Do Me The Honour Of Becoming My Widow

Some very sad news today – Scottish author Iain Banks has announced he has terminal cancer and is unlikely to live for another year.

Iain Banks

Iain Banks – picture from the BBC

I first discovered Iain Banks in 1984 when I picked up his debut literary novel The Wasp Factory in my local library. What drew my attention were all the reviews quoted inside the front cover.

Normally, publishers pick out all the best bits to persuade people how good a book is. Not with The Wasp Factory. The reviews alternated: one saying this was the best thing in decades, the next saying how terrible it was. wasp1

I don’t have a copy but I seem to remember that one review summed it all up. It went something like: “This is a wonderful book but enjoy it I did not.”

After that warning, I couldn’t fail to pick it up. I did enjoy the book – although some some of it was fairly disturbing and there’s one moment that is quite stomach-churning. But all written with wonderful panache and just the right level of black humour to appeal to my own slightly warped sense of what’s amusing.

I went on to read practically everything else produced by Iain Banks – including the sweeping sci-fi epics written under the name of Iain M Banks.

He’s probably one of the writers who has most inspired my own attempts to be an author and if I could produce just one book to stand next to all of his I’d be a proud man.

Iain Banks is a hugely talented writer and will be sorely missed.

Oh yes, if you’re wondering about the title of this post, it’s a quote from Banks’s own announcement and a reflection of his wonderful dark humour. Apparently, having learnt that what he thought was backache is in fact terminal cancer, he proposed to his partner, asking her to do him the honour of becoming his widow.

As the man himself said, sometimes a bit of ghoulish humour helps to deal with those things that can’t be laughed away.


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