A friend and fellow blogger has had a somewhat severe reaction to Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory as you may read here: http://delaisse.blogspot.com/2011/07/wasp-factory.html (warning: spoilers).
While I was not greatly enamoured of Mr Banks’ gothic effort, I can’t say I disliked it that much but I do appreciate the concept of the polluting book, the novel whose very presence on your shelves can even corrupt your other books so that you become scared to read them again in case Mrs Gaskell has mutated into the Marchioness de Sade. I do not, and have never had, any such book with the possible exception of a self-published fantasy which chunters along for about forty pages until the author gets bored and then breaks off with a note informing the reader that what you have just read actually belongs in a later unwritten novel and now he’s going to start the story proper. As far as this reader was concerned, he was on his own there. While I agree with Flann O’Brien that ‘one beginning and one ending for a book was a thing I did not agree with’ I felt this was taking things a touch too far. But I do not loathe nor yet fear that book.
No, the only novel that I’ve had such a major reaction to was Martin Amis’ Dead Babies which gave me an intense distaste for Amis fils both as a writer and a human that nothing he has written or said since has dispelled. A milder reaction was provoked by D H Lawrence’s Women In Love which I was required to attempt to read as a student. At the subsequent seminar, it was revealed that everyone in the room had hurled the book at the most convenient wall at the same point in the narrative, the famous nude wrestling scene, so I suppose that can be classed as an achievement. Also, an excellent performance of The Three Sisters that I saw as a depressed teenager upset me so much that I still cannot bear to watch another Chekov play. But that last was down to the skill of the then RSC ensemble and that of young Anton and the translator.
As to young Iain, the only other thing of his I’ve read is The Crow Road which I recommend to just about anyone. He also writes science fiction under the not very mysterious pseudonym of Iain M Banks. This is, I suppose, to ensure that no reader of serious contemporary fiction should find himself reading about spaceships portrayed non-ironically, which I think we all agree is a kind act on behalf of the author.
Having expunged the early Banks oeuvre from her life, my friend contacted me this morning to inform me of a startling thematic link she had discovered between Trainspotting and The Wind in the Willows. She's not wrong.