Two days ago I decided to kill myself.
On hearing the sad news about author Iain Banks and talking about it at work, I realised that I was completely void of an IB experience. So in response to this, a friend recommended and lent me Espedair Street to read on a long-weekend to bonnie Scotland.
Focussed on the life of a rock star, the story is told in a series of flashbacks, as well as flashbacks within flashbacks, and what I loved about this method is the sense of reality that’s created. The storyline is not a linear progression detailing a ‘rags to riches’ story. Instead it is Dan Weir, the thirty year old rock has-been, telling the story in his words as he remembers it – rather a story of ‘riches to rags to riches to a lucky break to a life of a rocker to hidden identity to rags again’ (I agree, a much more convoluted way of putting it but true nonetheless!). Banks weaves Weir’s tragic present existence through the tales of his heyday past and the question of his future effortlessly.
The subject matter of a rock star could have led to a novel with absolutely no believability, but Banks’ writing is so clever and engaging that you can’t help but be sucked into the world of Dan Weir and his band Frozen Gold. Such is the authority of the narrative and the authenticity of Banks’ voice that you may be forgiven if you start searching the internet for Frozen Gold’s backlist!
Living in a disused church (a brilliantly placed metaphoric setting) and dealing with a successful past and an uncertain future, Banks explores the problem of Weir’s crossroads with sympathy and humour. Set in Glasgow, there is enough phonetic dialect to authenticate the narrative (and warrant my offensively bad Scottish accent) but it’s not too heavily done that it would distract a non-Scot from what is going on.
In stark contrast to the opening line, the final actions of Daniel Weir are positively cheery, leaving the reader with a feeling that everything might just be alright for the character you grow to love. However, the final few chapters were a bit too straight-forward for my liking. The resolution seemed too neat to fit in with the strong realism created by Banks throughout but then we are talking about a narrative focussed on the life of an unlikely rock star so suppose it can be forgiven!
If you haven’t experienced IB yourself, I would definitely recommend a trip down Espedair Street as an opener – I really enjoyed the contrast of rock gravitas and a life in seclusion. Definitely some more Iain Banks in the future methinks.