“Trash” by Irvine Welsh

I just finished reading this book by the same author of the more popular work “Trainspotting”. I chose this newer piece because I didn’t want to be influenced by having seen portions of the movie version of the earlier work.

I came across Irvine Welsh originally when I was finding writers of Transgressive fiction. This work certainly fits the bill. The blurb on the back says “…in an Irvine Welsh novel nothing is ever so bad that it can’t get a whole lot worse.” It is also a highly challenging piece for a number of reasons.

First, it is written in predominantly Scots dialect. I hadn’t read anything of that ilk since studying Robert Burns. It took a while to get used to the vernacular and the accompanying slang.

Second, like Brett Easton Ellis’ “American Psycho”, the main character does not have a lot of redeeming features. Bruce Robertson, a Scottish police Detective Sergeant is racist, misogynistic, a manipulator of his friends, a heavy drinker and cocaine user, and since he doesn’t do his own laundry, his stench emanates from the pages.

He is investigating the murder of a black man and he doesn’t really feel it is worth his time or effort to solve the case. The reasons are revealed later in the book.

And third, the book employs an intriguing typographical feature of showing a parasite (a tapeworm) living inside his body. It places itself directly over the text you are trying to read. Initially there are small fragments until much later in the book, the parasite becomes Robertson’s voice of conscience while, at the same time, hoping that Robertson (the Host) lives so that the creature will as well.

I was enthused that such a work was indeed published because my own Work In Progress (“Weekend Getaways, or Adventures in Contract Killing”) also is rather dark and employs elements of unusual typography for visual as well as emotional effect.

I enjoyed the work largely because Welsh keeps Robertson grounded in a real world of the working class and giving some indication that the character feels justified (which is the point behind Transgressive fiction.) I was up for the challenge of reading something that seemed more like a connection of anecdotes than a traditional Three Act formula. I was caught up in the descriptions of location despite the fact that I’d never been to Scotland. And finally, I could see behind all the darkness a sense of humanity, one that might have been different under other circumstances.

If Irvine Welsh can write these kinds of work, I am encouraged to know that my dark comic Transgressive work just might have a place as well.


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