You know what they say about laughter being the best medicine? Well, it isn't really - unless medicine and medical science are completely useless, that is. Such was the case for Iain Banks, who announced the fact that he had been diagnosed with aggressive and terminal cancer of the gall bladder by claiming to be "officially very poorly" and noting that he'd asked his partner Adele to do him "the honour of becoming my widow".
Banks' final interview, given to Kirsty Wark and screened last week as Iain Banks: Raw Spirit (mystifyingly and shamefully only on BBC2 Scotland), was in much the same vein - not surprising, though, for someone whose novels are so infused with humour of the blackest kind. At one point he joked that some people might suspect his illness was just an invention, a marketing stunt cynically deployed to create sympathy and boost pre-sales of his final book The Quarry. In truth, the programme (and therefore, in a way, Banks' untimely death) won't have done the book any harm; some of the ranting passages performed by John Sessions convinced me I need to buy and read it - just as soon as I've finished Espedair Street and The Wasp Factory (the latter currently destined to be my holiday reading for the next couple of weeks).
In conversation with Wark, Banks was for the most part self-deprecating and modest, claiming that he was nice to everybody by way of compensating for the fact that he was actually innately selfish. That said, he did bristle slightly at the mention of his penchant for fast cars (a penchant rediscovered shortly before his death) and clearly objected to being labelled as a "champagne socialist", though offered little in the way of a convincing defence.
Also, was it just me or was the music he'd composed a bit naff? Just as well he largely stuck to the writing...