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Friday, July 18, 2008

Lunch Date: The Lemur

posted by on July 18 at 12:13 PM


(A few times a week, I take a new book with me to lunch and give it a half an hour or so to grab my attention. Lunch Date is my judgment on that speed-dating experience.)

Who’s your date today? The Lemur, by Benjamin Black, who is the pen name for John Banville.

Where’d you go? Ali Baba.

What’d you eat? Falafel gyro, fries, and a soda ($7.10).

How was the food? I’m a little disappointed, honestly. The fries were great, they were cooked just right and spiced perfectly, too. And I ate at Ali Baba a long time ago and was blown away by the falafel. But the Gyro was covered in this beige, pasty, mayonnaisey glop. It wasn’t the usual tzatziki; it was closer to McDonald’s special sauce. The reviews on our page for Ali Baba are roundly thrilled by the place, and my memory of it is much better than my experience this time. I’ll try it again sometime, but it’s down to last-chance status.

What does your date say about itself? Banville, who has been much more successful writing crime novels as Benjamin Black than he has writing literary fiction as John Banville, wrote The Lemur as a serial thriller in the New York Times’ Sunday Funny Pages. It’s about a researcher who’s dug up some nasty truths about a biographer’s subject. The researcher turns up dead, and the biographer has to figure out what’s going on.

Is there a representative quote? “They walked east along Forty-fourth Street and Glass at last got to smoke a cigarette. The fine rain drifted down absent-mindedly, like ectoplasm. The trouble with smoking was that the desire to smoke was so much greater than the satisfaction afforded by actually smoking. Sometimes when he had a cigarette going he would forget and reach for the pack and start to light another. Maybe that was the thing to do, smoke six at a time, three in the gaps between the fingers of each hand, achieve a Gatling-gun effect.”

Will you two end up in bed together? Yes. I hadn’t realized until I started writing this Lunch Date that the novel was written serially, and that definitely changes the way that I’ll read it—serially-written books, like Dickens, do better if you read a chapter and set the book aside for a while—but it seems like a taut little noir novel and it’s well-written. It should take a couple hours, all told, and it seems enjoyably dark.

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I had the same problem with the tzatziki. I think they've opted out on using the key ingredient: cucumbers.

Posted by whomsRU | July 18, 2008 1:14 PM

Didn't Banville get a (well-deserved) Booker for the Sea? Not a bad marker of "success" in literary fiction.

Posted by josh | July 18, 2008 1:23 PM

@2 That's what I was going to point out after reading this on my RSS feed. Though, not everyone liked The Sea.

Posted by Katelyn | July 18, 2008 1:43 PM

tzakis without cukes? is this a joke?

BTW, I love the cover of this book.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | July 18, 2008 2:04 PM

"Will you two end up in bed together? Yes."

Paul, you've been getting fucked left and right lately -- astute choice of reads, old bean!

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | July 18, 2008 2:45 PM

Ali Baba's gyros are, indeed, bland.

Posted by Will in 98103 | July 18, 2008 4:18 PM

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