Tuesday, 11 June 2013

For a Dancer

Author Iain Banks (or Iain M. Banks, if you're a sci-fi reader) died this week.  He had been "officially Very Poorly" for just a couple of months. I've always felt a certain affinity for Banks, as we are exactly the same age, and he was my first literary "discovery"; that is, a contemporary I felt I had identified and claimed for myself  from the slush-pile of books published in 1984, despite the negative reactions of the reviewers.  Easily done, as I, too, had a thing about wasps at the time.
People can be teachers and idiots; they can be philosophers and idiots; they can be politicians and idiots... in fact I think they have to be... A genius can be an idiot. The world is largely run for and by idiots; it is no great handicap in life and in certain areas is actually a distinct advantage and even a prerequisite for advancement.
Iain Banks, The Crow Road
Iain chose Jackson Browne's "For a Dancer" as his second record on Desert Island Discs, and also as an "inheritance track" on Radio 4's Saturday Live.  It's a personal favourite of mine, too; there is really nothing more to say about our existence and its mystery than Browne says in this beautiful song.  Though there's no harm in keeping on having a go, is there?

It's also the time of year when some of us remember John Wilson, and "For a Dancer" is for you, too.
Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown,
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own,
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive,
But you'll never know...


Paul Mc Cann said...

Had heard he was sick but hoped he would survive. I was very shocked, and ineffably saddened, at the news of his death.
I enjoyed both his writig persona and always looked forward eagerly for any new work

Mike C. said...


No, it was inoperable and terminal from the diagnosis. Apparently, he had hoped to see his last book on the bookshop shelves -- weirdly, it deals with the last days of a terminally-ill man, but was started before he knew that was his own condition -- but it wasn't to be.


Huw said...


I was saddened but not surprised by the suddenness of his death; in memory I listened to the podcast of his Desert Island Discs appearance and was charmed by his sheer ebullience.

The Wasp Factory shocked me but I never liked the mean streak that ran through his non-SF books. The Business is my favourite but looking at the Amazon reviews it seems few people would agree! Worth it just for the Goldberg Variations though.

But I read all his SF novels and thought him a master of the genre.


PS What did you think of The Last Samurai?

Mike C. said...


I enjoyed "The Last Samurai", but in the end thought it was "brilliant but extremely flawed". I then tried "Lightning Rods" and gave up after a few chapters. Very curious.