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Porno by Irvine Welsh
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's review
Aug 28, 2009

really liked it
Read in October, 2009

This novel picks up the main characters from the book Trainspotting and gives us a look at their lives ten years later. I never read the earlier work, but I certainly remembered the acclaimed film made based on it. What I most recalled initially were the strong language, heavy drug use, and cut throat tactics some of the characters demonstrated in that film, as well as the thick Scots accents.

Well, the drug use, obscenity, and dog-eat-dog struggle for survival are all here again, and as this story is told by multiple narrators, the Scots accents range from mild to very thick—-and there’s one English girl’s voice thrown in as well. The title of this book might scare some people off (I got a few raised eyebrows from other passengers while reading it on a bus in a liberal city), but if a novel about breaking into the porn industry (which is cleverly counterbalanced with some film studies students discussing writing theses on the porn industry) doesn’t shock you, and you enjoy well conceptualized plot developments, then this might well be a work of literature you could appreciate. At times I found the thicker Scots accents a bit of a tough go, especially with all the working class slang, but perseverance paid off, and I found myself caught up in the tale once I came to see the intricate layers of mistrust, deceit, and pain going on in myriad relationships that fit together more sensibly the further I read. The author made me care about the very different narrators’ individual opinions and perceptions, and I learned several interesting and some disturbing things about urban life in Edinburgh at the dawn of the 21st century, as well as historical struggles of Leith before Edinburgh subsumed it.

This is not a light read nor is it an easy read. If you’re up to some intellectual engagement and think critiques of corporate capitalism are easier to accept and reflect on when delivered in farce, and agree that corporate capitalism has some elements deserving of critique, then consider this book. Particularly if, like me, you admire the tenacity, traditions, and resourcefulness of the Scots.


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