Writer’s Quote Wednesday // John Banville

Hello, hello, and welcome to the middle of the week, dear readers. If you are feeling a little run down or if Friday is feeling a little too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen of Silver Threading and Ronovan of Ronovan Writes. For my contribution this week, I have chosen a quote from John Banville.

Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland. His father worked in a garage; his mother was a housewife. He is the youngest of three siblings; his older brother Vincent is also a novelist and has written under the name Vincent Lawrence as well as his own. His sister Vonnie Banville-Evans has written both a children’s novel and a reminiscence of growing up in Wexford.

91Educated at a Christian Brothers’ school and St Peter’s College in Wexford. Despite having intended to be a painter and an architect he did not attend university. Banville has described this as “A great mistake. I should have gone. I regret not taking that four years of getting drunk and falling in love. But I wanted to get away from my family. I wanted to be free.”

After school, he worked as a clerk at Aer Lingus, which allowed him to travel at deeply-discounted rates. He took advantage of this to travel in Greece and Italy. He lived in the United States during 1968 and 1969. On his return to Ireland, he became a sub-editor at the Irish Press, rising eventually to the position of chief sub-editor. His first book, Long Lankin, was published in 1970.

After the Irish Press collapsed in 1995, he became a sub-editor at the Irish Times. He was appointed literary editor in 1998. The Irish Times, too, suffered severe financial problems, and Banville was offered the choice of taking a redundancy package or working as a features department sub-editor. He left.

Banville has been a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books since 1990. In 1984, he was elected to Aosdána, but resigned in 2001, so that some other artist might be allowed to receive the cnuas.

Banville also writes under the pen name Benjamin Black. His first novel under this pen name was Christine Falls, which was followed by The Silver Swan in 2007. Banville has two adult sons with his wife, the American textile artist Janet Dunham. They met during his visit to San Francisco in 1968 where she was a student at the University of California, Berkeley. Dunham described him during the writing process as being like “a murderer who’s just come back from a particularly bloody killing”. Banville has two daughters from his relationship with Patricia Quinn, former head of the Arts Council of Ireland.

Banville has a strong interest in vivisection and animal rights and is often featured in Irish media speaking out against vivisection in Irish university research.

Art is like sex: when you’re doing it, nothing else matters.

John Banville, The Art of Fiction No. 200

As a writer, I know that I am supposed to be an observer of the world. I am supposed to take in the people and conversations around me and use them in my work. I know I am supposed to read all that I can and learn all there is about those who have come before me.

I know that good writing means understanding humanity, telling the truths we need to hear, and showing us the hidden sides of ourselves. To do that I always have to be aware of the more subtleties and the coded messages in what people do, and don’t do, every day.

To be always observing and interacting in the world is time-consuming and because I am always writing, in my head if I do not have a screen or a pen, I forget to maintain my awareness of life. For me, writing happens all the time, and when writing is happening, nothing else matters.

When I cannot write, I want to write, and when I am writing, I can’t think of anything else. I feel very much like I am in a new relationship, where there is hardly time to talk or to get because we cannot keep our hands off of each other.

Writing and I, we think of nothing but when the next time we might be alone together again. Writing and I, we feel the kind of passion for one another that other writers have written the most beautiful and arousing poems about. Writing and I, we long for longer days and sleepless nights so we might feel the warmth of each other’s skin again and again. Writing and I can barely catch our breath.

But just like relationships that are all passion, in the beginning, I am afraid Writing and I might burn out soon if we don’t slow down. I have to make time for other things because in any relationship you should have pursuits and interest outside of the one you love. You have to go out into the world and bring something back into your little bubble. Writing and I will grow weary of one another if the fuel runs out and I have nothing new to offer.

So, I guess what I am trying to say is, there may come a time when things slow down a little around here because Writing and I have to try new things, learn new things about each other, and keep our relationship fresh and strong. I love the kind of writing I do here, but passion can’t be all there is to any relationship.

There has to be more.


If you like this post, consider signing up for my newsletter. It’s new, but I really put my heart into it. ♥

If you have some time to spare, I encourage you to check out the interview with him from the Paris Review.

Oh and if you’re interested I have used another quote from John Banville in a previous Writer’s Quote Wednesday post. From the same interview too!

Original image via Iwan Gabovitch


5 Replies to “Writer’s Quote Wednesday // John Banville”

  1. I’ve learned that “Writing” can be a fickle thing. I remember days when all I wanted to do was write. When the opportunity presented itself, it was hard to stop. But then, there would be spurts where I wouldn’t write anything. It would last for a few days. I would be so upset with myself because I thought that being a writer meant writing every day. I’ve since learned that writing every day doesn’t work for me. It’s too easy for me to get burned out and drain my pool of creativity. I’ve learned to pace myself, take 10-15 minutes to write a journal entry or a story. Whatever it may be. The other thing I’ve learned is that I have to make a conscious decision to write something. It can’t be something I do on the fly. Though there have been days where I couldn’t help but to get a paragraph or two down.

    Writing means a lot to me, but I had to realize that I need to go at my own pace. In the end, I feel more satisfied and joyous.


    1. That is true too. Some days my relationship with writing feels like too much work to keep together. I do write most days the trick is to do different kinds of writing. I have blogging, I have a book I’m starting, and I have a Zine I want to start. When I am tired of one kind of writing I do a different. But yes, we all need to go at our own pace. There is no one way to be a writing. Thanks for reading :)


  2. Lisa, I look forward to your post every week to meet new authors. This was a guy I knew nothing about. I like your thoughts on writing. Just when you think you have it figured out and pen your first novel, you realize the real work begins at the editing process! WOW! :D


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