Friday 20th September
This is his last book. Well, the last which he has written with a view to be published; you never know what scribbles, half-finished scraps, or even self-rejected stuff there might be hanging around for his publishers to try to squeeze a few bucks out of. It probably wasn’t his best book, but certainly up there as a contender. It is a book where one of the main characters, Guy, and certainly the one around whom most of the story and the others spin is a man dying of cancer. This in fact is a book written by a man dying of cancer about a man dying of cancer. Mr. Banks explained this, just before dying himself, as some sort of a co-incidence. Well, whether it was or not he has certainly gotten under the skin of Guy, the hero; the protagonist/agonist who rails against everything and everybody with remarkable black humour and an undignified lack of politeness.
It has made me think how I would be if I were diagnosed with terminal cancer, and, like winning the lottery, it is easy to talk about, but until it happens none of us knows just how we would react.
The real hero of the story is the narrator, young Kit, a bit autistic, but trying desperately to learn to both communicate and to empathise, who almost single-handedly looks after his dying father.
The story is about a long weekend where a group of what used to be close friends re-unites for maybe the last time. Slowly the relationships are unfolded, and as well as being a great observational piece it is a brilliant dissection of a generation of maybe fifty-year-olds and how they have fared in the world.
The Quarry is behind the house, and it’s looming presence is always there, but maybe it is just a metaphor for the gaping void in most of these ‘friends’ lives. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is the love and the anger and the beauty of the writing. And now, sadly I have read all, I think, of his books; though undoubtedly I may return later to read them again. A great loss, but as Guy might have said, “Oh Fuck Off, will you.”