Irvine Welsh on Politics, Poop and Skagboys

1. Skagboys in the Book Soup spotlight on Sunset Blvd. 2. Mayra Gomes (right) is an author and reporter for Rolling Stone Brazil. Alina Akhmadullina (left) is from Russia and a musician.

LOS ANGELES — While Obama and Romney had their first night of face-to-face opposition in Denver behind their respected podiums, Scottish writer Irvine Welsh also stood behind stood a podium, but at Book Soup in Los Angeles. As he walked into the bookstore he announced (to whom I don’t know), “Romney’s kickin’ Obama’s ass.” Turns out, his observations were widely agreed upon.

Before we start on Welsh’s new novel Skagboys, I’m going to say something that would probably lead to my exile in many cliques of trendy people. At the time of this reading, I’d never read Trainspotting or seen the film. There was no reason for this, like someone who accidentally lived their entire lives without eating macaroni and cheese. You can be sure it was not intentional neglect but rather a horrible mistake that I have since remedied.

Things you may not know about Irvine Welsh:

— He’s ok with you answering a phone call during his reading as long if it’s from your coke dealer.
 — His wanderlust is motivated by the guarantee that any place can become stale and he doesn’t want to think of himself in one place.
 — He lives in Chicago and feels like it’s like New York City without the jerks.
 — The film adaptation of his 2008 novel Filth is anticipated to come out in 2013. He’s had more involvement with its making than any previous adaptations of his books.

1. Publicist Daniel Bee aka my translator for the night, is also from Edinburgh like Welsh. See? 2. Welsh is the kind of writer who brings out people of all ages, which was fun to see. Here are some fans who snuck into the reading a little late but they had a good time and were shocked that I hadn’t seen or read Trainspotting. I know, guys. I know. Left to right: Maeia Zimmerman, Justin Chapman, Mercedes Blackehart, Kelly Hayden.

Before the reading started, the 12 or so chairs set up in front of the podium weren’t all filled, but by the end, people were standing in the back, and even looking in from outside the window. I’d imagine from outside, Welsh looked a little strange, squatting in a pooping position and then waddling forward. And I’m sure his Scottish slang muddled through the glass didn’t clarify the situation for outside onlookers.

Luckily a Scottish gentlemen took the empty seat next to mine and generously offered his linguistic skills. Still, with the Scottish slang and Welsh’s accent, I hoped I wasn’t the only one in the room who didn’t have an ear for Scottish (a guy with “an idiot grin across his coupon”? That’s Scottish for “face”). But still we all laughed — and not out of pity. We laughed because it was funny. Welsh’s reading was a performance and curse words are surprisingly easy to distinguish in any dialect.

1. Irvine Welsh talked politics and musical tastes after the reading to an entertained audience.

In his new novel, Welsh revisits the heroin junkies we all know and love from Trainspotting. There was a lot he’d written for the beginning of the book that he’d left out, and now with almost 20 years of separation between Trainspotting and Skagboys, he’s delving into Mark Renton, Sick Boy’s lives before we met them.

There are three parts to Welsh’s recipe for a character:
 — What they play.
 — Where they stay.
 — Who they lay.

Despite the fact that he doesn’t like most of the music his characters like, he’s set up playlists for them and listens to them when he’s writing.

Skagboys has just come out in the states, so Welsh didn’t have stats on the sales, but it’s doing well in Europe so far. To the bestselling writers who’s books Skagboys is “up against,” Welsh said, “Fuck John Grisham, James Patterson and all those cunts.” I’m sure he meant just that he’s happy his book is doing so well, not that theirs aren’t. I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant.


— Katelan Cunningham is a stranger in Los Angeles. She’s finding more work as a writer than a designer, and she’s not sure how she feels about it. You can find her here.

More Like This

10 Memoirs and Essay Collections by Black Women

These contemporary books illuminate the realities of the world for Black women in America

Nov 29 - Alicia Simba

You Can’t Unsubscribe From Grief

"Replying All on the Death Announcement Email," creative nonfiction by Jenessa Abrams

Nov 29 - Jenessa Abrams

Electric Lit’s Best Poetry Collections of 2023

Gabrielle Bates, Sam Sax, Sally Wen Mao, and Edgar Kunz highlight a year of celebrated poetry collections

Nov 28 - Electric Literature
Thank You!