Greetings book clubbers,
Just to remind you of our meeting next Wednesday at the Clockhouse at 8.00 pm upstairs.
Also sadly Ian Banks died last week and I have had a request to choose one of his books as the next book group reading. I am quiet happy to do so and would recommend either The Wasp Factory or The Bridge.
A brief synopsos:
The three main characters represent different elements of the protagonist. Alex (full name hinted to be Alexander Lennox, but never explicitly named), John Orr and The Barbarian are one.
Alex is a real person, born in Glasgow, who studied geology and engineering at the University of Edinburgh, fell in love with Andrea Cramond while there, and has continued their (open) relationship ever since. He is embittered by his betrayal of his working class roots (he has become a manager and partner in his engineering firm), the Cold War, successive Thatcher governments, and the failure of his relationship under the pressure of Andrea's French lover's terminal illness. While returning from a sentimental reunion with an old friend in Fife, during which alcohol and cannabis are consumed, he becomes distracted by the power and beauty of the Forth Railway Bridge while driving on the neighbouring Forth Road Bridge and crashes his car. While in a coma in hospital, he relives his life up to the crash.
"He glanced back at the roadway of the bridge as it rose slowly to its gentle, suspended summit. The surface was a little damp, but nothing to worry about. No problems. He wasn’t going all that fast anyway, staying in the nearside lane, looking over at the rail bridge downstream. A light winked at the far end of the island under the rail bridge’s middle-section. One day, though, even you’ll be gone. Nothing lasts. Maybe that’s what I want to tell her. Maybe I want to say, No, of course I don’t mind; you must go. I can’t grudge the man that; you’d have done the same for me and I would for you. Just a pity, that’s all. Go; we’ll all survive. Maybe some good-
He was aware of the truck in front pulling out suddenly. He looked round to see a car in front of him. It was stopped, abandoned in the nearside lane. He sucked his breath in, stamped on the brakes, tried to swerve; but it was too late."
John Orr is an amnesiac living on the Bridge, a massive simulacrum of the rail bridge, but hundreds of miles long and packed with people. The crash which precipitated his arrival on the bridge was semi-deliberate; as such, he is reluctant to return to the real world. That part of himself who wishes to wake is represented by Dr Joyce, Orr's psychoanalyst. Given Orr/Alex's desire to remain within the world of the Bridge, a world where he is well treated and lives a fairly pampered life, his attempts to stonewall and block the doctor's attempts to cure him are understandable. Eventually, he stows away on a train and leaves the Bridge. He finds that, in stark contrast to the very orderly, indeed totalitarian, life on The Bridge, the countryside beyond exists in militaristic chaos and warfare.
The Barbarian is an id-ish warrior with a superego-esque familiar in tow (phallic symbolism is referenced by the familiar within a few pages of their first appearance) whose hack-and slash antics through various parodies of Greek legends and fairy tales are phonetically rendered in Scots dialect (seven years before Irvine Welsh used the technique in Trainspotting). The Barbarian (along with his loquacious familiar) are a deep expression of Alex's character; when Orr's dreams are not themed around threat and opposition he dreams he is the Barbarian.
The Barbarian appears to be an expression of Alex's deepest feelings. A woman is his enemy in their first appearance (Metaphormosis, Four), showing how Andrea Cramond has made her influence felt in Alex's very core, and how his love for her has been eroded and has transmuted into anger and contempt through the rift that has opened in their relationship.
In their second appearance (Metamorpheus, Four), a female character is mentioned in passing, with a certain level of affection.
The third appearance of the Barbarian and familiar (Metamorphosis, Pliocene) sees them old, decrepit, bed-bound and heading inevitably towards death. In each successive chapter the Barbarian's Scottish accent becomes less and less pronounced, another indication of how far Alex has gone from his Glaswegian roots. The Barbarian talks of his grief over his dead wife and his memories of their life together. While comparisons have been drawn between Sigmund Freud's structural theory of personality, this is the only point where the Barbarian, Familiar and another individual get together in a three-way arrangement. If the Barbarian's wife represents Andrea Cramond, it is another example of how deeply she has penetrated his being. In a move mirroring Alex's suicide drive and anticipating the end of the book, he is placed in a situation likely to kill him, but triumphs and emerges (literally) rejuvenated and reinvigorated. His Glasgow accent also returns.
The Bridge is an unconventional love story; the characters eschew fidelity and barely see each other for years at a time, but they keep returning to each other. There is no marriage, no ring, no happy ever after, just the knowledge that their lives are so deeply entwined it would be difficult or impossible for them to break away from each other.
“You don't belong to her and she doesn't belong to you, but you're both part of each other; if she got up and left now and walked away and you never saw each other again for the rest of your lives, and you lived an ordinary waking life for another fifty years, even so on your deathbed you would know she was part of you.
The Wasp Factory:
It is written from a first person perspective, told by sixteen-year-old Frank Cauldhame, describing his childhood and all that remains of it. Frank observes many shamanistic rituals of his own invention, and it is soon revealed that Frank was the perpetrator of three deaths of children within his family before he reached the age of ten himself. As the novel develops, his brother's escape from a mental hospital and impending return lead on to a violent ending and a twist that undermines all that Frank believed about himself.
The 'Wasp Factory' of the title is a huge clock face encased in a glass box and salvaged from the local dump. Behind each of the 12 numerals is a trap which leads to a different ritual death (for example burning, crushing, or drowning in Frank's urine) for the wasp that Frank puts into the hole at the center within tubes. Frank believes the death 'chosen' by the wasp predicts something about the future.
There are also Sacrifice Poles, upon which hang the bodies and heads of larger animals, such as seagulls, that Frank has killed and other sacred items. They define and 'protect' the borders of Frank's territory - the island upon which he lives with his father.
Frank occupies himself with his rituals and maintaining an array of weapons (from his catapult, to pipe bombs and a crude flame thrower) to control the island. Frank is haunted by an accident which resulted in the loss of his genitalia, and resents others for his impotence, particularly women. He goes for long walks and runs patrolling the island, and occasionally gets drunk with his dwarf friend Jamie in the local pub. Other than that, Frank has almost no contact with the outside world and admits that he is afraid of it due to what it did to his brother, Eric.
Frank's older brother Eric is in an insane asylum after being arrested for brutalizing the town's dogs. He escapes at the start of the novel and throughout the book rings Frank from phone boxes to inform Frank of his progress back to the island. Their conversations invariably end badly, with Eric exploding in fits of rage. Frank is confused as to whether or not he is looking forward to seeing Eric, but it is clear Frank loves his brother dearly.
Frank remembers his older brother as being extremely sensitive before "the incident" that drove him mad: a tragic case of neglect in a hospital where Eric was a volunteer. While attempting to feed a smiling brain-damaged child with acalvaria, Eric realizes that the patient is unresponsive and only smiling off into space. He checks the usually-alert patient's head dressings to find the child's exposed brain tissue infested with day-old maggots.
We also get a listing on The Clockhouse website:
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit was 2013:06:14:17:03:40 by Chick.