The Blue Guitar by John Banville
From the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea and Ancient Light, a new novel–at once trenchant, witty, and shattering–about the intricacies of artistic creation and theft, and about the ways in which we learn to possess one another, and to hold on to ourselves.
Equally self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating, our narrator, Oliver Otway Orme, is a painter of some renown, and a petty thief who does not steal for profit and has never before been caught. But he’s pushing fifty, feels like a hundred, and things have not been going so well lately. Having recognized the “man-killing crevasse” that exists between what he sees and any representation he might make of it–any attempt to make what he sees his own–he’s stopped painting. And his last purloined possession–aquired the last time he felt the “secret shiver of bliss” in thievery–has been discovered. The fact that it was the wife of the man who was, perhaps, his best friend, has compelled him to run away: from his mistress, his home, his wife, from whatever remains of his impulse to paint and from the tragedy that haunts him, and to sequester himself in the house where he was born, trying to uncover in himself the answer to how and why things have turned out as they did. Excavating memories of family, of places he’s called home, and of the way he has apprehended the world around him (“no matter what else is going on, one of my eyes is always swivelling towards the world beyond”), Ollie reveals the very essence of a man who, in some way, has always been waiting to be rescued from himself.