Irvine Welsh's scintillating, disturbing, and altogether outrageous collection of stories—the basis for the 1998 cult movie directed by Paul McGuigan.
He is called "the Scottish Celine of the 1990s" (Guardian) and "a mad, postmodern Roald Dahl" (Weekend Scotsman). Using a range of approaches from bitter realism to demented fantasy, Irvine Welsh is able to evoke the essential humanity, well hidden as it is, of his generally depraved, lazy, manipulative, and vicious characters. He specializes particularly in cosmic reversals—God turn a hapless footballer into a fly; an acid head and a newborn infant exchange consciousnesses with sardonically unexpected results—always displaying a corrosive wit and a telling accuracy of language and detail. Irvine Welsh is one hilariously dangerous writer who always creates a sensation.
In Welsh's (Trainspotting) gritty proletarian universe, everyone from God to Madonna (the Material Girl, not the Virgin) speaks tough, working-class Scottish dialect: ``That cunt Nietzsche wis wide ay the maark whin he sais ah wis deid,'' confides a prickly, pint-hefting Almighty in a Glasgow pub. ``Ah'm no deid, ah jist dinnae gie a fuck.'' Nihilism and self-absorption characterize the nearly indistiguishable junkies, football hooligans and petty thieves who narrate these edgy, preponderantly first-person stories and one novella. Like fellow Scot James Kelman (whose salty vernacular Welsh's dialogue echoes), Welsh's predatory characters are society's dregs, hard-luck losers pinned to seediness by the empire's decline and by their own low expectations. The plots address this unrelenting grimness with shocking violence or twisted comedy. With the former, Welsh lacks Kelman's chilling incisiveness and tense dramatic control; he's somewhat more successful at broad satire and manic, high-concept humor. When it works, it's hilarious: ``Where the Debris Meets the Sea'' features inventive turnabout, as fanzines and tabloid TV programs about Scottish lorrie drivers feed the sexual fantasies of Madonna and friends. More often, though, the satire lacks teeth, descending instead to weak sarcasm. The title story's inspired premise (an acid tripping malcontent and a yuppie couple's newborn swap souls) fizzles out in conventional, trite pokes at political correctness, men's groups and upward mobility. Author tour.