April 13, 2013 by musehick
I suppose it makes sense for me to say this, and therefore it is perhaps somewhat redundant, but if I stopped myself from saying redundant things I would never speak – so here it is: I am always more sad when artists die, when writers die, when musicians die, than I am when celebrities die.
The news of Margaret Thatcher shuffling off the mortal coil felt like a damp squib in my universe – she had kind of become a sad parrot-like figure sputtering out the same brand of crap she always did, but how can you hate someone who comes off like a fifth generation photocopy of themselves in their glory days? It kind of feels like you have cheapened yourself to work up the energy to kick the corpse. She was a figure of hate, and I hate what she stood for, but she’s gone now.
I care more about the news that Iain Banks is dying from terminal cancer, a thing I sadly had to watch in two of my relatives in recent years. Banks is meeting it with a mordant humour that is admirable and from what his friends have said of him, no uncharacteristic. I plugged into his world at an impressionable age – I got the troika of The Wasp Factory, Canal Dreams, and Walking On Glass as part of an offer from a club I used to buy books from and they blew me away … they were exotic and human and poetic and matter of fact in a way I don’t remember anyone else being. I found Use Of Weapons in the library and I remember taking it out purely to find out if this was the same guy – that M threw me off, and this was in the days before the internet was ubiquitous, and for some reason I had really scouted around on the cover for the data. That book was one of those epiphanous moments where I saw where sci-fi could go and what it could do, and the narrative structure of that book raised my game and made me want to push the envelope. Iain Banks with or without the M is wonderful. Reading Val McDermid’s tribute helped me connect dots I had never even known were there between him and her and Ian Rankin. I look forward to revisiting his work, and am sad there won’t be more.
To be as well thought of as he is would be quite something; to write something as great as he did would be something else entirely.