Trainspotting and Irvine Welsh

Trainspotting was Irvine Welsh’s breakthrough novel, but I’d never given it a go until recently.  It was the book that was cool and popular to read around the time of university, and a film which was great and very popular – it spawned a culture all of its own, those posters from the films adorned many bedroom walls.

1996 seems like it was a rich year for many things: film (Trainspotting and I’m sure others), music (off the top of my head Underworld’s smash hit Born Slippy which featured in the Trainspotting film), football (a trip to Wembley with my Dad to watch Plymouth Argyle beat Darlington 1-0 in a PlayOff final, shortly followed by the European Championships in England where England reached the semi-final and lost to Germany on penalties): all vivid in memory.

Some years or seasons seem to write themselves more keenly, helped by arts, football: momentous seeming stuff that matters, things you care about.

Yet I consciously didn’t read Trainspotting and I’m not sure why.  Perhaps the film had ruined any chance I had to impose my own interpretation.  I read and enjoyed his books which followed closely after.  Porno was especially fun.  His more recent thriller-esque novel Crime was functional and entertaining enough – if a little needy in its brutal violence; while a short story collection Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs was a surprisingly amusing romp.

Now he’s releasing a prequel to Trainspotting, Skagboys, which I will want to read at some point.  So I thought it was time to give Trainspotting a chance.

It’s a different kind of reading, reading Irvine Welsh.  That thick Scottish dialect actually is a different kind of language and possesses a rhythm and flow of its own.  You let your eyes wash over the words and only compute them together at the end of the sentence, when miraculously it does make sense.  You find the dialect injecting itself into your own stream of consciousness.  You find yourself swearing much more.  If not out loud, then at least inside your head at fuckin dozy cunt shop assistants.

After a while it doesn’t even feel like proper reading.  It feels like you could read it just as efficiently and derive just as much pleasure when really quite drunk.  And it is tremendously funny, the dialogue and internal monologues and candid honesty of the characters.

You have to beware of projecting the characters you’ve seen numerous times from what’s become a cult film.  You’re applying the now world-famous Ewan McGregor to Rents (Renton), and Robert Carlyle as Begbie and.. the other slightly less famous lot.

But still.  It’s still very funny, shocking, intimate, a total joy of a ride.


An addendum to this, 18/07/12.  I recently finished Welsh’s Skagboys, the prequel to Trainspotting.  It was every bit as rich and funny and challenging as I expected.  A little under-edited maybe, and a flicker of cocky knowingness which wasn’t there when Welsh was an unknown, perhaps, but that’s forgivable.  Nae cunt’s gonna make a film of our lives, ye ken?  (or some such – quoting from memory).  But still I miss those characters, and may re-read the Trainspotting sort of sequel Porno in a few months.  I even sent a vaguely fawning complimentary tweet to Welsh, who Favorited it. Me and Irvine, eh?  Solid.



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