100 Tony Parsons, James Joyce
a... 104 X-Statix
105 Underworld, Sugababes
107 Toca Race Driver
108 Black Hawk Down
BUY IT THIS FORTNIGHT
BOOKS IRVINE WELSH Porno Jonathan Capo 5‘10: 0...
friend of mine says he owes his A career in journalism to
Trainspotting. If it hadn’t have been for Irvine Welsh’s debut, he would never have had the gumption to write in his own voice. That’s just one anecdote among many, and all of them justify the book’s seminal status. Trainspotting changed things.
The tale of a gang of scheming schemies shooting up heroin, fighting at the football and generally getting wasted was not only significant for its use of Edinburgh demotic speech - which Welsh still does brilliantly — but also for giving voice to a hitherto silent cross-section of people. No longer could the Scottish capital be viewed only as a gentrified play park for the middle classes; it was also a city of syringes, despair, violence and poverty. Living at the top of Welsh’s fabled Leith Walk myself, it made me see the city anew.
And once a landscape has been changed, it is changed for good. Which is why Irvine Welsh could never hope to match the impact of his debut. Trainspotting wasn’t abstractly shocking, it wasn’t shock for its own sake: it was purposeful and genuine and it made a difference. His novels, plays and short stories since 1993 — among them Marabou Stork Nightmares, Filth and Glue — have varied from the crass to the cracking (often within the same book), but even at his best, he’s never been able to shake off the legacy of Renton, Begbie, Sick Boy, Spud et al.
80 with Porno, he’s resigned himself to the inevitable and come up with Trainspotting II. And the good news is that it isn’t just a commercial cash-in. Yes, it’s not going to change your world as Trainspotting did, but in its way, it’s a highly entertaining, fast-paced, page- turner of a beach novel - or at least it would be if anyone ever read novels on
It’s a page-turner of a beach novel — or it would be if anyone read novels on the Portobello seafront
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1 1 1 ll Robotics
1 12 New Restaurants
1 14 Dublin Theatre Festival
the Portobello seafront.
It‘s significant, too, that Welsh has waited the best part of a decade for his follow-up. This is a novel of our times just as much as its forebear was. Now cocaine has replaced heroin and impending middle age has replaced reckless youth. Meanwhile, the stomping ground of our Trainspotting heroes has been tarted up and blended down, and students earn their keep by doing shifts in the local sauna.
Rediscovering those iconic figures ten years on — Sick Boy trying to become a self-made man via the pub and porn industry, Renton running a club in Amsterdam, Spud trying to kick the junk by writing a history of Leith and Begbie just out of jail - we see how the character traits that were their downfall continue to dog them.
Those who have criticised Porno for following too similar a trajectory to Trainspotting are missing the point. The glory and the tragedy of these characters - as it is with us all - is that their patterns of behaviour don’t change. Begbie is still an unreconstructed vicious brute, Spud still an over-enthusiastic innocent, Sick Boy still tragically self-serving and Renton still a chancer with a conscience. After a slow-burning first 100 pages, their first~ person narratives come together, chapter jostling against chapter, and the drama - and the comedy — starts to happen.
Yes, Welsh’s debate about pornography, though pertinent and cogent, is only one step away from a Guardian special feature; yes, his English characters never have the drive of his Scots; and yes, his female characters lack credibility. But this is his best book since his debut: funny, perceptive, alarming and alive. And be warned: the ending does not preclude a second sequel in 2012. (Mark Fisher)
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