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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Choosing Porno

“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f*cking big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers… choose DIY and wondering who the f*ck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, f*cked-up brats you spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose Life.” These are the most well known lines from both the book and the movie Trainspotting, by Irvine Welsh.

Sex, drugs, music, and more drugs. That’s what comes to mind when one thinks of the antisocial, sociopathic works of this author. Yet, most people have no idea who he is until someone mentions the movie.

With six books under his belt, and a seventh on the shelf (Porno), Irvine Welsh has created a host of players to run rampant in the U.K. underworld. Whether it’s short stories, like those found in Ecstasy or Acid House, a Trainspotting-style novel like Glue, or trips into the nightmare worlds of guilty consciences and destructive mind games where the only person you’re playing with is yourself, see Marabou Stork Nightmares and Filth. Unfortunately, while his work has gained him a major international fan base, only Trainspotting has managed to really catch on in the U.S.

In Porno, he returns to his troupe of tortured souls that first performed for us in Trainspotting. It is ten years later. Mark Renton returns to Scotland to repay the friends he bilked during a drug deal, now the owner of a club and somewhat successful. Sick Boy, owner of a bar and described by Welsh as having a “massive superiority complex”, is looking to make one last score through directing a porn movie with the lovely Nicola “Nicky” Fullerton-Smith, a woman as egomaniacal and addicted as him. The passing of the decade finds Begbie just as harsh, as he is being released from a prison stint, and ready for revenge. Spud, meanwhile, is trying to get clean and attending a support group where he “spends more time talking about drugs than he does on them.”

Welsh has been touring the U.S. in support of Porno. On September 30, he stopped in at Brookline Booksmith to do a reading from this new novella. He chose passages from each character’s point of view. Following the same style as its precursor, Trainspotting, Porno jumps from one person’s psyche to another, giving it a flavor that makes the omniscient narrator style such an effective and well-suited device for Welsh’s exponentially accumulating spider web design.

Yet, it was not so much the novel as hearing the vernacular put forth straight from the author himself that made the reading so pleasurable. It is rare, though it seems odd to say, to find most authors who are capable of expressing the distinct, individual personalities of each character when they are reading. Most spout off their work like they’re running through their laundry list. It was refreshing to watch Welsh as he went through facial and body contortions, sometimes verging on the acrobatic as he spoke from behind the eyes of Nicky, Mark, Spud, Begbie, and Sick Boy.

In the concluding question-and-answer session that followed the reading, one audience member asked why Welsh had even written a sequel. He responded “Your first book is like your first time: you wish you’d done better and taken your time…I was still interested in the characters and wanted to see where they are now.” Although Glue didn’t do so well commercially, it followed the same basic outline as Trainspotting, centered on a group of friends and what they go through together. Welsh said, “Characters should be capable of insight…Glue is about respect, friendships, and individuals.”

In response to the criticism he received about Glue and the mixed reviews implying that he had sold out. He laughed and replied that, “[If] I worry about getting good reviews, I’m not doing my job.”

About the Contributor
MiMi Yeh served as arts editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2001-2002; *2002-2003; 2003-2004 *Evan Sicuranza served as arts editor for Fall 2002 Disclaimer: Years served is based on online database and may not detail entire service.