John Banville on The Horse’s Mouth by Joyce Carey (1944)
For reasons hard to fathom, the novels of Joyce Carey are largely forgotten now. He was a wonderful writer, and The Horse’s Mouth is a masterpiece of its kind – although an argument might be made that it is in fact one of a kind. Carey’s protagonist, Gully Jimson, is a London painter loosely based on Stanley Spencer. At one level the book is a comic romp, but at another it is surely the best fictional account ever written of what it is to be a painter. It would have made a splendid prize winner.