th of December, Feast of the Immaculate Conception - he and his mother would journey by train to the capital city, passing frosted pink fields at dawn, to arrive at Westland Row and the beginning of a day's adventures that included much-anticipated trips to Clery's and the Palm Beach ice-cream parlour. The aspiring writer first came to live in the city when he was eighteen. In a once grand but now dilapidated flat in Upper Mount Street, he wrote and dreamed and hoped. It was a cold time, for society and for the individual - one the writer would later explore through the famed Benjamin Black protagonist Quirke - but underneath the seeming permafrost a thaw was setting in, and Ireland was beginning to change.Alternating between vignettes of Banville's own past, and present-day historical explorations of the city, Time Pieces is a vivid evocation of childhood and memory - that 'bright abyss' in which 'time's alchemy works' - and a tender and powerful ode to a formative time and place for the artist as a young man. Accompanied by images of the city by photographer Paul Joyce.


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For the young John Banville, Dublin was a place of enchantment and yearning. Each year, on his birthday - the 8th of December, Feast of the Immaculate Conception - he and his mother would journey by train to the capital city, passing frosted pink fields at dawn, to arrive at Westland Row and the beginning of a day's adventures that included much-anticipated trips to Clery' For the young John Banville, Dublin was a place of enchantment and yearning. Each year, on his birthday - the 8th of December, Feast of the Immaculate Conception - he and his mother would journey by train to the capital city, passing frosted pink fields at dawn, to arrive at Westland Row and the beginning of a day's adventures that included much-anticipated trips to Clery's and the Palm Beach ice-cream parlour. The aspiring writer first came to live in the city when he was eighteen. In a once grand but now dilapidated flat in Upper Mount Street, he wrote and dreamed and hoped. It was a cold time, for society and for the individual - one the writer would later explore through the famed Benjamin Black protagonist Quirke - but underneath the seeming permafrost a thaw was setting in, and Ireland was beginning to change.Alternating between vignettes of Banville's own past, and present-day historical explorations of the city, Time Pieces is a vivid evocation of childhood and memory - that 'bright abyss' in which 'time's alchemy works' - and a tender and powerful ode to a formative time and place for the artist as a young man. Accompanied by images of the city by photographer Paul Joyce.

7 review for Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    I'm always fascinated by the links and coincidences between my reading life and my real life, so when John Banville mentioned early in this book that there are no such things as coincidences, I wondered about his wisdom. Admittedly, he didn't say that this was his own opinion but that it was a Borges quote relayed to him by someone else. As it turns out, I now think that Banville believes firmly in coincidence. Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir seems to me to be a book that is quite shot through with I'm always fascinated by the links and coincidences between my reading life and my real life, so when John Banville mentioned early in this book that there are no such things as coincidences, I wondered about his wisdom. Admittedly, he didn't say that this was his own opinion but that it was a Borges quote relayed to him by someone else. As it turns out, I now think that Banville believes firmly in coincidence. Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir seems to me to be a book that is quite shot through with coincidence - literary, geographical and temporal. The book is well named. It's a series of pieces which are part memoir, as in a search for the gems that Time and Memory have created out of the everyday stuff of the author's Past, and part chronicle, in this case of the city of Dublin, showing how Time has both burnished and decayed its streets and monuments. And tying the memoir and the chronicle together is a literary record of Ireland in the middle decades of the twentieth century, linking John Banville's future destiny as a writer with the major literary figures of his youth via a series of sightings and chance encounters in the bookshops, pubs and parks they all frequented. Although many Dublin based writers are mentioned, for me, the chief literary figure dominating these pieces is Marcel Proust, even if his name never appears. That connection struck me in the early pages when I realised that Banville had chosen to begin the book with an account of a train journey he took each year as a child, a trip that his child's mind endowed with mystery and magic but which always left him melancholic at the end, exactly like Proust's narrator after his annual trip to Combray or his many train rides to Balbec. Banville closes his Time Pieces with a chapter entitled 'Time Regained' in which a chance encounter in a pub propels him instantly backwards to the memory of himself as a young man. There's a sense that the present moment of that encounter, happening as it did after a day spent rediscovering various forgotten corners of Dublin, is when Banville begins to compose the text we've just read. Again, the parallels with Proust are strong: Proust's narrator ends his own 'time regained' volume with the intention of writing the entire Recherche du temps perdu, of which Le Temps retrouvé is of course the final part. Between the first and last chapters of Banville's search for lost time, we are treated to various recollections of the jeunes filles en fleurs who inspired his youthful heart. Chief among them is a girl who could pass for Proust's Gilberte Swann. Banville's girl is friendly towards the young writer but she is extraordinarily elusive too. He is invited often to her home for afternoon tea reminding us of Proust's narrator taking tea in the Swann home in the hope that Gilberte might show him particular attention, which she never does, though he only gives up finally when he sees her in the street with another man. Young Banville has exactly the same experience down to the encounter in the street - there are just so many parallels between the two narratives. But there are other parallels in Banville's Time Pieces, links that connect the text very concretely with my own life. Many of the places he mentions are familiar to me, and I've read the work of most of the Irish literary figures whose names he mentions throughout the text, writers such as John McGahern, Anthony Cronin, Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Behan, JP Dunleavy, Samuel Beckett, Flann O'Brien and James Joyce. Re Joyce, I have an anecdote. On page 184 of this book, John Banville mentions meeting a Jesuit priest in Joyce's old school, Belvedere College, and discussing the infamous pupil with him. I read that passage the day I attended a literary event in Belvedere College. One of the speakers at that literary event just happened to be John Banville. Afterwards, I asked him to sign my copy of Time Pieces, which I just happened to have in my bag. How's that for a string of coincidences!