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  • Alistair Braidwood

The Wasp Factory…

This month’s Indelible Ink column is now available to browse over at .Dear Scotland and looks at Iain Banks’ debut novel The Wasp Factory. Although Banks has gone on to produce one of the most eclectic, fulsome and successful bodies of work of recent times this book is still one of his best. It introduced the world to this slightly psychotic but always considered writer of fiction.

I think that Banks gets a bum deal from Scottish literary critics. I will admit that he is a writer that leans towards the excessive, not always a bad thing, and that some of his work can be, if not repetitive, then definitely familiar, but he is in no way formulaic. Even books that are structured similarly, such as The Crow Road and The Steep Approach to Garbadale, deal with very different philosophical and political questions.

I think it is better to think of Banks dealing with recurring themes, and looking at them anew every time. Moving outwards he examines the individual, the family, society and the concept of morality. Banks is one of the most intelligent and questioning of all contemporary Scottish writers, but this is often overshadowed by the violence, sex, drugs, rock n’ roll and gore. All of these are in The Wasp Factory and if you’ve never read Banks, and I really think you should, then it is a good place to dip your toe in the sometimes murky water. You’ll either fall in love, or never go near him again. It’s always good to find out these things either way.

Next month’s featured novel is another debut; Anne Donovan’s 2003 book Buddha Da. This novel is a delight, particularly in its structure and characterisation. Donovan manages to write three narrators who always maintain their independence and voice. It is a, mostly, Glasgow set novel that doesn’t require the accompanying ‘gritty’ to describe it and is a realistic depiction of an ordinary family who enter an extraordinary time in all of their lives. If I was the kind of person who gave one liners I would say it was ‘the feel good Scottish novel of the noughties’. But I’m not.

The next 5 novels under discussion are:

Anne Donovan Buddha Da (Sept)

Alasdair Gray Lanark (Oct)

James Robertson The Fanatic (Nov)

James Kelman Kieron Smith, boy (Dec)

Suhayl Saadi Psychoraag (Jan)


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