The extract from the novel “The Crow Road” by lain Banks is rather unusual. The passage describes his family at his grandmother’s cremation in his home town of Gallanach. The piece is unusual as it is written in a jovial style which is not often connected with death except in black comedy. However, this is not a comedy so it is unusual. The opening sentence, “It was the day my grandmother exploded” is so surprising when put in context with the rest of the passage. The narrator does not dwell on the grief of losing a member of his family,
but more so on his isolation from his parents. In a movement his mother makes to his father he feels “a pang of loss that did not entirely belong to my recently departed grandmother”. The fact he has had to stay at his aunt and uncle’s house and is sitting with them shows his isolation from his parents. The narrator does not seem to “fit in” with the rest of his family. His clothes are different and his whole attitude towards the funeral is distracted. His outward “style” and image, which suggest rebellious youth, could lead to his being labeled uncaring. It contrasts with the conventional dress of his older relatives. In opposition to this is his painful preoccupation with “getting it right”. He
is very concerned that his dress should be appropriate, so he does care. In a strange sense, what seemed inappropriate is in fact fitting: the white trainers carry the mark
of his grandmother’s wheelchair, and serve as a record of their last meeting, and of his having shown his care of her. The adults, on the other hand, may be dressed more conventionally, but seem, if anything, to be less involved in the proceedings. This distraction of the narrator is shown in his digressions from the funeral. He notices his father’s ears move, as he grinds his teeth, like “John Wayne’s shoulders when he walks”. He notices his brother James is not wearing his Walkman for the first time in years and that his mother’s dramatic hat
is shaped like a UFO....
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