Famespotting

Catching up with cult author Irvine Welsh.

IRVINE WELSH

UW campus, Kane Hall, Room 220, 634-3400 7:30 p.m. Wed., June 13 WHICH SCOT HAS had a greater impact on the world—Sean Connery or Irvine Welsh? The votes should be in by the 22nd century, but for now we can only compare the two unlikely icons' careers thus far. In one corner we have the Film Star, the original (and arguably the best) big-screen James Bond. Connery's charming Northern brogue, searing gaze, and pouty lips landed him in leading roles, on who knows how many People magazine Sexiest Man Alive covers, and, at the age of 69, in an onscreen romance with curvy ingenue Catherine Zeta-Jones. In the other corner, we have the Lit Star. Straight outta Edinburgh, Welsh immediately acquired a massive cult following with his first novel, Trainspotting, and, with works like The Acid House and Ecstasy, determined pop culture as much as he appropriated it. One more entry in his r鳵m麠Welsh once penned a short story about a slacker who—thanks to divine retribution—becomes a fly on his parents' wall just before his mother straps on a dildo. OK, so Connery will probably win the Good Scot award, considering his easy appeal. (Speaking of digestibility, not everyone who reads Welsh's Scottish dialect-heavy fiction ends up declaring triumphantly, "Ah cannae b'lieve ah can understand this shite!") But my own vote goes to Welsh. While Connery has managed to eclipse his Scottishness over the decades (can you imagine the movie star sipping a pint of syrupy lager in a dingy Glasgow pub?), Welsh refuses to allow his nationality to fade into the past, giving an unexpected, idiosyncratic voice to his scrappy country's working class, club kids, civil servants, and drug addicts. Make no mistake: Universal truths exist in Welsh's fiction; they may be encased in the hardened grime of a junkie's trusty spoon, but they're there. While touring Europe in support of his latest novel, Glue, Welsh kindly answered a few questions via e-mail: Seattle Weekly: In Glue, you return to Trainspotting territory, tracking the lives of four friends who grew up together in the Edinburgh housing projects. Why'd you go back to a group of lads and their world of shagging, drink, drugs, and "fitba"? Irvine Welsh: I went back because it's what I know best and it seemed like the right time to be reflective; turning 40, the millennium, and all that sort of stuff. Which of your books—The Acid House, Trainspotting, Marabou Stork Nightmares, Ecstasy, Filth, Glue—are you most fond of? Marabou Stork Nightmares. It's the book I always wanted to read, therefore the one I wanted to write. What comes more naturally— writing in the Queen's English or Scottish dialect? Scottish dialect. There's nothing natural about the Queen's English. Very few people speak that way. You've written short stories (in The Acid House), novellas (Ecstasy), and novels (Trainspotting, Marabou Stork Nightmares, Filth, Glue). Which do you prefer? Why? You can't really say, 'cause a piece of fiction is the length it is. I like short stories, the shorter the better, because you don't get so fed up with them and you can move on. You get to develop characters and plotlines more in a novel so it's more satisfying. Can you tell us anything about your forthcoming novel, Porno, to be released in 2002? Right now the most definite thing I can tell you about Porno is that it probably won't be finished in time for release in 2002! Are there any contemporary authors you enjoy reading? I wish I had a lot more time to read than I do. When you're into a writing project you can't get into other people's fiction. You've been a Scottish expat for the past several years, living in Amsterdam, Munich, and now London. Do you think you'll ever move back up north? I probably will get round to moving back home at some time. But every time I go up I end up on a drinking spree for weeks and it almost kills me, so I wonder if I could last the pace up there now. Your fiction has proven to be highly adaptable to film. Trainspotting was undoubtedly one of the best films of the '90s, and The Acid House was a nice blend of gritty realism and comic surrealism. Will we see any of your other books on screen? Filth will be a film. The rights to the other books have gone, so who knows? Heroin's old hat and ecstasy's finally saturated America. What's the next drug to invade popular consciousness? I think crack will become more mainstream and less ghetto. What do you like most about visiting America? The food. I always pile on the pounds. What do you like least? That I get so caught up in N.Y.C. and S.F. and New Orleans that I don't have time to see much of the rest of the place. Can you forgive (fellow Scot and Trainspotting lead) Ewan McGregor for starring in Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace? If he forgives me for Ecstasy. dmassengill@seattleweekly.com

 
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