Have just been catching up on the books sections in some recent copies of the Listener, and in a review of Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence came upon this delightful quotation which ends that particular review: “witchcraft requires no potions, familiar spirits or magic wands. Language upon a silvered tongue affords enchantment enough.” That seems to me, a wonderful encapsulation of the magic of words.
So i wrote this into my table book and noticed there as i did, another extract from a Listener book review that i’d recorded a year or so back. Louise Wareham commented of T C Boyle in Talk, Talk “he writes the way writers sometimes seem that they should: as if sitting at the typewriter with their hair on fire”. Isn’t that a perfectly splendid image?
Iain Banks is an admirable and delightful wordsmith, though I don’t see him on fire as he wrote Matter, which i finished reading a couple of days ago. This is not the greatest of his Culture novels; nevertheless it is very good and i loved being immersed once again in his words and this future. Along with Steven Poole in his review for the Guardian i feel Banks kept us unrewardingly long in the nascent industrial, quasi-medieval society of Sursamen’s eighth level to set the scene for his tale and then had to rush the endgame. What we lovers of the Culture revel in are the technology, intrigues and personalities of the Culture folk and Matter cheats us of a sufficiency of these. Okay, Banks has lots of observations, tellingly put, to make on the nature of power, influence and their exercise that parallel our current times, and that is good. But i did hanker after more of the marvels, and those arch Minds especially, of the Culture’s civilisation. However Matter is enchantment enough.