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    Born in Wexford, a small town that in Banville’s youth was both more isolated and more of a rural community, Dublin fascinated him, captivating him in his youth. The annual trips, by train, for him and his family, fell around the date of his birthday, and their purpose centered around Christmas shopping, Christmas lights and a chance to be a part of something bigger, grander. In the 1950’s, I expect that the memories of the differences from his everyday life would be even more remarkable, the dr Born in Wexford, a small town that in Banville’s youth was both more isolated and more of a rural community, Dublin fascinated him, captivating him in his youth. The annual trips, by train, for him and his family, fell around the date of his birthday, and their purpose centered around Christmas shopping, Christmas lights and a chance to be a part of something bigger, grander. In the 1950’s, I expect that the memories of the differences from his everyday life would be even more remarkable, the draw of Dublin even more enchanting. ”Dublin, of course, was the opposite of ordinary. Dublin was for me what Moscow was for Irina in Chekov’s Three Sisters, a place of magical promise towards which my starved young soul endlessly yearned.” ”That the city itself, the real Dublin, was, in those poverty-stricken 1950s, mostly a grey and graceless place did not mar my dream of it—and I dreamed of it even when I was present in it, so that mundane reality was being constantly transformed before my eyes into his romance; there is no one more romantic than a small boy, as Robert Louis Stevenson knew better than most.” ”When does the past become the past? How much time must elapse before what merely happened begins to give off the mysterious, numinous glow that is the mark of true pastness?” ”Let us say, the present is where we live, while the past is where we dream. Yet if it is a dream, it is substantial, and sustaining. The past buoys us up, a tethered and ever-expanding hot-air balloon.” This is less a memoir of Banville’s life as it is a tribute to his Dublin, his childhood views of the mystery and magical draw of this city, and his views of this city that has seen so much in its time. The transition of the Dublin of the past to the Dublin that helped form him into the man he became, and a glimpse back through those years. How I wish I’d read this before I had gone to Ireland, although I spent too little time in Dublin to recognize all of the places he writes of, there was enough to draw out memories of my time there, in particular his writings on the Iveagh Gardens, near St. Stephen’s Green. ”I had a sense of the magical timelessness of such places, and of the uses to which we put them. We change, we age, we stay or move away, and in time we end. The park, however, endures. It is a thought, I think, to comfort, if only by a little, the most distressed of hearts.” Included are some stunning photographs by London-based portrait photographer and film-maker, Paul Joyce. This might seem a strange choice to begin reading Banville, but I think it has given me some insight into the man, and while I have looked forward to reading his books for a while, this has given me added incentive.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Luís

    Quirke, a flayed character with his propensity to drink too much (like many Irish people, it seems), is more than endearing. He goes to the end of things and sincerely tries to do his best for everyone (or almost) Even if we are in the twentieth century, we still fully measure the impact and the power of the Irish (and Catholic) Church on its flock and their behaviour. An actual noir novel immerses us in the Dublin of the fifties and takes us across the Atlantic to find ourselves in Boston. I would Quirke, a flayed character with his propensity to drink too much (like many Irish people, it seems), is more than endearing. He goes to the end of things and sincerely tries to do his best for everyone (or almost) Even if we are in the twentieth century, we still fully measure the impact and the power of the Irish (and Catholic) Church on its flock and their behaviour. An actual noir novel immerses us in the Dublin of the fifties and takes us across the Atlantic to find ourselves in Boston. I would describe writing as chiselled and addictive because I enjoyed this reading and the author's style.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    Banville is our best. He was not born in Dublin,but in Wexford like Colm Tobin. Banville s memoir is a personal reflection on Dublin it’s streets and architectural heritage and the literary characters dead and alive that Banville has encountered.And much more. Banvilles childhood train journeys to Dublin are recalled. I know all these streets and stones and pubs and parks.I worked as a young lawyer on Mount Street with its elegant Georgian streetscape. Banvilles memoir captivates. The style reminds me Banville is our best. He was not born in Dublin,but in Wexford like Colm Tobin. Banville s memoir is a personal reflection on Dublin it’s streets and architectural heritage and the literary characters dead and alive that Banville has encountered.And much more. Banvilles childhood train journeys to Dublin are recalled. I know all these streets and stones and pubs and parks.I worked as a young lawyer on Mount Street with its elegant Georgian streetscape. Banvilles memoir captivates. The style reminds me of Sebald. A must for anybody interested in Dublin and it’s literary traditions evoked by a master.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lewis Weinstein

