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Sick Boys

Jenny Turner, 2 December 1993

by Irvine Welsh.
Secker, 344 pp., £8.99, July 1993, 0 436 56567 6
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... I first heard of Irvine Welsh about a year ago, on a visit to the house of a friend of mine in Glasgow. This friend and I were talking, as we often do, about whether or not it is possible objectively to explain the special relationship that many Scottish men seem to have with their drink. Is it a nation thing, a class thing or a masculinity thing, or is it only a masochistic figment of the female imagination? Who are you trying to tell that it’s only Scottish men who drink themselves into oblivion, and why shouldn’t a guy enjoy a pint with his mates in peace? This friend went on to show me ‘It Goes Without Saying’, a short story recently published by Irvine Welsh in Glasgow’s excellent West Coast magazine ...

Seconds from a Punch-Up

Andy Beckett: Irvine Welsh, 10 May 2012

by Irvine Welsh.
Cape, 548 pp., £12.99, April 2012, 978 0 224 08790 2
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... journey from cult status to ubiquity. Soon afterwards I too found myself improbably mesmerised by Irvine Welsh’s often squalid tales of young heroin addicts from Leith, Edinburgh’s blustery, downtrodden port, in the late 1980s. With its needles and cravings, its bare junkie flats and shivery withdrawal scenes, its hovering premonitions of HIV and ...

Deep Down in the Trash

Robert Crawford, 21 August 1997

God’s Gift to Women 
by Don Paterson.
Faber, 64 pp., £6.99, May 1997, 9780571177622
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... Some of these poets and novelists are wary of each other. Jamie recently refused to read with Irvine Welsh because of what she saw as the misogyny of one of his short stories. Yet even such wariness reinforces a sense that these issues are worth contesting. This is scarcely a new subject: Muriel Spark’s strong heroines, Alasdair Gray’s imaginings ...
Canteen Culture 
by Ike Eze-anyika.
Faber, 295 pp., £9.99, March 2000, 0 571 20079 6
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by Tony White.
Codex, 158 pp., £7.95, December 1999, 1 899598 13 8
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by Irvine Welsh.
Vintage, 392 pp., £5.99, August 1999, 0 09 959111 1
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... The benchmark for Charlieunclenorfolktango and, to a much lesser extent, Canteen Culture, is Irvine Welsh’s sprawling bent-copper novel Filth. When it was first published in 1998, the word-of-mouth was very bad indeed. Compared to White’s book, however, it comes as a relief of sorts – Welsh at least knows ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: 10,860 novels, 23 August 2001

... passed Moss by. He doesn’t refer to Seth or Ishiguro or Kureishi, all famous men, often praised. Irvine Welsh and Andrew O’Hagan are mentioned in passing, in quotes from Matt Thorne and someone unnamed at Granta, but Moss himself is strangely silent on the subject of Scottish fiction; James Kelman’s name, for example, doesn’t come up. And what ...

More Pain, Better Sentences

Adam Mars-Jones: Satire and St Aubyn, 8 May 2014

Lost for Words 
by Edward St Aubyn.
Picador, 261 pp., £12.99, May 2014, 978 0 330 45422 3
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by Charlie Hill.
Tindal Street, 192 pp., £6.99, November 2013, 978 1 78125 163 8
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... make reality look good by the contrast but to skewer it. There’s a perfunctory stab at school-of-Irvine Welsh shock-horror – ‘Death Boy’s troosers were round his ankies. The only vein in his body that hadna bin driven into hiding was in his cock’ – but if Trainspotting missed the Booker shortlist in 1993 (there wasn’t a longlist in those ...

Just a Big Silver Light

Theo Tait: Alan Warner, 25 May 2006

The Worms Can Carry Me to Heaven 
by Alan Warner.
Cape, 390 pp., £11.99, May 2006, 0 224 07129 7
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... Demented Lands (1997) and The Man who Walks (2002), a mixture of Beckettish tramp routines and Irvine Welsh-style porno-realism. But both seem to me ultimately very bad, rather like embarrassing and pretentious concept albums: full of show-offy references and silly avant-garde gestures. Judging from his interviews, Warner regards himself as a sort of ...


