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Dying writer Iain Banks: I feel treasured and loved | Herald Scotland

Dying writer Iain Banks: I feel treasured and loved | Herald Scotland | contemporary literature | Scoop.it

Dying writer Iain Banks: I feel treasured and loved    Phil Miller    Arts Correspondent    Wednesday 24 April 2013
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SCOTTISH writer Iain Banks has sent his first message to fans since he announced he has cancer and only months to live.
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On his new blog he wrote about marrying his partner Adele, his honeymoon in Venice and Paris, an emergency trip to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the "astounding" messages of support, love and encouragement from his many fans.

The writer of many acclaimed contemporary novels and science fiction books said he felt "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".

He said the messages left on his webpage are "witty, poignant, beautiful, heartfelt, insightful, touching and just funny".

Banks, 59, is suffering from cancer of the gall bladder, liver, pancreas and some lymph nodes.

He began: "Well, what an odd old time it's been."

He writes on the blog of returning home after a "basically brilliant honeymoon/holiday and a good-as-it-could-be stay at the very shiny and expertise-stuffed ERI".

His emergency trip to the hospital, after feeling "distinctly dodgy", was caused by a partial blockage of a stent [tube] he has had placed in his body.

Banks said he worked on what he believes will be his last novel, The Quarry, while he was on holiday.

He commented on the more than 150 pages of comments, tributes and best wishes on his webpage, and said he would follow up and investigate those offering medical advice.

Banks also noted: "And I am, of course, deeply happy that I have attracted the attentions of a few of our – how can I put this politely? – more rationality-challenged friends.

"To have stirred up none at all would have been almost suspicious."

But he added: "Mostly, though – good grief – what an outpouring of love, affection and respect. I honestly had no idea.

"Of course I've always known I have a fair few fans, and I've always been a fan of my fans – certainly of those who turned up at signing sessions, bookshop events, literary festivals, library gigs and so on.

"The people I spoke to on these occasions always seemed bright, clever, highly informed and sometimes worryingly more intelligent than me (see – somebody really intelligent would have written 'I' there).

"As well as displaying immense good taste in literature, obviously."

He said that discovering the "sheer extent and depth of the feelings people have expressed on the message board over the past two weeks have been truly astounding".

He added: "Which has got me thinking.

"I need to tell other writers how much their work has meant to me while they are (and I am) still alive.

"Means writing yet more letters, but I feel it'd be hypocritical of me not to, now.

"I think I'll start with the amazing Mr Alasdair Gray."

Banks concluded: "I'll continue to post the occasional update for as long as I'm able."

The Quarry will be published on June 20.


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Exclusive Excerpt: Tom Wolfe’s Miami-Set Back to Blood - Vanity Fair

Exclusive Excerpt: Tom Wolfe’s Miami-Set Back to Blood - Vanity Fair | contemporary literature | Scoop.it

The swarm of private planes descending on Miami each December, the feeding frenzy of bloated billionaires (See it! Like it! Buy it!), the pretensions of the contemporary-art world . . .

In an excerpt from his new novel, Back to Blood, Tom Wolfe sees Art Basel Miami Beach through the eyes of Magdalena, a young Cuban-American exile, as she watches a local tycoon and a Russian oligarch lock horns over erotic conceptual art—price tag be damned...

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Q&A: Nobel winner has his say

Q&A: Nobel winner has his say | contemporary literature | Scoop.it

Mo Yan is one of China's most celebrated and widely translated writers, and on Wednesday he won the Nobel Prize for literature. Born in Shandong province in 1955 into a family of farmers, he enlisted in the People's Liberation Army at 20 and began writing stories. Since then, he has written several novels and collections, including "Red Sorghum" and "Frog." He spoke recently about writing strong women characters, retaining puns in translation and avoiding censorship.

Q Early novels like "Red Sorghum" seem to be more historical or even considered romances, whereas in recent times your novels have moved to more contemporary settings and themes. Is that a conscious choice?

A When I wrote "Red Sorghum," I was less than 30 years old. At that time my life was full of romantic factors when considering my ancestors. I was writing about their lives but didn't know much about them, so I injected many imaginations into those characters. When I wrote "Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out," I was over 40 years old, so I have transformed from a young to a middle-aged man. My life is more current, more contemporary and the cutting throat cruelty of our contemporary times limits the romance I once felt.

Q You often write in the language of the local Laobaixing, and specifically the Shandong dialect, which gives your prose a flinty edge to it. Does it frustrate you that some of the idioms and puns might not make it into an English translation?

A I used quite a substantial amount of local dialect, idioms and puns in my earlier works because at that time I didn't even consider that my work would be translated into other languages. Later on I realized that this kind of language creates a lot of trouble for the translator. But to not use dialect, idioms and puns doesn't work for me because idiomatic language is vivid, expressive and it is also the quintessential part of the signature language of a particular writer.

Q Many of your novels have strong women at their core. Do you consider yourself to be a feminist, or are you simply drawn to write from a female perspective?

A I admire and respect women. I think they are very noble and their life experience and the hardship a woman can endure is always much greater than a man. The strength that this brings is something we can't imagine. In my books I try to put myself in the shoes of women, I try to understand and interpret this world from the perspective of women.

Q Is avoiding censorship a question of subtlety, and to what extent do the avenues opened up by magical realism, as well as more traditional techniques, allow a writer to express their deepest concerns without resorting to polemic?

A Many approaches to literature have political bearings; for example, in our real life there might be some sharp or sensitive issues that they do not wish to touch upon. At such a juncture a writer can inject their own imagination to isolate them from the real world or maybe they can exaggerate the situation -- making sure it is bold, vivid and has the signature of our real world. So actually I believe these limitations or censorship is great for literature creation.

John Freeman is the editor of Granta, which published a longer version of this interview.


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5 of the all-time greatest novels you haven't read - Today.com

5 of the all-time greatest novels you haven't read - Today.com | contemporary literature | Scoop.it
5 of the all-time greatest novels you haven't read
Today.com
Among the 100 titles cited are predictable classics like “Moby Dick,” “Jane Eyre” and “Wuthering Heights,” but there are also contemporary choices and a few credible curveballs.
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