The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (Books 2018, 17)

Back where it all began, then: Banksie’s debut. It’s a bit dated, of course. Do you remember pay phones having pips? And “I must convince dad to get a VTR.” Who ever called it a VTR, rather than VCR? Outside of TV companies, at least.

Still a great, crazy story with an ending that, now, seems less believable than it ever did. Well, the whole setup, really: the idea that you could have a child and not register them, and keep them away from all need for interaction with the authorities. Even if you lived on a private island, that’s hard to imagine nowadays.

And I had forgotten what a misogynistic character the narrator, Frank, is. Which is, frankly, ironic.

I recall reading a theory once that Eric, the crazy, dog-burning brother, doesn’t actually exist, that he was all a figment of Frank’s supercharged imagination. I was keeping that at the back of my mind as I read this time, and I don’t think there’s much evidence of it. But I’ll see if I can track down the actual theory.

Here we go: “The Weaponry of Deceit: Speculations on Reality in The Wasp Factory” by Kev McVeigh. Originally published in the BSFA’s Vector magazine.

Reading it again now, McVeigh has a point: Eric can be seen as a metaphor for Frank’s masculinity. But I prefer to take it at face value: sometimes a crazy family is just a crazy family.

The difficulty in searching for anything to do with this novel nowadays is that it’s on the English Literature curricula of both the English A-Levels and the Scottish Highers. So there are lots (and lots and lots) of sites offering analyses of it for students plagiarise learn from. As well as all the Goodreads entries and blog posts you would expect.

And, oops! I’ve just added to the pile.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (Books 2018, 17)

4 thoughts on “The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (Books 2018, 17)

  1. @devilgate

    the idea that you could have a child and not register them

    Happens all the time, lad, particularly in small minority communities. Hasidim, for instance, or Irish Travellers – just to take two examples from my own experience – there are others.

  2. @dgold Interesting. I bow to your superior knowledge. It must mean that people in those communities have no interaction with doctors, hospitals, schools… to say nothing of jobs, bank accounts, voting… All the accoutrements of modern society must be closed to them.

  3. @devilgate but a lot of these isolated communities don’t want interaction with modern society – just think of the amish. Not interacting is part of the deal. Others, like the Irish travelers, do interact to some extent, but are hugely disadvantaged when they do, teaching them to not do so in future.

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