not a member? click here to sign up
The Needle That Men Do
With Trainspotting, he made underclass drug culture fascinating. Now Irvine Welsh has written a prequel to his bestseller, which also doubles as a rumination on how the soaraway capitalism of the ’80s may well have knackered society for a generation. He talks about being the bete-noir of the chattering classes, international popularity and saving Iggy Pop’s career.
Olaf Tyaransen, 30 May 2012
“UUURRGGHHHH!!!” Squatting, straining and scrunching up his face, and with veins pulsing on his glistening bald head, Irvine Welsh is defecating live on the stage of the Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire. Thankfully, despite the groan-inducing sound effects, his trousers are fully up.
It’s a balmy Tuesday evening in late April, the final night of the DLR ‘Library Voices Series’, and the 53-year-old Scottish author is reading an extract from his latest novel, Skagboys, in which a group of bored carpenters engage in a Monday morning “shiteing” competition – crapping on newspapers and comparing the lengths, looks and textures of their stools. It’s a fairly typical Welsh scenario, and he reads it with great gusto, obviously enjoying the delighted disgust of the audience.
Although renowned as an excellent reader/performer of his work, he’s in particularly good form tonight, really going for it. Now based in the US, this event is the last scheduled date of what’s been a gruelling UK and Ireland publicity tour. Demanding as they may have been, all those readings, interviews and bookshop signings have paid off handsomely.
Featuring younger, less damaged incarnations of such memorable characters as Spud, Sickboy, Renton and Begbie, Skagboys is a prequel to his 1993 debut Trainspotting (he’s already written a sequel in 2002’s Porno) and, just a few hours ago, he received the news that it’s gone straight in at No. 1 in the UK
It’s not the first time one of his books has gone to No. 1 with a bullet (Ecstasy and Filth share the same distinction), but he’s still delighted. Having celebrated with Guinness and margaritas, he’s more exuberantly giddy than drunk. We shared a taxi in from Dublin city centre earlier, along with his American wife Beth Quinn and novelist friend Emer Martin, and throughout the journey, he intermittently broke into a chant of, “Fuck you, John Grisham! Fuck you, James Patterson! Welshy wins again!!”
In my introduction to the reading, I made the point that although Welsh has been dubbed “the poet laureate of the chemical generation,” it would be equally apt to describe him as “the punk laureate of the literary generation.” In terms of its pure