It was probably that diasporic (and of-so-often Scottish) sense of dispossession that got me onto a big Irvine Welsh kick in high school. I read Trainspotting first and found it wonderful, eating up the language of my forefathers through the Scot dialect and hipping right away to the drug use that for some reason fascinated me so much until into university (and, probably not coincidentally, actually seeing an acid flashback in person).
Enjoying it so much I went on and devoured more and more of Welsh’s books, enjoying most of them and then finally hitting a slump somewhere around Filth, the disturbing story of a corrupt cop, and then ignoring his works almost completely as the scandal that once gripped me to his pages started to wear thin.
Seeing the second newest book on the cheap at a local Book City ($5.99 for a hardback) put another fling with the author in order however and so I bought a copy and read through The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs.
Master Chefs both reinforced and called into question what I had started to think of Welsh. On one hand, I found what I probably expected when starting to read it: lots of graphic sex, substance abuse and a few dodgy passages that read liked they missed out on the final edit. On the other however, I found a lot of heart and a lot of intelligence lying just below the surface.
While I never thought that Irvine Welsh was as much of a prick as some of his characters, I had stopped reading him when he seemed to be chucking horror and shock into his work in order to gain attention (like the guy who is probably the worst perpetrator currently writing, Chuck Palahniuk).
In Master Chefs there were definitely plenty of chapters and paragraphs that made me wonder if I was right on the assumption I had made before but, sure enough, there was so much else going on that the rest of it seemed inconsequential in comparison. The development and exploration of the psyches in Chefs’ characters, the so-absurd-it-works magical realism of the main plot device and some really well written words all added up to make it far better than I was expecting . . . and maybe Welsh a far better author than I remembered.
And that’s that. Irvine Welsh may not be for everyone but I think he’s still a writer to watch. Or maybe it’s just cultural sympathy from a Scottish Canadian. Who knows?