Irvine Welsh Explained

Irvine Welsh
Birth Date:1958 9, df=yes
Birth Place:Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland
Occupation:Novelist
Nationality:Scottish
Alma Mater:Heriot-Watt University
Residence:Dublin, Ireland
Notableworks:Trainspotting, The Acid House
Genre:Literature, Novel
Movement:Modernism, Post Modernism
Influences:Louis-Ferdinand CĂ©line, William S. Burroughs, Alexander Trocchi, Alasdair Gray, James Kelman, William McIlvanney, Alan Spence, Iggy Pop, Bertolt Brecht, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, Kierkegaard, James Joyce, Jim Carroll
Website:http://www.irvinewelsh.net/default.aspx

Irvine Welsh (born 27 September 1958 in Leith, Edinburgh) is a contemporary Scottish novelist, best known for his novel Trainspotting. His work is characterised by raw Scottish dialect, and brutal depiction of the realities of Edinburgh life. He has also written plays, screenplays, and directed several short films.

Biography

Irvine Welsh was born in Leith, the port area of the Scottish capital Edinburgh. His family moved to Muirhouse, in Edinburgh, when he was four, where the family stayed at local housing schemes.[1] His mother worked as a waitress. His father was a dock worker in Leith until bad health forced him to become a carpet salesman; he died when Welsh was 25. Welsh left Ainslie Park High School when he was 16 and then completed a City and Guilds course in electrical engineering. He became an apprentice TV repairman until an electric shock persuaded him to move on to a series of other jobs.[1] He left Edinburgh for the London punk scene in 1978, where he played guitar and sang in The Pubic Lice and Stairway 13,[1] the latter a reference to the Ibrox disaster. A series of arrests for petty crimes and finally a suspended sentence for trashing a North London community centre inspired Welsh to correct his ways. He worked for Hackney London Borough Council in London and studied computing with the support of the Manpower Services Commission.[1]

In the mid 1980s he became a minor property speculator, renovating houses in the rapidly gentrifying North London. After the London property boom of the 1980s, Welsh returned to Edinburgh in late 80s, where he worked for the city council in the housing department. He went on to study for an MBA at Heriot-Watt University, writing his thesis on creating equal opportunities for women.

Welsh has made several reading tours around the world and has been involved with his beloved house music as a DJ, promoter and producer. Like many of his characters, he supports Hibs. He met an American woman Beth Quinn, 26, when he was teaching creative writing in Chicago, and they were married in July 2005. He considers the age gap inconsequential. 'I've never felt tied to any one age ... I've never thought "I must find someone a couple of years younger than I am".' Welsh was previously married to Anne Ansty from 1984 until their divorce in 2003.[2]

He currently lives in Dublin, Ireland.[3] [4] In an interview with The Daily Mail on 7 August 2006, he described himself as "not so much middle-class as upper-class. I'm very much a gentleman of leisure. I write. I sit and look out of my window into the garden. I enjoy books. I love the density and complexity of Jane Austen and George Eliot. I listen to music; I travel. I can go off to a film festival whenever I like." He also describes himself as monogamous: "it sounds boring but it's the way I am".

Fiction

To date, Welsh has published seven novels and four collections of short stories. His first novel, Trainspotting, was published in 1993, and rumor has it that Welsh wrote it in the breaks while writing his thesis at Heriot-Watt University's Library, second floor. Set in the mid 1980s, it uses a series of loosely connected short stories to tell the story of a group of characters tied together by decaying friendships, heroin addiction and stabs at escape from the oppressive boredom and brutality of their lives in the housing schemes. It was released to shock and outrage in some circles and great acclaim in others; Time Out called it "funny, unflinchingly abrasive, authentic and inventive", and The Sunday Times called Welsh "the best thing that has happened to British writing for decades". One critic (Welsh's personal friend Kevin Williamson) went so far as to say that Trainspotting "deserves to sell more copies than The Bible". It was adapted as a play, and a film adaptation, directed by Danny Boyle and written by John Hodge, was released in 1996. Welsh himself appeared in the film as Mikey Forrester, a minor character. The film was a worldwide success. U.S. Senator Bob Dole decried its supposed moral depravity and glorification of drug use during the 1996 presidential campaign, although he admitted that he had not actually seen the film.[5]

The novel has since achieved a cult status, aided by the global success of the film.[6]

Next, Welsh released The Acid House, a collection of short stories from Rebel Inc., New Writing Scotland and other sources. Many of the stories take place in and around the housing schemes from Trainspotting, and employ many of the same themes; however, a touch of fantasy is apparent in stories such as The Acid House, where the minds of a baby and a drug user swap bodies, or The Granton Star Cause, where God transforms a man into a fly as punishment for wasting his life. Welsh himself adapted three of the stories for a later film, which he also appeared in.

