April 29, 2013
I have always loved to read.
When I was a kid, my dad handed me a stack of sci-fi novels and said here, read these. And I did and they were awesome. Clarke, Heinlein, Asimov...they changed my life. I became a reader. Like, for reals.
I continued to read through middle school and high school. In college, reading got sidetracked. I was forced to highlight textbooks and, though I flew through Crime & Punishment in a day, absorb "the classics." During my senior year in college, though, I stumbled upon this book that changed my reading life. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I bought it based on the cover. I know, you can't judge a book...
The book was The Bridge by Iain Banks. I knew nothing about Banks and had no strong feelings one way or the other about bridges but I bought it. Shortly after, I cracked the spine and started reading it. I don't believe I put it down until the final page. It was like nothing I'd read before and I was delirious when I finished. To recount even the most minor part of the story would ruin the whole thing. Suffice it to say that The Bridge rekindled my love of reading, prompted me to start my reading journal and opened my eyes to a whole new literary world.
I learned over the weekend that Iain Banks is dying. After discovering late-stage cancer, he has only a few months to live. Instead of mourning his inevitable demise, he ran off and married his "widow-in-waiting" and honeymooned in Venice and Paris. It's hard to believe (though I'm sure harder for him than me). This mysterious Scottish man who inspired my love of reading isn't long for this work and that, my friends, crushed me. While other authors have tried, no other writer has produced in me such a foundational response, painted such evocative pictures that stuck with me over time, and created a series of worlds which I'd so desperately like to visit.
Mr. Banks, I want to thank you. I've had Canal Dreams, walked down Espidair Street and The Crow Road, taken the Steep Approach To Garbadale, and been given The Business in The Wasp Factory. I've Considered Phelbas and examined The Player Of Games Against A Dark Background while Walking On Glass in the Stone Canal. And I will miss those journeys. I will miss them greatly. But I thank you for committing them to paper and ink so your imagination will live on.
Banks recently posted this on his site after reading his fans' reactions:
"Discovering the sheer extent and depth of the feelings people have expressed on the message board over the past two weeks has been truly astounding. I feel treasured, I feel loved, I feel I’ve done more than just pursue the craft I adore and make a living from it, and more than just fulfil the only real ambition I’ve ever had – of becoming a professional writer. I am deeply flattered and touched, and I can’t deny I’ve been made to feel very special indeed."
You are, Mr. Banks. You are.