    John Banville is a wonderful writer ... We met him in Key West (and also later in Dublin) and talked with him about writing ... he said something then I try to remember every time I write: make every single word as good as it can be ... every single word ... great advice for any writer The "pieces" in this memoir are soft and gentle and often moving ... Banville's description of places he cares about are simply superb. John Banville is a wonderful writer ... We met him in Key West (and also later in Dublin) and talked with him about writing ... he said something then I try to remember every time I write: make every single word as good as it can be ... every single word ... great advice for any writer The "pieces" in this memoir are soft and gentle and often moving ... Banville's description of places he cares about are simply superb.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    I am certain I loved this book because much of it explores a Dublin that is on the verge of disappearing. But Banville is assuring in that he uncovers hidden parts of the city that have survived. I loved the pre-Celtic Tiger Dublin before it became jammed with tourists brought in on cheap flights to binge drink in Temple Bar, and rove the streets in huge bands. In summer, hoards of European teens who come to learn English cram buses, and sidewalks, jostling everyone in their vicinity, and crowdi I am certain I loved this book because much of it explores a Dublin that is on the verge of disappearing. But Banville is assuring in that he uncovers hidden parts of the city that have survived. I loved the pre-Celtic Tiger Dublin before it became jammed with tourists brought in on cheap flights to binge drink in Temple Bar, and rove the streets in huge bands. In summer, hoards of European teens who come to learn English cram buses, and sidewalks, jostling everyone in their vicinity, and crowding places like the Dublin Writers Museum, where they don't want to be, preventing others from seeing or enjoying anything. Despite those deterrents, I have managed to squeeze in short visits on my way to other destinations in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and on my post university graduation trip, I spent over a month there. Banville is, of course, an exquisite writer. He is not a Dubliner by birth, but since his childhood in Wexford, has known the city. As a boy, he traveled with his mother and sister every year in December for a day of shopping: December days in the approach to Christmas are short, and end with a sense of soft collapse. I loved the melancholy of those Dublin evenings, despite the weight they laid upon my young heart. Railway stations at night are always incurably sad, and as the train pulled out of Westland Row at the start of the return trip to Wexford, I would have to turn my face away and press it close up against the window to hide my tears from my mother and my sister....I could not have said why or for what exactly it was that I was weeping...I suppose it was because something was ending, being folded up, like a circus tent, was becoming, in short, the past. He describes the destruction of Georgian Dublin, the most famous example being the demolition of one of the longest blocks of Georgian buildings in Europe to construct the hideous Electricity Supply Board building. Baggotonia, the neighborhood around Baggot Street, south of the River Liffey, was an area full of artistic types. Michael MacLiammor and his partner Hilton Edwards lived there, down the street from friends who were often involved in fighting the rampant wrecking of Dublin. Patrick Kavanagh, poet and curmudgeon, spent his time in this part of Dublin, which is commemorated by a sculpture, along the Royal Canal. http://www.johncollsculptures.com/pat... The mother of a friend I knew in Boston years back is mentioned. Margaret Gaj was Scottish-born of Irish parents. She married a Pole and ended up in Dublin. Gaj's Restaurant opened in Molesworth St. but moved to Lower Baggot St. It was a haven for leftists and others involved in progressive causes, and is known as the location where the short-lived Irish Women's Liberation Movement met. It closed in 1980. I was fortunate to visit there in the late 1970's with a friend where we were treated by Margaret to a meal because we were friends of her son. https://comeheretome.com/2016/12/02/f... Banville notes : A lot of the Georgian city was still standing when I first came to live there, but a lot of it was gone, too. ...in the postwar years and up to the end of the 1960's, the city was subjected to appalling bouts of sanctioned destruction. The ultra-nationalist ideologues who ran the country then had scant regard for the delights of Georgian architecture, and indeed many of them would have seen Georgian Dublin as a despised monument to our British conquerors... Banville's Dublin serves a contrast to the Dublin reflected in the poem Dublin You Are by the Spoken Word poet Stephen James Smith : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNQcw... Both refer to Dublin characters and Banville writes : This city, like all cities, had its complement of eccentrics, but Dublin was so small that they seemed uncommonly numerous. Most of them were poor, sad characters, maimed in body or spirit or both, but a few there were who added appreciably to the gaiety of the town. The two, Banville and Smith, are of different generations. Banville is twice the age of Smith, and this book describes the more gentile Dublin. Smith describes the gritty Dublin, and his accent is more working class than leisure class. These are disparate visions of the same city. The book is greatly enriched by the splendid but understated photography of Paul Joyce. His black-and-white photographs reflect and create a melancholy tone. The Brazilian term "saudades" comes to mind, a word that reflects more than nostalgia, but includes longing, a look back to a past that is missed. This is a book for anyone who loves Dublin, or the idea of Dublin. It is a treasure. * I have created footnotes for the references in Stephen James Smith's poem 'Dublin You Are Me'. PM me for a copy.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Whiskey Tango

    “The Present is where we live, while the past is where we dream. But what transmutation must the present go through in order to become the past?” Memory is a dishonest narrator. If we cannot control the present let’s reinvent our past. John Banville writes about the Dublin where he has resided since adulthood. But having grown up in the provinces, his early memories of Dublin are infused with Christmasy-wonder. He confesses that he observed nothing of his village, the coastal Wexford-- and for mu “The Present is where we live, while the past is where we dream. But what transmutation must the present go through in order to become the past?” Memory is a dishonest narrator. If we cannot control the present let’s reinvent our past. John Banville writes about the Dublin where he has resided since adulthood. But having grown up in the provinces, his early memories of Dublin are infused with Christmasy-wonder. He confesses that he observed nothing of his village, the coastal Wexford-- and for much of his life, little of Dublin.I have never in my life paid much attention to my surroundings wherever it was I happened to find myself–artistic attention, that is. For good or ill, as a writer, I am and always have been most concerned not with what people do… but with what they are. Art is a constant effort to strike past the mere doings of humankind in order to arrive at, or at least to approach as closely as possible to, the essence of what it is, simply, to be. (55) I recall that, in one of Banville’s books, a narrator declares, “Memory is a cunt!” Dishonest. Untrustworthy. Whorish. Base. Banville’s narrators in