Welsh's third book (and second novel), Marabou Stork Nightmares, alternates between a typically grim tale of thugs and schemes in sub-working class Scotland and a hallucinatory adventure tale set in South Africa. Gradually, common themes begin to emerge between the two stories, culminating in a shocking ending.

His next book, (1996), became his most high-profile work since Trainspotting, released in the wave of publicity surrounding the film. It consists of three unconnected novellas: the first, Lorraine Goes To Livingston, is a bawdy satire of classic British romance novels, the second, Fortune's Always Hiding, is a revenge story involving thalidomide and the third, The Undefeated, is a sly, subtle romance between a young woman dissatisfied with the confines of her suburban life and an aging clubgoer. Most critics dismissed the first two as relatively minor affairs and focused their praise on The Undefeated. Welsh's narration imbued both characters with surprising warmth, and the story avoided easy, pro-ecstasy conclusions. The popular alternative band My Chemical Romance stated in their DVD Life On The Murder Scene that bassist Mikey Way got the name for their band from the book's subtitle.

A corrupt police officer and his tapeworm served as the narrators for his third novel, Filth (1998). Welsh had never avoided flawed characters, but the main character of Filth was a brutally vicious sociopathic policeman.

Glue (2001) was a return to the locations, themes and episodic form of Trainspotting, telling the stories of four characters spanning several decades in their lives and the bonds that held them together.

Having revisited some of them in passing in Glue, Welsh brought most of the Trainspotting characters back for a sequel, Porno, in 2002. In this book Welsh explores the impact of pornography on the individuals involved in producing it, as well as society as a whole, and the impact of aging and maturity in individuals against their will.

The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs (2006), deals with a young, alcoholic civil servant who finds himself inadvertently putting a curse on his nemesis, a nerdy co-worker. In 2007, Welsh published If You Liked School You'll Love Work, his first collection of short stories in over a decade.

At the request of the Daily Telegraph, Welsh travelled with a group of authors and journalists to the Sudan in 2001. A book called The Weekenders: Travels in the Heart of Africa was the result, to which Welsh contributed a novella called Contamination, about the violence and warlords in the region. A second book, The Weekenders: Adventures in Calcutta, was published in 2004. Welsh, Ian Rankin, and Alexander McCall Smith each contributed a short story for the One City compilation published in 2005 in benefit of the One City Trust for social inclusion in Edinburgh.

Welsh's most recently published novel is entitled Crime, whose main character is Ray Lennox (who appeared in Welsh's previous work, Filth). Detective Inspector Ray Lennox is recovering from a mental breakdown induced by occupational stress and cocaine abuse, and a particularly horrifying child sex murder case back in Edinburgh. The story takes place in Florida.[7]

Welsh is currently writing a prequel to Trainspotting, to be called Skagboys.[8] [9] [10]

Film and stage

As well as fiction, Irvine Welsh has written several stage plays, including Headstate, You'll Have Had Your Hole, and the musical Blackpool, which featured original songs by Vic Godard of the Subway Sect.

More recently he coauthored Babylon Heights with his screen writing partner Dean Cavanagh. The play premiered in San Francisco at the Exit Theatre and made its European premiere in Dublin, at The Mill Theatre Dundrum, directed by Graham Cantwell. The plot revolves around the behind-the-scenes antics of a group of Munchkins on the set of The Wizard of Oz. The production included the use of oversized sets with actors of regular stature.

Cavanagh and Welsh have also collaborated on a number of screenplays. The Meat Trade is based on the 19th century West Port murders. Despite the historical source material, Welsh has set the story in the familiar confines of present day Edinburgh, with Burke and Hare depicted as brothers who steal human organs to meet the demands of the global transplant market.

Wedding Belles, a film made for Channel 4 that was written by Welsh and Cavanagh, aired at the end of March 2007. The film centres around the lives of four young women, who are played by Michelle Gomez, Shirley Henderson, Shauna MacDonald, and Kathleen McDermot. Wedding Belles was nominated for a Scottish BAFTA and was subsequently sold to TV channels in Canada and Europe.

