Saturday, May 05, 2018

Don’t Mess with Mr. Banville

You initiate a literary spat with John Banville at your peril. Hidden behind that jaded sardonic exterior there lies a coiled viper, ready to destroy you should you dare to impugn the pellucid integrity of his every utterance.  Barbara Ann Porte so dared in the April 19 edition of the New York Review of Books. She wrote a 500 word letter complaining about his “typically misogynist and inaccurate description” of Oscar Wilde’s mother in his review of a Wilde biography. Banville apparently described Lady Wilde as “admirable if slightly preposterous”. Porte went on to complain about the general neglect and disparagement of Lady Wilde(Speranza was her pen name) by male writers. Banvile’s response to this lengthy diatribe was a masterpiece of patronising economy:  “Ms. Porte’s letter is a touch strident, but I admire her for springing so vigorously to the defense of “Speranza”.