the half-dozen novels I’ve read are reliably untrustworthy narcissists— despite their disarming honesty. So is Memory a narrator of our past? Though Banville's fiction taught me to distrust words, I cannot argue with these: In a sense, childhood never ends but exists in us not merely as a memory, but as a part of what we are. Childhood is a deep source of inspiration, if for no other reason and that it was as children that we first apprehended the world as mystery. The process of growing up is a process turning the mysterious into the mundane. We cease to be amazed by things only because we have grown accustomed to them. We do not grow up; all we do is grow dull. Banville sports around in a convertible, revisiting Dublin's nooks with “Cicero,” a friend possessing granary silos of arcane knowledge of hidden history. Evocative photographs offset the elusive text. Most of the photos are of benches, mailboxes, black-speared fencing, pubs, closed front doors, bridges, towpaths, canals, pigeons, mossy bricks, theaters, park ponds, streets denuded of people, eccentrics dressed like fakirs, eroded statues, open portals overhanging vegetation, brick streets, rusting ships, enormous Georgian buildings, and the back of Banville’s head. If Banville’s characters seem like an amalgamation, so is his "past." "When does the past become the past? How much time must elapse before the ordinary goes off the mysteries numinous glow that is the mark of true pastness? What is the magic that is worked upon experience? "Our mood influences memory. When the mood shifts, Banville strikes a memory to the page— He remembers aching pleasure at river bends and a canal’s towpath. He remembers his first date over afternoon tea at a theater’s cafe and the sting of the rejection from a woman. Poignant are his musings about how those closest to him always ranked distant seconds to his writing. Yet when I look back now at all that I rejected in those early years, and ponder the unheeding and heartless manner in which I rejected it, I am pierced with what is if not sorrow then something that feels sharply like it. I left a place that I thought harsh and ungenerous, but that, in reality, was tender, and to engrossed in its own hopes and sorrows to bother much with me. (56) Should have lived more, written less. James Joyce already mined Dublin’s precious metallurgic memory, and Marcel Proust already owns literary meditations on memory. Banville channels both and mixes them with himself--or perhaps those Nabokovian narrators. This book is neither a memoir of Banville nor a tourist guide to Dublin. Though I have never been to Dublin, “Time Pieces” makes me feel like a traveler who has lived here once. Perhaps a home I have never found. Another of memory’s jokes. Banville concludes:The sun is shining, and dust motes drift in the air. I feel like Odysseus come home at last to Ithaca, but with all in order and no usurping suitors in need of slaughtering. I feel– yes, I feel at home. Cicero in Dublin between them have, I realize, granted me the freedom of the city. I offer a toast just to being there– Because being here is much– and smile, inanely, I fear, at the sunlight in the doorway. A shadow falls there, and who should come in–no such thing as coincidence– But my eldest son, my firstborn, who is a man now, middle-aged and taller than I am. He is on his way home from work, and has stopped in for a pint, just like my father used to do, all those years ago, in another world, in another age, O time, O tempora, what places we have been to–and where will you take me yet? (202) QUOTATIONS I LIKED: (view spoiler)[ What made my father seem premature early elderly was, I think, the narrow range of his expectations. (57) For my mother, as for me, life was always elsewhere. (59) When I was young myself I did not think of my parents as being either young or old. To me they seemed, until their final years, to be of an indeterminate age, creatures essentially of a different species, permanent and unchanging, simply there. (63) In their going my parents were as considerate and diffident as they have been in life. (64) So many details fall out of the memory, like pennies that spilled from the pockets of my trousers. (68) He was a short, wiry fellow with the bristling mustache that Hitler would not have scorned. (69) I called to mind now her irreverence, her grim brand of gaiety, her wild laughter, her disdain of the falsely pious and humorless movies set up to lord it over us. (76) [Of Banville’s aunt] I was young and heartless, and the liberation of spirit I had found in Greece was more real to me than the death of an aging relative. Forgive me, dear old aunt; forgive the young beast that I was, and that I regret to say I have never ceased to be–- I am old now or oldening, at least, one's inner monster stays forever young. (76) Should have lived more, written less. (83) How it haunts the heart, the unfathomable mystery of other people’s lives, of other people’s misfortunes. (87) The city, like all cities, had its complements of eccentrics, but Dublin was so small that they seemed uncommonly numerous. (97) Ireland was a hard, mean-spirited place for anyone with artistic ambitions. When I first visited Eastern Europe in the early 1980s, at a time when the Cold War was extremely warm, I felt immediately, and horribly, at home: they had the Communist Party invigilating their lives from the cradle to the grave, while we had the Catholic Church doing exactly the same thing. Communism and Catholicism are but two sides of the same debased coin. (98) Where did this absurd rule come from, and why do we so meekly obey it? Under a tyrannical regime–and The Ireland of those days was a spiritual tyranny, the populace becomes SoCal that does the state’s work for it voluntarily. And as every tyrant knows, a peoples own self-censorship is the kind that works best. (105) Everyone smoked, and went at it seriously, too, as if it were a duty. (108) I have realized that alcohol is for the Irish what sunshine is for the Latin peoples of the south. (108) Looking back now, past 30 years of tribal slaughter in Northern Ireland, one breaks into a sweat at the thought of the casualties the Pillar bomb could have caused. At the time we just shrugged, or laughed; unregenerate children that we are, we glory in a little harmless destruction now and then, happy to see bits of the adult world brought tumbling down. (121) {The 1966 IRA bombing of Nelson’s Pillar)When I first lived in Dublin, I found that instead of admiringly architecture I gravitated most frequently towards the city's parks. (143)Her nose was slightly fattish, but I found it entirely lovable. (171) (hide spoiler)]Publisher’s Weekly states it better than I. (view spoiler)[ From the internationally acclaimed and Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea and the Benjamin Black mysteries–a vividly evocative memoir that unfolds around the author’s