Welsh takes a return train with Porno
- Joseph Gallivan
- Portland Tribune - Features
Author follows his 'Trainspotting' pals into show business
It seems like every year there's another Irvine Welsh book out. His seventh and latest, 'Porno,' is a return to some familiarly seedy territory: It's a sequel to his massively popular 1993 debut, 'Trainspotting.'
On the other side of the Atlantic, 'Trainspotting' begat a movie, a play, a nightclub, an argot and a large dose of jealousy in the literary world, where its use of the working-class dialect of Edinburgh, Scotland, both appalled and fascinated the guardians of vanilla English.
In the United States, Welsh only now is breaking through to the mainstream. His 2001 novel, 'Glue,' was the first to make it in the top 10 best sellers list here.
'Porno' revisits the characters of 'Trainspotting,' showing them older but not much wiser. Simon 'Sick Boy' Williamson gets fired from his job at a London strip club and moves back to Edinburgh to take over his aunt's pub. He reunites the old gang, including Renton Ñ the character played by Ewan McGregor in the 'Trainspotting' movie Ñ who is lurking in the Netherlands, Begbie (the psychopath, just leaving prison) and hapless Spud.
Sick Boy decides to make some easy money by producing a porno flick about a bunch of oil rig workers called 'Seven Rides for Seven Brothers,' which takes the gang from the mean streets of Scotland to the Cannes Adult Film Festival. Only the metaphors have been changed.
Welsh uses pornography as an example of the way capitalism works in the real world, as opposed to the textbooks. He has a master's degree in business and knows how 19th century Edinburgh economist Adam Smith often is used by conservatives to justify the excesses of capitalism.
'Sick Boy sees pornography as self-actualization,' Welsh says in a telephone interview. He contrasts Sick Boy with another character involved in the book's porno scam, film student Nikki Fuller-Smith. 'She sees it as a revolutionary thing,' he says. 'But basically it comes down to money and power.'
For Welsh, capitalism is a subject that looms larger than ever.
'Everything now is market-led and market-driven. We live in a globalized, consumerist, corporate, international capitalist world,' he says. 'Anything that becomes valuable becomes absorbed into the market immediately.'
This explains the brutal way his characters treat each other. Traditional bonds between working class people have become brittle.
Since he first took the Greyhound across country at age 20 to see an aunt in San Antonio, Texas, Welsh has liked the United States for its apparent lack of a class system:
'In Britain I still get this thing, you know, 'He's this schemey (kid from the projects) that was born in the darkness, self-educated, and he's clawed his way up from the ghetto, but he's writing about his own druggie life.' Whereas in America they subject the book to the same kind of literary analysis as they would any work of literature. You do appreciate that kind of honesty and lack of prejudice.'
'Trainspotting' the movie made the sort of obscene return on investment that Hollywood movie execs dream of. While on the West Coast, Welsh, who deliberately has no agent, will be shopping the movie rights to 'Porno.'
Actor Robert Carlyle Ñ who played Begbie in the film Ñ is a partner in Welsh's own production company and has agreed to play Begbie in the next film. Now Welsh is looking for some deep-pocketed backers to put up the seed money so his company can make the film. In essence, he's trying to raise the cash to buy the rights to 'Porno' from himself.
'This sounds like the most naked capitalism ever, and everything I rail against, but it means I could maintain some creative control. Maybe I could do some hiring. The casting couch is ready,' he jokes.
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