I’ve begun using Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (1999, Vintage, ISBN:9780749336509) as a barometer of potential friendships. I have a friend who uses the series Black Books, which she loans to people she isn’t sure of to assess whether they’d be good friend material. That seems to work well for her, so I have decided to use Trainspotting. It might not be totally accurate, but like Sex Panther cologne, 60% of the time, it works 100% of the time. And if you haven’t seen the film Anchorman, you really should, even if only to get that reference. I’ve owned three copies of Trainspotting since I bought my first one when I was eighteen; not because I am such a fool as to go around flinging my money at publishers, but because I keep loaning it to people who leave it on buses.
Anyway, Trainspotting began life as a series of short stories in various publications. Of course, most people know it from the movie, but honestly the movie does no justice at all to the depth of storytelling and character development in the work itself. I guess the movie is pretty visceral in its way, but you’ve not experienced the amount of horror and humour which Welsh combines in the short stories. Plus, they’re all told with different perspectives, with literally different voices, which is pretty amazing. You can even hear in your minds’ ear the differences in accent between character, which proves to me that it’s not just a gimmick. For example, Diane in the storyThe First Shag in Ages says ‘not’ when she’s talking to her parents (as in “Mark’s not interested in that”, at the bottom of page 147). Other characters say ‘no’ and other variations as they see fit (it’s all the same word – to paraphrase Francis Begbie, can you not understand the Queens’ English?). It’s real subtle and cleverly done, often to indicate stress, education level, all sorts of stuff. My particular favourite example of this is when Renton is rabbiting on about Kirkegaard at the sentencing judge when he and Spud are being tried for stealing books – he goes all proper-sounding, and then flicks back to his usual ‘voice’ when they’re in the pub afterward. There’s even regional accent indications as well, with Mark Renton’s family from Glasgow written in their own vernacular to the main cast of Edinburghites. Edinburghians? Whatever, people from Edinburgh, already! Sheesh!