recollections, experience, and imaginings of Dublin.In this subtle, elegant memoir, Irish novelist and screenwriter Banville (Mrs. Osmond) explores three overlapping Dublins: the contemporary city, the city of history, and the city he remembers. Despite spending centuries as a provincial backwater in the British Empire, Dublin produced a pantheon of great artists, among them Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Flann O’Brien, Jonathan Swift, Orson Welles (who made his stage debut in Dublin’s Gate Theatre), Oscar Wilde, and W.B. Yeats. As a bookish youth in Wexford, Banville viewed Dublin as the locus of all sophistication, excitement, and meaning. In 1964 at age 18, he moved there and found his place in the bohemian milieu he’d admired from afar. In Banville’s survey of 21st-century Dublin, every shift in perspective triggers meditations on the myriad ways the city has shaped his long life. The real unity of the narrative rests in the remarkable interplay between text and image (preceding a two-page photo of the Shelbourne Hotel’s Horseshoe Bar, Banville describes it “as dimly lit and pleasingly louche today as it was then”). For much of the journey, a mysterious friend named Cicero accompanies Banville, a conceit adding yet another layer to a quietly remarkable work. Yet despite this intricate structure, Banville’s wit and humor make this book pass far too quickly. Dublin could not have asked for a more perceptive observer or a more enchanting portrait. (hide spoiler)] flag 6 likes · Like  · see review View all 6 comments Mar 13, 2018 Kathie Harper rated it really liked it A sentimental journey of sorts or a coming of age story in a city that the author gravitated towards for most of his life? I admit he grabbed me right away as he described his annual birthday trip on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to Dublin from County Wexford where he lived the rest of the year. His child's perspective is authentic right down to the impatience of waiting for his mother and sisters to finish their Christmas shopping while he couldn't wait to get his ice crea A sentimental journey of sorts or a coming of age story in a city that the author gravitated towards for most of his life? I admit he grabbed me right away as he described his annual birthday trip on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to Dublin from County Wexford where he lived the rest of the year. His child's perspective is authentic right down to the impatience of waiting for his mother and sisters to finish their Christmas shopping while he couldn't wait to get his ice cream. Unfortunately this is a Dublin that has transitioned from a depressing backwater to a city where the charms of the old have blended with the new. Banville laments this change, relishing the reader with the rough and tumble times of an eccentric city. We are treated to neighborhoods where raconteurs and hustlers ruled the day, real people who charmed and regaled. This is not the Dublin that I've come to know, though my knowledge is very spotty I recognize many of the spots he visits with his friend, "Cicero," in his ancient roadster. With any good memoir, this is more about Banville than about Dublin, his sensibilities and his biases. As a reviewer in the Irish Times so adeptly puts it, "The impression is not so much of a writer haunted by memory as of one choosing to haunt memories of his own past." He skill as a master of simile and metaphor is present throughout. One of my favorites is, "the shop assistants in Clery's, a local department store on O'Connell Street, were brisk and competent in a martyred sort of way, like an order of secular nuns." There was often a wee bit of humor like when he recalls a story about one of his friend's encountering one of Belvedere College's retired teacher priests, and in mentioning James Joyce, a former student, the father drolly murmured: "Ah, yes, Joyce. Not one of our successes." There are many gems like this sprinkled throughout. So not so much a travelogue but a tribute to one man's remembrances as the New York Times review is titled, "An Irish Flaneur Greeting the Past on his Present Wanderings." It's well worth the journey. flag 3 likes · Like  · see review Jun 08, 2018 Marilyn Shea rated it liked it I hope that, if you were to read this memoir, you would find it in a hard cover version because the book itself, the weight of it, the sturdy pages and wonderful photographs, will remind you why actual books that you can hold in your hands are essential. This memoir, a tour of the author's beloved city of Dublin is slow and written at a walking pace. The author takes the time to trace the history of the buildings and the people who shaped Dublin throughout the centuries. He adds memories of even I hope that, if you were to read this memoir, you would find it in a hard cover version because the book itself, the weight of it, the sturdy pages and wonderful photographs, will remind you why actual books that you can hold in your hands are essential. This memoir, a tour of the author's beloved city of Dublin is slow and written at a walking pace. The author takes the time to trace the history of the buildings and the people who shaped Dublin throughout the centuries. He adds memories of events in his own life that took place in certain locations. His descriptions of his own memories include so much detail and he recalls not only the things that happened but attaches to them vivid sensory recollections--the brilliance of a color or the scent of something in the air. flag 3 likes · Like  · see review Jan 12, 2017 Mary Monks hatch rated it it was amazing For one who loves Dublin, every page of this book is total joy. For those not so familiar with the city, it will bring delightful insight into what makes the city so special: the rich history, and the stories that lurk everywhere. Beautifully written by the great John Banville, it exudes affection for the city, as well as informing and entertaining. It is a handsome book, too, beautifully illustrated with superb photographs by Paul Joyce. flag 3 likes · Like  · see review Apr 21, 2019 Robert rated it liked it Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir by John Banville skims through Banville's own history, in bits and pieces, and Dublin's history, also in bits and pieces. This is book that feels dashed off, cribbed in part from more thoroughly researched sources, and yet it is well-written and with passages recounting Banville's life in Dublin it acquires a certain pleasing authority nonetheless.I came away from the book with the impression that much of Dublin has been mangled, particularly Georgian Dublin, and yet Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir by John Banville skims through Banville's own history, in bits and pieces, and Dublin's history, also in bits and pieces. This is book that feels dashed off, cribbed in part from more thoroughly researched sources, and yet it is