Whether we like to admit it or not, the literary industry is – and probably always will be – driven by the middle-classes, and for fear of being unforgivably stereotypical, you’re far more likely to find an oak-panelled bookcase in Davidson Mains than you are Wester-Hailes. However, just over two decades ago, when Irvine Welsh’s unflinchingly abrasive novel Trainspotting was first published, this undercurrent of lower-class Edinburgh citizens suddenly came out the woodwork – entering book stores with alacrity, desperately scrambling for the opportunity to purchase this seamlessly constructed masterpiece, which presents to the reader an incisive and accurately painted picture of the proverbial heroin addict.
Although it would be futile to say that the Danny Boyle movie had an adverse effect on the book, it would also be very disrespectful to the writer if we claimed that the aforementioned was entirely the reason for it being so timeless. It’s the beauty of the characters, the dialogue, the frantic scramble for escapism from the oppressive boredom and brutality of their lives in a housing scheme, that makes this piece of work so important, so seminal.
The resounding success of Trainspotting could quite easily have had a counterproductive effect on the quality of his future novels, but after brilliantly immersing the reader in the hallucinatory journey of the addict in Marabou Stork Nightmares, it was indubitably obvious this wouldn’t be the case. Perhaps it’s because of his working class background that Welsh has managed to keep his feet firmly on the ground. There’s a certain kind of existence that only resides in the lower classes – a way of life that fortifies you forever, blessing you with both virility and valour.
There is a common theme of sin and salvation running through most of his novels, but aside from the realism of Scotland’s most disaffected, let’s not forget how funny and effortless his dialogue is – consistently accurate with esoteric terms and local slang. His characterisation never seems to falter, and guys like ‘ Juice ‘ Terry Lawson ( Glue, and most recently A Decent Ride ) have become contagious – not to mention the Trainspotting crew, who appear again in Porno, and Skagboys.
As well as other stand-alone novels; The Sex lives of The Siamese Twins, Filth, and The Bedroom Secrets of the Master chefs, Irvine Welsh has also written short-stories, stage productions, and short/full length films.
His event at this years Edinburgh International Book Festival – chaired by Viv Groskop – is appositely titled Ah’ve no spoken to the wee radge in ma puff!, and is about his latest book A Decent Ride, once again visiting everyone’s favourite shagger – ‘Juice ‘ Terry Lawson. Like his other novels, there’s no shortness of controversy; incest, necrophilia, and even at one point someone filling a terminally ill man’s saline drip with urine and semen. But even amidst this barbarity, Welsh still manages to find the natural balance between pathos and brutality, darkness and humour. A medically induced exotic black-cab journey, once again proving his credentials as one of Scotland’s most esteemed writer.
Catch Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting at this years Fringe: Assembly George Square Studios, until August 31st ( not Tuesdays ) – rip-roaringly produced by In Your Face, in conjunction with Kings Head Theatre.