Welsh has directed several short films for bands. In 2001 he directed a 15 minute film for Gene's song "Is It Over" which is taken from the album Libertine. In 2006 he directed a short film to accompany the track "Atlantic" from Keane's album Under the Iron Sea.

Welsh directed his first short dramatic film, NUTS, which he co wrote with Cavanagh. The film features Joe McKinney as a man dealing with testicular cancer in post Celtic tiger Ireland. It was released in 2007.

Welsh co-directed 'The Right to liberty' a chapter of the documentary film The New Ten Commandments in 2008.

In 2009 Welsh directed the film Good Arrows (co-directed by Helen Grace). It was written by Welsh and Cavanagh. The film is about a darts player who suffers from depression which causes him to lose his skill.[11]

Film adaptation

Theatre adaptations

[12]

Themes

As well as recreational drug use, Welsh's fiction and non-fiction is dominated by the question of working class and Scottish identity in the period spanning the 1960s to the present day. Within this, he explores the rise and fall of the council housing scheme, denial of opportunity, sectarianism, football, hooliganism, sex, suppressed homosexuality, dance clubs, low-paid work, freemasonry, Irish republicanism, sodomy, class divisions, emigration and, perhaps most of all, the humour, prejudices and axioms of the Scots.

Style

His novels share a number of characters, giving the feel of a "shared universe" within his writing. For example, characters from Trainspotting make cameo appearances in The Acid House, Marabou Stork Nightmares, Ecstasy, Filth, and slightly larger appearances in Glue, whose characters then appear in Porno.

Irvine Welsh is known for writing in his native Edinburgh Scots dialect. He generally ignores the traditional conventions of literary Scots, used for example by Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, and James Orr. Instead, he transcribes dialects phonetically.

Like Alasdair Gray before him, Welsh also experiments with typography. A notable example is the book Filth, where the tapeworm's internal monologue is imposed over the top of the protagonist's own internal monologue (the worm's host), visibly depicting the tapeworm's voracious appetite, much like the 'Climax of Voices' in Gray's novel 1982, Janine.

Bibliography

Novels

Short story collections

Script writing

Theatre

External links

Notes and References

  1. http://books.google.com/books?id=q5VKzzUUbBIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Trainspotting&lr=#PPA7,M1 The Novelist
  2. News: Sunday Mail. Irvine Welsh splits from secret wife. Lorna Hughes.
  3. News: Welsh. Irvine. Irvine Welsh: In the past 15 years Dublin has gone from being Calcutta to Paris. 17 February 2012. The Irish Independent. 18 October 2007.
  4. News: Murphy. Claire. Author can't find buyer for his Dublin home. 17 February 2012. Evening Herald. 13 January 2009.
  5. Book: Furek, Maxim W.. The Death Proclamation of Generation X: A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy of Goth, Grunge and Heroin. i-Universe. 2008. 105. 978-0-595-46319-0.
  6. Contemporary Scottish Fictions--Film, Television, and the Novel: Film, Television and the Novel, by Duncan J. Petrie. Published by Edinburgh University Press, 2004.ISBN 0748617892. Page 101-102.
  7. Web site: amazon.co.uk.
  8. News: Prequel to chart Trainspotting characters' fall from innocence. 2007-03-17. timesonline.com. London. Charlene. Sweeney. Lucy. Bannerman.
  9. News: Welsh offers chance to score a role in Trainspotting prequel. 2009-01-20. guardian.co.uk. London. Alison. Flood. 2009-01-19.
  10. News: My week Irvine Welsh A few punches to toughen up then Im Trainspotting again. The Times. London. 2009-01-25. 2010-05-05.
  11. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1277947/
  12. http://www.irvinewelsh.net/theatre.aspx?tid=4
  13. http://bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2003/07_july/15/wales_dose.shtml BBC - Press Office - Dose
  14. http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=523&id=320802007
  15. http://www.irvinewelsh.net/books.aspx?bkid=21&subid=4
  16. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0206691/
  17. http://www.irvinewelsh.net/film.aspx?flmid=3
  18. http://www.irvinewelsh.net/film.aspx?flmid=12
  19. http://www.irvinewelsh.net/film.aspx?flmid=11