well-written and with passages recounting Banville's life in Dublin it acquires a certain pleasing authority nonetheless.I came away from the book with the impression that much of Dublin has been mangled, particularly Georgian Dublin, and yet many remaining stolid old houses and monumental public buildings conspire to give certain neighborhoods a bit of "feeling" that is much improved by visits to pubs and theaters and especially parks and "greens" along the way. And there are canals and docks and the varied colors of Dublin's bricks, yellow to blood red, Banville accounts for vividly.So much for Dublin, then. What about Banville? The best passages cover his thwarted love at age sixteen for a girl named Stephanie who agreed to walk with him and receive a few kisses but was never to be his. No, a tall, thin, pallid lad a few years older really made her smile. It just hurt, and he makes his little romance pretty real.Among memorable personal observations, we also read that, in fact, he isn't very observant when he's living somewhere, missing the kinds of things Thomas Hardy swore he wouldn't miss. We also read that he wasn't entirely facetious when he wrote that he should have spent more time living and less time writing--a sentiment he expressed as he entered his eighth decade.Banville is always worth reading even when he doesn't have much to say and wishes he'd found time to say less. flag 2 likes · Like  · see review Mar 16, 2018 Kathy rated it really liked it 3.5 stars for me, because I was unable to enjoy reading this hardback book published in small font. I use reading glasses and had to add magnifying glass! A book I had so looked forward to became an irritant - so frustrating. Oh well. I am pretty close in age to Banville.Lovely pictures included, charming musings, informative details of Dublin architecture, remembrances from youth with sharp honesty and references including Dublin's writers, actors, artists.Detachment appears to be a thing in hi 3.5 stars for me, because I was unable to enjoy reading this hardback book published in small font. I use reading glasses and had to add magnifying glass! A book I had so looked forward to became an irritant - so frustrating. Oh well. I am pretty close in age to Banville.Lovely pictures included, charming musings, informative details of Dublin architecture, remembrances from youth with sharp honesty and references including Dublin's writers, actors, artists.Detachment appears to be a thing in his life.I admire and even love much of Banville's writing. I liked:"The process of growing up is, sadly, a process of turning the mysterious into the mundane. We cease to be amazed by things--the sky, the turning of the seasons, love, other people--only because we have grown accustomed to them." "Can the old man be the same being as the child he once was?"His childhood memories of going from his Wexford home to Dublin for birthday/Christmas shopping were quite brilliant and moving.His tribute to his aunt he lived with in Dublin who died whilst he was enjoying Mykonos as a young man would.His appreciation of the history of Dublin as amplified by a friend.--and much more, but now I must bathe my poor eyes. Alfred A Knopf - I should write a letter to you! flag 2 likes · Like  · see review Jun 06, 2018 Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) rated it it was amazing Shelves: books-alisia-should-read, nonfiction, memoirs-and-biographies, 2018 This is an excellent memoir, with nice photos and anecdotes, and lovely writing. I liked how Banville situated his story within the context of other writers from his part of Ireland, drawing in the current events that helped shape his story without turning his book into just another history of Ireland (not that I dislike histories of Ireland). It is also fun sometimes to see how good novelists tell their own personal stories. I have not read any of his novels yet, but if he writes as well in fic This is an excellent memoir, with nice photos and anecdotes, and lovely writing. I liked how Banville situated his story within the context of other writers from his part of Ireland, drawing in the current events that helped shape his story without turning his book into just another history of Ireland (not that I dislike histories of Ireland). It is also fun sometimes to see how good novelists tell their own personal stories. I have not read any of his novels yet, but if he writes as well in fiction as in autobiography, I am looking forward to starting in on one of his novels soon (one of the few in our public library; for some reason our city library hardly has any of Banville's books in its collection, aside from this rather new memoir). flag 2 likes · Like  · see review Mar 05, 2018 Seán Rafferty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition Shelves: my-book, non-fiction 'Time Pieces' is like going for a stroll in Dublin with a crusty, erudite and highly entertaining tour guide. Although from Wexford, Banville's love for Dublin shines through. It is full of wonderful snippets of social history pertaining to Dublin of the 50's, 60's and 70's. Unsentimental, he dispels myths but it is still essentially a middle-class reflection on his Dublin.Banville is as you would expect from such a great writer, is really interesting on memory and truth and how it shapes our re 'Time Pieces' is like going for a stroll in Dublin with a crusty, erudite and highly entertaining tour guide. Although from Wexford, Banville's love for Dublin shines through. It is full of wonderful snippets of social history pertaining to Dublin of the 50's, 60's and 70's. Unsentimental, he dispels myths but it is still essentially a middle-class reflection on his Dublin.Banville is as you would expect from such a great writer, is really interesting on memory and truth and how it shapes our reality and art. And of course there's the wonderful prose. Banville is incapable of writing a bum sentence. It is truly a pleasure to read. His brief description of Pierrepoint is majestic and very funny (p163-4) and he deserves a novel to himself (and perhaps he has in 'The Book of Evidence'?). The book it should be noted is a beautiful object. Hardback with gorgeous photographs by Paul Joyce, it is a book for holding and admiring and definitely not for kindle or ebook. flag 2 likes · Like  · see review May 25, 2018 Marks54 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition I read Banville’s novel, “The Sea” and loved it, especially his thoughts on time. The book is billed as a memoir but is more of an odd reflection of his experiences in Dublin, the recollections of the Dublin literary scene, and a travel book about the sights and sounds of historical Dublin. We recently visited Dublin and wished that we had such a guide to help us away from the tourist tracks. I will be sure to reread this before I visit Dublin again. He is a superb writer who makes a travel narr I read Banville’s novel, “The