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Long Lankin [Paperback]

John Banville
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 1984
A collection of short stories from the early years of Man Booker Prize-winning author John Banville’s career, Long Lankin explores the passionate emotions—fear, jealousy, desire—that course beneath the surface of everyday life. From a couple at risk of being torn apart by the allure of wealth to an old man’s descent into nature, the tales in this collection showcase the talents that launched Banville onto the literary scene. Offering a unique insight into the mind of “one of the great living masters of English-language prose” (Los Angeles Times), these nine haunting sketches stand alone as canny observations on the turbulence of the human condition.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 94 pages
  • Publisher: The Gallery Press; Updated Reprint 2002 edition (Dec 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0904011720
  • ISBN-13: 978-0904011722
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 13.8 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,686,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of fifteen novels including The Sea, which won the 2005 Man Booker Prize. He lives in Dublin.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Banville's first book 28 Nov 2002
Long Lankin is a collection of short stories - the first book from John Banville. The original published by Secker & Warburg in 1970 contained eight of these stories, together with another 'Persona' and a short novella 'The Possessed' which Banville chose not to republish. Instead the present collection concludes with 'De Rerum Natura'named after a poem by Lucretius first published in Transatlantic Review. For me this story is outstanding and gestures towards the mature Banville of the later novels.
The collection is named after a Northumbrian murder ballad. The stories are apprentice work, modelled after the scruplous meanness of Joyces' Dubliners. Banville uses the trademark introductory dash instead of speech marks. The overall effect is a subtle unease. This collection is interesting to those who know Banville's later fiction and 'De Rerum Natura' was rightly selected by the editors of The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing as indicative of Banville's style and stature. It is a linguistic gothic exuberance
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2.0 out of 5 stars An odd collection 3 Sep 2013
By Red
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An odd collection of short fiction. Here, there are disjointed tales with disappointing beginnings, dull middles and unsatisfying endings. Not Banville's best work by any means. Just as well the book is small otherwise it would have been very tedious reading indeed
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The silences between sentences 6 July 2013
By TChris - Published on
Originally published in a slightly different form in 1970, the current incarnation of John Banville's first book collects nine of Banville's short stories. Banville's skillfully crafted sentences are pregnant with meaning, his language is rich and evocative, but even more can be mined from the silences between sentences, the words left unspoken. In "Wild Wood," for instance, three boys in the woods talk about a woman who was murdered. The meat of this story is left untold; Banville leaves it to the reader to fill in the empty space. Similarly, most of the action in "Summer Voices" revolves around an old (possibly crazed) man who shows the body of a drowning victim to two children, a brother and sister. The real story, however, involves the relationship between the siblings, an innocence lost before their encounter with the dead body.

Nature, and particularly the sea (an instrument of death in "Summer Voices"), are recurring symbols in the stories. The sea surrounds the protagonist in "Island," a writer who, full of ambition when he leaves Ireland, grows stagnant while living on a Greek island. Or so says the woman he's with, the woman he's about to leave because she's too easy to understand.

Religion and death, estranged families and madness are recurring themes. "A Death" refers both to a death in the family and to the death of love. An old man at a funeral, ranting of evil and desolation and godless times, sparks the renewal of a discussion a couple must have had countless times before. Peter and Muriel, the lead characters in "Lovers," visit Peter's father before they leave town to start a new life -- a man who, having seen everything in his life slip away, is eager to meet his own death, but only after making sure that his son's hopes will also die. In "De Rerum Natura," a demented old man, bald with bandy legs like "an ancient mischievous baby," is attuned to the life that surrounds him, including the pigeons in the bedroom and the rats in the kitchen, but cannot make the same connection with the son who shudders at his "malevolent, insidious gaiety." But how much of the father lurks in the son?

One of the most thought-provoking stories (again, because of how much is left unsaid) is "Nightwind." A failed writer hosts a party where a murderer lurks on the premises and a friend makes a pass at his wife. The writer talks about the unhappy citizens of "the new Ireland" who are "trying to find what it is we've lost" but it is the writer's own losses -- of pride and ambition and his child -- that dominate his thoughts.

A couple of stories, I must confess, I didn't fully appreciate: "The Visit" concerns a girl whose mother died in childbirth. She waits to meet the father she's never seen, but her attitude changes after she talks with a strange little man on a bicycle. Julie, a student in "Sanctuary," discusses her fears of moving away as she prepares to leave her professor, Helen, with whom she has been spending the summer. Julie's fears are compounded by a visit from a black-clad stranger who seems to know Helen and who has come to say goodbye. Even the stories about which I was less enthused, however, provide early evidence of Banville's uncommon ability to conceal layers of meaning within simple stories.
4.0 out of 5 stars dark, mysterious stories 27 April 2014
By Christoph Geiss - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
... were a pleasure to read, but in the end a bit too similar in style to be truly enjoyed in one short book.
4.0 out of 5 stars Devastating prose, thorough lyricism 11 Oct 2013
By Peter H. Burris - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
BANVILLE's prose amazes the reader not by his seemingly effortless and prodigious sleight of hand, but by its narrative cohesion in story and character alike.
3.0 out of 5 stars Early 8 Oct 2013
By Stephen T. Hopkins - Published on
I zipped through the short stories in a collection titled Long Lankin, representing early writing by John Banville. I found it hard to separate my perspective on the recent long fiction, which I loved, from these raw sketches. With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy for most readers to see the great skill that Banville displays in these early works. I finished each story somewhat satisfied, but wishing that the characters were more fully developed, as Banville has done in his novels. Some great writers specialize in genre, and I'm clearly biased that Banville's novels allow him the space to explore life more completely. These short pieces show great skill and insight, but left me longing for more.

Rating: Three-star (It's ok)
5.0 out of 5 stars Banville's writing is delicious and begs to be savored 21 Aug 2013
By Blanche Horst - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
John Banville never disappoints. His stylish and precise prose captures the frailty and chaos of the human condition brilliantly. It's impossible to gloss over his narrative or read without full engagement. The words breathe, discriminately constructed to elicit a visceral pathos or empathy. First published in 1970, this thin volume of nine short stories pulsates to stir the senses and provides a fine escapism from the banality of everyday by its keen uninhibited focus on the hidden turbulence that rocks beneath the skin and sinew. The characters that emanate from Long Lankin are memorable and poignantly relatable. Very satisfying and intelligent read.
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