I was 18 years old when I first saw Trainspotting, the film based on Irvine Welsh’s 1993 novel of the same name. At that point in my life I was utterly clueless about the world of heroin addiction in Edinburgh, Scotland, and any interest I had was lost in the struggle to understand what the characters in the movie actually said.
It’s now 2012 and I still know absolutely nothing about Scottish junkies. I have, however, evolved when it comes to appreciating films and books that I might not easily understand (Again, literally. That Edinburgh dialect isn’t easy.). Since the publication of Trainspotting and the subsequent release of the film, Welsh has obtained a cult following and published a multitude of novels and short story collections. And I’ve decided it’s time to give Welsh my full attention, my first step being re-watching the film.
Confession: I’ve never read Trainspotting. (To all “the book is so much better than the movie” people bothered I didn’t pick up the novel, forgive me.) Still, the film gave me was a better understanding of his latest book, Skagboys, from which he’ll read tonight at Books & Books and which is a prequel to Trainspotting. (He also published a sequel, Porno, in 2003.)
Skagboys brings us back to 1980s Scotland and to the characters Welsh’s fans have come to love/despise: Rents, Sick Boy, Spud, Tommy, and Begbie. This is the book that betrays how each of these characters became their Trainspotting selves. We watch them all fall apart, spiraling down into a world of heroin, theft, and pimping — neither jail nor rehab can save them.
Keeping with what fans of Welsh have come to expect, Skagboys is violent, disturbing, depressing, and sickly funny. There’s even the occasional tenderness thrown in. And at points it eerily mirrors the socio-economic issues we face today — one can’t read the opening scene depicting a miners’ strike without thinking of Occupy Wall Street. It may be a different era and a different country, but it’s still a story of the downtrodden facing unemployment and poverty. Welsh gives us an insider’s look at the neo-conservative class system of Thatcher-era Great Britain, set against a background of the AIDS epidemic occurring in Edinburgh at the time. The disturbing plot points can make Skagboys difficult to read at times, but it’s more than worth it.
Where: Books and Books (265 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables)
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, September 20
Contact: Visit booksandbooks.com