Sea” and loved it, especially his thoughts on time. The book is billed as a memoir but is more of an odd reflection of his experiences in Dublin, the recollections of the Dublin literary scene, and a travel book about the sights and sounds of historical Dublin. We recently visited Dublin and wished that we had such a guide to help us away from the tourist tracks. I will be sure to reread this before I visit Dublin again. He is a superb writer who makes a travel narrative seems like quite a story. The book is supplemented with lots of nice photos of the places he visits. This was a very enjoyable read. flag 2 likes · Like  · see review Apr 06, 2018 Iva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition Although I wasn't charmed by Banville's novel, The Sea, I found this memoir very pleasing. His personal experience of Dublin is informed by his love of the city and his knowledge of its past. Excellent photos enhance the reading experience and are essential for those who haven't spent time there. For those who know the city, Banville's memoir will bring back memories. A lovely book. Although I wasn't charmed by Banville's novel, The Sea, I found this memoir very pleasing. His personal experience of Dublin is informed by his love of the city and his knowledge of its past. Excellent photos enhance the reading experience and are essential for those who haven't spent time there. For those who know the city, Banville's memoir will bring back memories. A lovely book. flag 2 likes · Like  · see review Apr 16, 2018 Alan rated it really liked it The author (whose novels I have never read) gives a literary and historical walking tour -memoir of Dublin. Since Dublin is porbalby my favorite city in the world, I loved the trip. flag 2 likes · Like  · see review Oct 31, 2020 Mom rated it really liked it John Banville is one of my favorite authors -- Ancient Light and The Sea are treasures of language and introspection, focusing on the ordinary and revealing its significance. In Time Pieces : A Dublin Memoir, he gives us a memoir like no other. In the memoir, Banville walks around Dublin, describing sights, musing, and reminiscing about his experiences there. What I love about this book is the descriptive language:"One lemony sunlit Sunday in July...."Cups of tea “the colour of tree trunks sunk John Banville is one of my favorite authors -- Ancient Light and The Sea are treasures of language and introspection, focusing on the ordinary and revealing its significance. In Time Pieces : A Dublin Memoir, he gives us a memoir like no other. In the memoir, Banville walks around Dublin, describing sights, musing, and reminiscing about his experiences there. What I love about this book is the descriptive language:"One lemony sunlit Sunday in July...."Cups of tea “the colour of tree trunks sunk for centuries in swamp-water.”Shop assistants "brisk and competent in a martyred sort of way, like an order of secular nuns.”"I am old now, or oldening...."An ice cream parlor “as colourful as California.”This is a memoir of what he observed, not his life story. It felt like walking an unfamiliar city with a chatty native, and in fact led me to start a list of places to visit in Dublin. In the reading, I learned a bit about Banville's life, but mostly just enjoyed the meandering tour and marveled at the gentle and luminous descriptions. As he writes, "It is out of such moments, commonplace yet plangent, that the past, the longed-for past, assembled itself."Evocative photographs are sprinkled throughout -- of cobblestones and rock bridges and doorways, and only a few of the author, viewed from the rear as he looks off down the road, perhaps thinking -- as he writes in the closing line of the book -- "O time, O tempora, what places we have been to -- and where will you take me yet?"A lovely meditative book. flag 1 like · Like  · see review View 1 comment Dec 06, 2019 Bonnie G. added it Shelves: memoir, did-not-finish I am abandoning ship about 1/4 of the way in. Banville is a beautiful writer, but I am far, far less interested in the Dublin of yore, and his youth in general, than he is. I understand he loves his city, I love mine like a person, when I lived elsewhere I pined for its filthy, loud, smelly, sticky, wonderful embrace. I want to love this book, but I am just bored to tears flag 1 like · Like  · see review Aug 25, 2018 Gwen rated it it was ok It's not as well written as his novels or the Benjamin Black series of mysteries. There's an air of sentimental nostalgia, looking back on his life. The photographs are wonderful. I enjoyed reading about and seeing photos of places I have visited in Dublin. It's not as well written as his novels or the Benjamin Black series of mysteries. There's an air of sentimental nostalgia, looking back on his life. The photographs are wonderful. I enjoyed reading about and seeing photos of places I have visited in Dublin. flag 1 like · Like  · see review Jun 10, 2018 Betsy rated it it was amazing Now I want to go walk the streets of Dublin with this book in my hand! flag 1 like · Like  · see review Jun 30, 2018 JulieK rated it liked it Shelves: places 3.5 stars. I’m sure I would’ve gotten more out of this if I’d spent more time in Dublin than a couple of days 20+ years ago. flag 1 like · Like  · see review Jul 22, 2018 Pat rated it it was amazing Shelves: memoir Really, one of the most appealing memoirs I've ever read. Anyone who loves Dublin will be charmed. Or what a great way to discover the best view of Ireland in this lifetime. Highly recommended, annd an absolutely wonderful read! Really, one of the most appealing memoirs I've ever read. Anyone who loves Dublin will be charmed. Or what a great way to discover the best view of Ireland in this lifetime. Highly recommended, annd an absolutely wonderful read! flag 1 like · Like  · see review Jun 08, 2018 Alan Newman rated it really liked it Elegant paean to Old Dublin by one of its great writers.Not really a memoir of the author but of the author’s relationship to Dublin, full of anecdote and snippets of Irish history. Delightful flag 1 like · Like  · see review Jun 02, 2018 Daniel Kukwa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition Shelves: non-fiction It's not going to make a huge amount of sense for anyone not familiar with Dublin. But if you are, this is a delightful, lyrical, wistful look at a disappearing past, both personal and public. The writing style helps to make this an absolutely effortless read. I just wish there were more pictures to accompany the beautiful memories. It's not going to make a huge amount of sense for anyone not familiar with Dublin. But if you are, this is a delightful, lyrical, wistful look at a disappearing past, both personal and public. The writing style helps to make this an absolutely effortless read. I just wish there were more pictures to accompany the beautiful memories. flag 1 like · Like  · see review Jun 06, 2018 Tiina rated it liked