The Wasp Factory

The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks Torturing animals, arranging accidental deaths for other children, Frank is a boogieman. He is the type of person that haunts my nightmares rather than horror-movies. He is cruel, unintelligent, nearly unfeeling, and has an internal logic that is just enough at odds with the real world that he might one day abduct you and cut you open just to have a large enough corpse to breed flies in.

I can't give this a star rating because on the one hand it it technically a good book, there isn't anything that I can point out that is wrong with it, and on the other it was deeply unpleasant to read. I can't imagine recommending this book to anyone. I read to escape, I read to have fun, sometimes I read to experience emotions that make me uncomfortable and to deal with them, sometimes I read to help me deal with those uncomfortable emotions, but the emotions I experience here, disgust, fear, discomfort, are not ones that I think I need to come to terms with in light of the actions of the characters.

That surety that my emotional responses are correct is directly at odds with my natural inclination to empathy. Frank (and his brother and father) are all severely mentally ill. I have worked hard on my prejudices against people with mental illness, those that share my particular illnesses and otherwise, so reading about the traumas that they experienced, and the subsequent ways that they dealt with them on their own, hurts. I had to square the fact that there are going to be people who are more mentally ill or neurologically atypical than can function in society. There are going to be serial killers and animal torturers and woman-haters. I can't let my fear response make me take away the benefit of the doubt that everyone deserves.

And, justified or not, on top of all of that I feel some shame for being so conflicted over a book, for letting fiction affect me. After-all, Frank doesn't actually exist, these events didn't happen, and I know that an author's works and his personal feelings and proclivities are not always connected.