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By TheophileEscargot (Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 05:49:14 AM EST) Reading, Watching (all tags)
Reading: "The Steep Approach to Garbadale". Watching.


What I'm Reading
Finished The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks (no M.). Pretty poor, actually. It features an extended-family business, who make a board game turned computer game called "Empire". Alban, a family member who's dropped out and become a forester is persuaded to attend a big meeting where they're to discuss selling out to big corporation.

Most of the book consists of two series' of flashbacks, mixed in with current events, showing Alban's relationships with two women. The problem is that these relationships are immensely dull. One is a thwarted teen romance that you'd think he'd really be over by his thirties. The other is an oh-so-quirky relationship with a mountain-climbing, fast-driving, beautiful but never wears makeup, female mathematician who doesn't want exclusivity in the relationship. It all seems depressingly Richard Curtis down to meet-cute clichés and an ordinary, troubled protagonist somehow ending up with a fabulously attractive partner who seems totally out of their league to the reader/viewer.

There also seems to be a lack of the usual imagination in terms of scenes and settings from Banks. "The Business" had memorable scenes like that aboard a ship heading for the wrecking beach, and the Ferrari-torturing scene. "Espedair Street" had a washed-up Seventies musician living in a church surrounded by bulldozers and East European trade goods from a bizarre record deal. Garbadale seems pretty bland by comparison.

Recommendation: Skip this one. His previous book "The Algebraist" was good so this is hopefully a glitch rather than a decline.

Review, review, review, interview, interview.

What I'm Watching
Saw Belleville Rendezvous (aka The Triplets of Belleville) on DVD. Pretty good. Excellent, atmospheric animation. Especially liked the brilliant opening sequence. Not an awful lot of laughs though.

Even fewer laughs in Letters from Iwo Jima which I saw at the cinema. Tells the story of the defence of Iwo Jima from the Japanese point of view: all the dialogue is in Japanese with subtitles, though it was directed by Clint Eastwood. Pretty intense and moving in places. Could have benefited from cutting though: it drags on a bit and people behind me started yapping away in the last half hour.

Saw Bamako in a nice quiet cinema. The IMF and the World Bank are put on an informal trial, which is intercut with scenes from daily life. Pretty much what you'd expect. Some decent and impassioned sequences, but not really providing a coherent case against the institutions; nor explaining why the institutions should be put on trial rather than the nations and principles behind them, or the policies that the institutions are carrying out.

Essentially I think the reason is that there's a degree of inconsistency in the attacks. On the one hand, the institutions are the bad guys because they allowed the African nations to run up massive debts in the past; on the other hand they're the bad guys for not allowing the African nations to run up more debts at the present. By attacking the institutions rather than the policies, you can disguise the fact that you don't have a consistent view on what's wrong with the policies.

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Little bit steep | 10 comments (10 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
WIPO by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 06:57:16 AM EST
Ian McEwan. I always confuse him with Iain Banks, and indeed Ian Rankin, even though he's the only one whose books I've read (excepting that I saw a reading of Rankin's when he was on the Prairie Home Companion in Edinburgh.)

Coincidentally by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #2 Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 07:00:26 AM EST
I have "Saturday" by Ian McEwan sitting in my to-read pile. Probably not the next one though.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
I've not read it. by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #3 Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 07:07:03 AM EST
But I should. It's the type of literary fiction that I can read without forcing myself, and feel as if I've partaken of a good homecooked meal rather than the Pizza Express of Douglas Coupland or the extremely witty McDonalds of Jasper Fforde who I've been devouring of late.

[ Parent ]
Haven't read Saturday by BlueOregon (4.00 / 1) #8 Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 12:25:35 PM EST

But I did read "The Cement Garden." Liked it.

Currently reading Ian Caldwell ... no McEwan, but more a diversion than anything else.

As for Fforde ... I'll return to him later. I have a Battenberg to bake Tuesday.

[ Parent ]
But, but, but, but .... by Herring (4.00 / 1) #4 Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 07:12:07 AM EST
I have all of Iain [M] Banks' books. If I don't buy this one ...

Wait for it cheap in paperback.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

Also, suggested poll refinement by Herring (4.00 / 1) #5 Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 07:14:05 AM EST
  • Iain Banks (fiction)
  • Iain Banks (non-fiction)
  • Iain M Banks (Culture)
  • Iain M Banks (non-Culture)
Actually, these days we probably have enough poll options for each book.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
[ Parent ]
I think I've spotted the pattern by gpig (4.00 / 1) #6 Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 07:30:42 AM EST
Iain Banks: usually pretty good (The Crow Road is one of my favourite books), but sometimes dreadful (Song of Stone).

Iain M Banks: always at least good, sometimes genius (Look To Windward).
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(,   ,') -- eep

I liked Song of Stone by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #10 Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 01:21:26 AM EST
It was dead slow, but had a weird surrealist air to it without anything obviously surrealist going on.

I know what you mean though - "Dead Air" is bloody awful, and don't go anywhere near that book on whisky he did.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Triplets of Belleville by ad hoc (4.00 / 1) #7 Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 09:14:17 AM EST
Loved it.
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Hypocrisy is the resin that holds the plywood of society together
Lorentz invarient novels by Alan Crowe (4.00 / 1) #9 Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 08:42:56 AM EST

I'm reading the Algebraist at the moment and enjoying it. High quality space opera set in a vividly imagined universe.

When I was at my mum's I read the review in Saturday's Scotsman newspaper. My mother has joined a reading group at the library hoping to widen her horizons and might think of buying The Steep Approach To Garbadale. I feel quite odd about the fact the Algebraist would be inaccessible to her. It speaks of a huge gap that is not just a generation gap.

She would find the time dilations baffling. If I told her about Minkowski space-time she would want to know why science fiction novels were set there. If I told her that they do it in pusuit of realism, Minkowski space-time is where we live,...

Literature is split into two generas with the basis of the split being that most readers would mistake attempts at realism for off the wall flights of fantasy. Scary!



Little bit steep | 10 comments (10 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback