Almost sixty now, Irvine Welsh still rocks my world and gets me glued to the pages like he used to 25 years back or so, even now, with yet another book on Rents, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie. It’s officially the fifth in the series, after Trainspotting, Porno, Skagboys and Begbie’s very own The Blade Artist, but really like the twelfth, if you count the rest of his Edinburgh novels like Glue, Filth, A Decent Ride and the rest.
Traveling between Miami and Scotland, Welsh carefully places his characters on the same routine that he undergoes himself, red-eye flights back and forth, a huge divide between sunny and well fed Florida and a drizzling damp and bevvied up brawly Leith.
Everyone’s now older, somewhat tired and weary, yet Hibs, ching, lassies, parties, and chapter after chapter of this unique Welsh-invented brute Scottish language you first learn, get accustomed to, and only later appreciate. The part on Scottish Cup final of 2016 made me open up YouTube and watch Sunshine on Leith sung by the stadium after a major mash up in the pitch.
I dream that one day I re-read most of Welsh’s books in a TV-show-like binge kinda way, as I am tired of not remembering certain parts of previous books that the old master carefully cross-refs here – without it I’m often clueless, as my memory fails.
Good lord, let me start with a friggin spoiler – the dumb of me, I didn't pay attention to the cover, I didn't read the summary on Amazon – so man, I nearly jumped at the end of chapter five. Cause damn, it's not yet another US novel by Irvine Welsh, no sir – it's a FRANK BEGBIE novel – God, who could've thought.
Overall, as Welsh's prose typically is, it's a fast read pulp fiction novel, spanned between California and Edinburgh. Filled with archetypical rage, hatred, violence – but also totally shows Welsh (well, Begbie) getting old, reserved, treacherously double-faced. Breathe, man, breathe, one, two, three
The finale, with all the knives and chisels, is somewhat like a ball gag scene from Tarantino – but despite all that, the book lacks something. It just needed more – story, drama, action, well, I dunno what. And it sure as hell left the page open for a new Renton sequel. I'm in, always!
Read my first Welsh's book in 1996. 20 years have past, everyone chose life, and sadly, no-one got a bit younger. And yeah, Decent Ride was much funnier.
A good funny read from Mr. Irvine “Scotland-moved-to-Miami-and-then-came-back” Welsh.
As it's quite typical for Welsh to reuse and expand his old characters, this is now a third book about “Juice” Terry Lawson, a rough and cynical fellow from both Glue and Porno novels – and, to tell you the truth, I'm quite sad that I seem to remember very little from both of them. Need to re-read Glue one day anyway.
So as I was saying, the story revolves around Terry, who is mid-forties, works as an Edinburgh cab driver and, surprise-surprise, still acts as a true insatiable ladies man. Sex, drugs and rock'and'roll – and sex again.
Then, suddenly enough, the story of Terry charges its course – it becomes the epitome for aging and getting a bit more sad and mature at the same time. I couldn't but felt that Mr. Lawson caught up some of Irvine Welsh's own nostalgia of getting older – a former poet of Leith skag and casual youth, Welsh now writes about the same very folks, but 25 years older, 50 pounds heavier, and with a bad ticker on a brink of an imminent heart attack.
And then, miraculously enough again, it comes back positive again in the end. But no spoilers, eh, no spoilers.
PS: It's not yet available in the US, only comes out in Feb next year – so I had hit the shelves in the UK store of Amazon instead.
Everything’s negotiable. As ah eywis say: fuck off means naw, naw means mibbe, mibbe means aye n aye means anal. Guaranteed!
Ah’ve goat a bookcase wi some books Rab Birrell lends ays which ah nivir fuckin read but ah keep tae impress the student burds. Moby-Dick, Crime and Punishment, that sort ay shite. That Dostoyevsky cunt, ah tried tae read um but every fucker hud aboot five different names, n ah left the scheme tae git away fae aw that! Too fuckin right.
As much as I like all of Irvine Welsh's prolific literary work of the past two decades, it pains me to admit that this is probably his weakest novel.
No, it's still a fun read, as it has the traditional Welsh ingredients in the mix – narrated in the first person by multiple characters, who are full of cynicism, irony and spite. Welsh likes people who defecate in words – and not a single soul spared, oh no.
Plus, given my 4-hour body diet affections, all that get-the-lardass-byatch-to-lose-weight-while-punching-calories-in-the-iPhone psyche stroke a chord with me.
But all of that is not why it's his weakest. The story – the real welshian story, with all its typical shocking brutality, anger and vengeance – it just starts too late. Which, in contrast with a true no holds barred Korean action movie styled chapter one, is a pity. I guess not enough cheap thrills for me, huh.
Still, I wouldn't call it a miss – and I still will avidly consume every piece of Leith or Miami trash that Welsh may throw at me in the future, and chew on it with determination and glee. May strike you as odd, but he is probably the only writer on this sad lonely planet whose every book was devoured by yours truly. I mean, every. Some come close to that – i.e. I read tons of Miller's and Mamet's plays, or Limonov's self praising novels, or Mendoza's barcelonese stories, both serious and funny – but definitely I missed quite a few. Jonathan Littell is in the same league, with every book as well (or so I think at least), but he has written much less. Well, I guess I got too hooked on Welsh's eurotrash stories at high school. Go figure.
To make it clear, Skagboys is a rather lengthy 550-page long prequel to Trainspotting, published some 20 years or so after the original hit the shelves and corrupted the minds of millions – and given the fact that Porno, a 2002 sequel to the same Rents/Sick Boy/Begbie routine was so-and-so (I couldn't read it, so I just listened to a shortened audiobook instead), hopes were not too high.
Despite being a little bit slow at the beginning (I tried to start reading it three times, and only the 3rd attempt got me past Chapter 1), the book caught up with me somewhat later, and got me pretty much immersed in it till the very end.
My call – the absolute peak of the novel is a chapter called Chute, a standalone story about Nicksy, rather a secondary character than the main crew, a brilliant piece of literature in its own right – brutal, raw, jaw twisting, gripping, and showing that grandpa Irvine hasn't lost his form yet. After such intensity through, a comedown was imminent – and there was a prolonged, I'd say, even dragging pace-killer of Renton's 100-page rehab diary.
The very end of the book was a tiny bit disappointing, as with all my love and devotion to Welsh, I didn't like at all his poorly hidden winks and nods at the T-novel and the T-movie – had a lame taste, if you ask me – but nah, what can you do in a prequel.
Overall, hard as it seems to believe, I still adore these dirty, incorrect, abusive, and violent crime/sex/addiction stories of Leith's troubled youth – and probably not to a lesser extent than when I first read them, after I'd bought a copy of Ecstasy in 1996 in the old Zwemmer's bookstore on Kuznetsky, once I had found out about Mr. W's world in Птюч magazine. Oh well, these days are long gone.
If you don't wanna read the whole of Skagboys – well, read just Chute, it's awesome.
No buts – Welsh is my fave pulp fiction writer for the past I dunno how many years – guess from late high school or so. This may not be his best book – after all, this reheated cabbage is nothing but a recollection of old and not so old stories published in various mags and multiple author volumes – but still quite nice music to my ears.
Starts off with A Fault on the Line, one of his most cruel short pieces, which I found online ages ago with some help from my friend Mac – a must read in our sick world – published ages ago in Barcelona Review – if you haven’t read it, you just try. Mere 3 or 4 pages long, it’s the jist of cynicism.
Other than that, some stories hit the button more than others. Typical Welsh as I love him – crude, brutal, disgusting at times, a spit in yer face. Plus I definitely loved I Am Miami, a short follow up to 2001 Glue novel, which is the only new story here.
This burd kin fairly gab n it’s aw borin shite aboot crappy modellin jobs, promoting aw sorts ay pony perfumes in malls n the like, but life’s taught ays thit ye huv tae gie fanny a bit ay air time n pretend tae be interested in thair obsessions (them) if yir gaunny be drawin open they beef curtains later oan.
Strangely enough, Cave turned out to be quite a thrilling read. I know it resembles Welsh a lot, by both content and to certain extent style, but still, quite gripping. Part 3 is madness and rage, death and repent. Oh well.
I keep on slowly turning the pages – while part 1 was all Irvine Welsh and stuff, now, part 2 is all Glengarry Glen Ross, which I like like like like like like like. Basic rules of the trade, sonny. Ain’t no John Galt – simply put – I want your dollar, I want your dime. Goes on like this:
‘It’s like this, Bunny Boy: if you walk up to an oak tree or a bloody elm or something – you know, one of those big bastards – one with a thick, heavy trunk with giant roots that grow deep in the soil and great branches that are covered in leaves, right, and you walk up to it and give the tree a shake, well, what happens?’ […]
‘I really don’t know, Dad,’ says Bunny Junior, listening intently, retaining the information and knowing, in time, he will probably understand.
‘Well, nothing bloody happens, of course!’ says Bunny, and he slows the Punto to a halt. ‘You can stand there shaking it till the cows come home and all that will happen is your arms will get tired. Right?’ […]
‘But if you go up to a skinny, dry, fucked-up little tree, with a withered trunk and a few leaves clinging on for dear life, and you put your hands around it and shake the shit out of it – as we say in the trade – those bloody leaves will come flying off! Yeah?’
‘OK, Dad,’ says the boy, and he watches as one of the youths pulls back the edge of his hood and reveals a white hockey mask with a human skull printed on it.
‘Now, the big oak tree is the rich bastard, right, and the skinny tree is the poor cunt who hasn’t got any money. Are you with me?’
For those who want to steal the book (in Russian) – here’s flibusta link.
For those who want to buy – awesome iPad App on iTunes.
I did both )))