Jenny Turner: ‘T2 Trainspotting’, 16 February 2017

... Twenty years on​ from the first Trainspotting movie, and Irvine Welsh still cannae act to save his life. In the original, he took the part of Mikey Forrester, the Muirhouse-based purveyor of inferior opiate products, the one who sold the suppositories Mark Renton shat out in the bookies’ toilet. And he was delightful at it, smirking and giggling in his Wattie Buchan T-shirt, like the total amateur he was ...


Andy Beckett: Dennis Cooper’s short novel, 21 May 1998

by Dennis Cooper.
Serpent’s Tail, 176 pp., £8.99, March 1998, 1 85242 586 5
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... small publisher, flies under the Daily Mail’s radar and flashes past his persistent admirers – Irvine Welsh and, inevitably, Ellis, who calls Cooper ‘the last literary outlaw in mainstream American fiction’. Increasingly, under variations of this billing, interviews with and reviews of Cooper are slipping into magazines and news. But this small ...

Lager and Pernod

Frank Kermode: Alan Warner, 22 August 2002

The Man Who Walks 
by Alan Warner.
Cape, 280 pp., £16.99, May 2002, 0 224 06294 8
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... But perhaps we will be expected to have come to terms by now with the Scots of James Kelman and Irvine Welsh, noting that the proportion of obscene language seems to be even higher in demotic Scots than in demotic English, at any rate in novels. Somebody should look into this matter. The work ‘fuck’ and its derivatives were timidly admitted into ...


Thomas Jones: Q and China Miéville, 7 January 1999

by Q..
Sceptre, 256 pp., £6.99, May 1997, 0 340 68558 1
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King Rat 
by China Miéville.
Macmillan, 333 pp., £9.99, November 1998, 0 333 73881 0
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... direction. One of the most successful (in every sense) and seasoned practitioners of the genre is Irvine Welsh. When Q writes that the ravers entering a club ‘were ready to escape the confusion and turmoil of their day to day lives’, he is merely telling us what Welsh succeeds in making us share. In Ecstasy, ...

Smiles Better

Andrew O’Hagan: Glasgow v. Edinburgh, 23 May 2013

On Glasgow and Edinburgh 
by Robert Crawford.
Harvard, 345 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 0 674 04888 1
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... the ancient and holy rivalries. For that, we will have to content ourselves with Alex Salmond and Irvine Welsh, my two prime provocateurs and opponents when it comes to establishing Glasgow’s obvious claim to being Scotland’s only true city. Here are my compelling arguments: 1. In Edinburgh they’re not very hospitable and they always ...


Ian Sansom: A novel about work, 2 December 2004

Some Great Thing 
by Colin McAdam.
Cape, 358 pp., £12.99, March 2004, 9780224064552
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... he’s not a novelist manqué or an insufferable type sitting in a library. He’s more like an Irvine Welsh character gone legit. He’s a plasterer, but not just any old plasterer. Jerry’s a plasterer from a long line of plasterers, one of the 50,000 members of the Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association of the United States ...

Yeah, that was cool

Harry Strawson: ‘Rave’, 1 April 2021

by Rainald Goetz, translated by Adrian Nathan West.
Fitzcarraldo, 263 pp., £12.99, July 2020, 978 1 913097 19 6
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... spots a ‘giant gang of English ravers … all drugs, shagging, fighting and sunburn, to quote Irvine Welsh’). The point, perhaps, is that all accounts of raves, including Goetz’s own, contain some inescapable fictional element at their centre, some way of filling in the glorious blank.The final section of the book involves an international DJ ...

Fairy Lights

Jenny Turner, 2 November 1995

Morvern Callar 
by Alan Warner.
Cape, 224 pp., £9.99, February 1995, 0 224 04011 1
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... great rave novel’. Then if that didn’t work: ‘Man writes as woman. Scottish. Puffed by Irvine Welsh.’ And such excellent dance writing: The way Sacaea was doing it the music was just a huge journey in that darkness ... I slid my foot to the left. You felt the whole side of a face lay against my bare back, between shoulder blades. It was ...

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