13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A pub bores' manual
, 27 Jan. 2008
This review is from: Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram (Paperback)
I've read a couple of Iain Banks' books and quite liked them. I also have an interest in whisky, so a book by Banks on the subject sounded like it could be a good read...I was wrong.
The core of the book is Banks' journey to visit various distilleries and sample the whiskies they produce in an effort to find the `perfect dram'. His notes on this whisky trek are interspersed with various anecdotes, autobiographical notes and `rants'.
Most of the rants are directed against America (the book was written at the start of Gulf War II) and for the most part consist of juvenile name-calling. Some of the topics he raises might deserve serious discussion, but not in a book like this (it is meant to be about whisky is it not) and not using the type of language a Glasgow drunk might shout at cars while trying to stagger across a motorway. In fairness, Banks' does acknowledge the fact that he is ranting, but this does not excuse him.
Including his rants (on America, drug legislation, nuclear weapons etc) was extremely self-indulgent and you get the feeling they were left in to bump up the word count. However, we soon discover that Banks (or `Banksie' as we come to know him) has made quite an art of self-indulgence and is very keen on treating himself. We find out that he's now worth a few bob, has numerous fast cars, enjoys fine wines and buys whisky by the crate-full. These 'loadsamoney' revelations are of little interest. There is very little in this book that could be described as interesting. The anecdotes in particular are terrible. Let's say you had an interesting experience, such as fighting of a ninja death squad in the supermarket. Let's give this a score of 100 and compare it to a banal occurrence such as seeing a pebble - which we give a score of 1. Based on this system only a handful of Banksie's stories get to the low teens and the majority struggle to get above 5. Examples include: the time Banksie (pissed) twatted about on a balcony, the time Banksie (pissed) jumped off a wall, the time Banksie (pissed) saw a friend drop a tray and, my favourite, the time Banksie (presumably sober) walked into a shop and didn't buy some cheese.
Worst of all these stories are the ones about cars and driving. Parts of the Scottish road network are described in mind-numbing detail and start to resemble Monty Python sketches. If you got Eric Idle to read them out in a nasal southeast England `car bore' accent he'd probably win a Perrier award. Many of Banksie's car stories are laughable, but not in a good way. Take for example the time Banksie was driving in his car following a much more powerful car, then saw an opportunity to overtake the other car - but didn't! Later he's driving in a powerful car and sees he's being following by a less powerful car. Banksie gives the following car an opportunity to pass him, but this is not taken! The long winter evenings must just fly past.
Another tedious feature of the book is Banksie's friends. It's almost as if he's compiling a list of everyone he's ever shared a drink with. He seems afraid of leaving someone out and every friend and relation (and all their friends and relations get a mention). At times it almost reads like one of those Xmas round-robin letters people send out. You know the sort of thing: "In May we went to visit Gerald and Mary in their new home. They have a new dog called Toby. Their daughter, June is doing very well in her art course..." After a few pages of these banalities you start to pray for death.
I did have some other observations on this book. But I can't be bothered to write them out. The book is not worth the effort, some of the bits on whisky are okay but Banksie's observations are pedestrian at best and the rest is just dull. Oh so dull.
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