it Shelves: own 3.5 stars. I read this before my trip to Ireland (I've been before). It was good, a nice book to read if you've maybe already been to Dublin, but want to discover something new or a refresher course. You also find out quite a bit about the author. I liked the small anecdotes of his life too (especially the stolen library book and what followed). The photos are beautiful, although not always well-placed.Would recommend to read before visiting the city. It's actually a very slim book and reads fas 3.5 stars. I read this before my trip to Ireland (I've been before). It was good, a nice book to read if you've maybe already been to Dublin, but want to discover something new or a refresher course. You also find out quite a bit about the author. I liked the small anecdotes of his life too (especially the stolen library book and what followed). The photos are beautiful, although not always well-placed.Would recommend to read before visiting the city. It's actually a very slim book and reads fast. Some turns of phrase were actually sublime, and I may pick up his fiction at one point. flag 1 like · Like  · see review May 31, 2018 Kathleen rated it liked it The book is physically heavy, with its wonderful paper, and gorgeous photographs throughout. I liked the trajectory the author lays out like a carpet. Less interesting was the Dublin history, which normally would have flowed, but didn’t for me flag 1 like · Like  · see review Mar 30, 2018 George Siehl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition Shelves: history, memoir, literature A newspaper review of Time Pieces highlighted the description of Dublin's brickwork buildings, which I had been taken with on my visit there, and some of the humor included, another certain lure. Author Banville, writer of the Dublin based Benjamin Black crime novels was unknown to me. Nonetheless he proved a charming and informative guide to Dublin in this book.Banville introduces us to people, famous or noteworthy; to places of interest, and to some of the history that haunts the city. His peo A newspaper review of Time Pieces highlighted the description of Dublin's brickwork buildings, which I had been taken with on my visit there, and some of the humor included, another certain lure. Author Banville, writer of the Dublin based Benjamin Black crime novels was unknown to me. Nonetheless he proved a charming and informative guide to Dublin in this book.Banville introduces us to people, famous or noteworthy; to places of interest, and to some of the history that haunts the city. His people include many literary names readers may recognize, such as Graham Greene, Seamus Heaney, W. B. Yeats, and J. P. Donleavy (author of The Ginger Man), some people he knew or who figured in Dublin's literary scene. As a man of a certain respected age, he heeds the cry of the days of the Black Death, "Bring out your dead!" He treats those whom he brings forth with love and respect for their talent, their wit, or both.His discussion of places in the lovely city are highlighted by outstanding photographs by Paul Joyce. Most of these are black and white and some few are vividly in color. The places he takes us include the pubs where he spent much time with his literary friends, the neighborhoods where he and other remembered authors and journalists lived, particularly Baggotonia, and the cinemas and parks that marked his younger days of romance and disappointment in love. "I held her hand. I was wasting my time, she said, wasting my time; and yet she smiled, and allowed her hand to rest in mine. It is out of such moments, commonplace yet plangent, that the past, the longed-for-past, assembles itself."His spots of history include those associated with the unhappy union with England in 1800, and the bloody ending of that union after World War I. Others include the ill-fated canals that were the hope for industrial development that never came; homes that were built for the well-to-do that were eventually hacked into rental rooms for the poor; the remnants of the IRA blasted Nelson Pillar; a maternity hospital for poor women; the Botanical Garden and its impressive Great Palm House, a towering glass dome built in 1884; and, of course, the brickwork. He writes of the "special and unique qualities" of Georgian Dublin. Adding, "the colours range from rosy pink through cadmiun yellow and yellow ochre to a chalky-textured madder, and burnt sienna..." The "hues alter subtly with each passing hour... and when it rains, ah, when it rains the bricks gleam and glitter like the flanks of a galloping racehorse." He is a writer who deftly turns a phrase, which makes for an enjoyable read.His commentary on Dublin's parks is insightful: "We have been accustomed to them for so long that we forget what a remarkable invention park and pleasure gardens are. Although they are as old as antiquity...parks are the quintessential public manifestation of the Enlightenment and its values."The humor is sprinkled throughout the narrative. My favorite follows his walking down the street, "when the cover of the manhole flew open as I was about to step on it. A head in a hard hat popped up and the fellow stared at me. Without missing a beat, he put on a wild look and asked urgently, 'Is the war over?' Every trade has it's comedians."As he leads the tour, he is, by turns, introspective, sometimes regretful, and often nostalgic. His account of a boy experiencing the many changes and excitements of the teen years will be familiar to many readers who may be former teenage boys, or the parents of same. Many shout-outs of films, books, and more people punctuate this pleasant account. It would have been a better book with a Dublin city map showing some of the many points he paints. Nonetheless, a fine book. flag 1 like · Like  · see review May 25, 2018 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition Shelves: history-bio-memoir “I recall so many trivial things, and forget so many very momentous ones.”“Time Pieces” is an amble through the past of Dublin and Banville's memories. It weaves together an homage to the city’s parks, canals, pubs, and stately Georgian architecture with personal moments recalled from Banville’s life. “I recall so many trivial things, and forget so many very momentous ones.”“Time Pieces” is an amble through the past of Dublin and Banville's memories. It weaves together an homage to the city’s parks, canals, pubs, and stately Georgian architecture with personal moments recalled from Banville’s life. flag 1 like · Like  · see review Dec 30, 2020 Sherry Stanton rated it really liked it Audio, read by John Lee. Banville brings Dublin to life in this tour through the city. I want to start reading the Quirke novels again now that I have a better sense of all the Dublin places mentioned in that series. flag 1 like · Like  · see review View 1 comment « previous 1 2 3 4 5 next »

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