The Steep Approach

I finished up Iain Banks’

The Steep Approach to Garbadale
a couple of days ago. Took me
about a week, and it felt like a faster-than-usual read, though it’s not like I
spend all that much time reading fiction for the sport of it (at least not these
days). Faster than expected, a surprisingly engaging novel, a story well
told–exactly as promised in the approbative cover matter.

The upshot: Alban Wopuld deals with a hiatus from the family circle,
resurfacing at the behest of a cousin who recruits him to stir up dissent among
family members in favor of approving the sale of their rights to a popular game,
Empire!. Alban re-emerges as an influential presence in the family, all
the while coping with two formative events from earlier in his life (and, in
different degrees, these events are at the root of his alienation): his
mother’s suicide and a cousinly love affair.

This little summary doesn’t ruin it. And I fully intend to be getting
along with other novels by Banks just as soon as…one of these days. I only had
time for this one because I am purposefully neglecting the diss for a couple of
weeks while on a back-to-back conferences jag (seriously, it must appear that I
have been shitting around for a couple of weeks now; lazing through some books
about maps, etc.). Anyhow, by this point, I sure I have done enough to pique
your interest in The Steep Approach that I should give a little bit more,
so, then, two passages from dog-eared pages:

Also, third, she tried to quantify how hopelessly, uselessly,
pathetically weak she felt. It took a long time–she was a
mathematician, after all, not a poet, so images were not normally her strong
suit–but eventually she decided on one. It involved a banana. Specifically,
the long stringy bits you find between the skin and flesh of a banana. She
felt so weak you could have tied her up with those stringy bits of banana
and she wouldn’t have been able to struggle free. That was how weak she
felt. (220)

This comes as VG–Alban’s other love interest–remembers swimming near
a reef when the disastrous tsunami welled up from the Indian Ocean in ’04.

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