Alexei's Reviews > Trainspotting

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
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M 50x66
's review
Nov 05, 2009

did not like it

Oh, what an atrocity against literature! And by the way "Trainspotting" is almost universally hailed by critics as something fresh, innovative and even "the best thing that has happened to British writing for decades". If so, I would like to offer my deepest condolescences to Britons. Happily, this is definitely not true. Of course, the benefit of reading this book in English (excuse me, in Lowland Scots!) is valuable one, but even the possible shortcomings coming from the fact that I read it in Russian translation (and, probably, not very good translation) can't set off the effect of "Trainsotting"'s very humble literary qualities. It is a collection of not very appropriately connected sketches pretending to depict brutal reality of junkie's lives in Ediburgh's suburb Leith. Some of these sketches are titled as junk dilemmas, though they haven't a form of problem offering two solutions or possibilities, and in fact are some muddy conglomeration of banalities and randomly chosen words, which, being put one after another, make no sense at all. They are narrated by different heroes of the story in the kind of stream-of-consciousness technics, and the type of narration reflects the educational, intellectual and emotional features of storyteller. Maybe two or three of these segments can be seen as "not-so-awful" shortstories, but even this is a rarity among the novel's sketches. The problem of "Trainspotting" is not in the offensive language, obscene imagery or suspected sympathy in depiction of morally corrupt characters. The book can possess all these characteristics and be a masterpiece at the same time (Celine's "Journey to the End of the Night" immediately comes to mind). But Welsh's debut is shallow, flat, primitive and completely devoid of any ideas. It has no sense of tragic which can be so perfectly depicted exactly in this social surroundings. Even when we told about deaths and losses of intimate friends there is nothing between the lines that can turn us to feel empathy. Mostly one-dimensional heroes of this widely acclaimed novel sleep, urinate, watch TV, get a shot, drink a booze, start a fight, "fuck some cunt", swindle money... That's all. Ok, they live this animal-like life, they have no thoughts in their stoned heads and all their impulses are dictated strictly by the primitive instincts. But an authour can show this ugly picture in thought-provoking and even emotionally engaging manner, with thoughts in his head. Irvine Welsh can't. Or maybe he just didn't try hard to do it. Out of the Spud's sympathetic naivety and sparse succesfull phrases and mots here and there there is nothing in "Trainspotting" to be impressed with. The book was interesting to read in a sense of being a page-turner, but in general, this is ridiculously poor reading for simple-minded reader. Sad but true.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Shari Numnuts! It's not trying to be a literary work. It communicates a very accurate account of a part of society of it's time and it juxtaposes accurately with in the supposed 1st world country these individuals live.

You don't get it because you are either a, over privileged or b, of the wrong generation and or c, live in a narrow world

This is an incredibly important piece of work. If you don't value it's, then I suggest grab a back pack and take yourself out of your comfort zone and challenge everyone of your sensibilities for a good 5 years.

Either choose life or stay home and shut up.

Alexei Well, Shari, you're talking mostly about me than about my review.

Yet I don't quite get your point. What do you mean? Do you think that one needs to be a lowlife junkie living the life of street crime in order to 'get' 'Trainspotting'? If this assumption is correct then it only says that 'Trainspotting' is an example of bad writing because good literature can make you feel 'from inside' things completely strange and alien to you. For example, I was extremely moved by Miguel Delibes' brilliant novel 'Rats' even if it depicted reality completely extraneous to me.

Ok, it's true that I'm not a junkie and not a petty criminal but I suppose that among the people who hail this book as an ultimate masterpiece you (almost) never will meet your Rentons and Spuds. As far as I know, zealous fans of 'Trainspoitting' are mostly petty-bourgeois hipsters and not petty criminal heroin addicts.

I've talked about 'Trainspotting' as about a work of literature, so in my sloppy review I didn't consider it as an example of a fictionalized sociological study or, quite contrary, some sort of a 'confession of a generation lost to drugs, sense of uselessnes and cynical despair'. But even if you push me to consider this book's non-literary qualities, I fail to grasp what is so important and powerful about it. Maybe, I need to re-read it but I guess that most probably my opinion wouldn't change too drastically.

P.S. I was born in 1985 and both my upbringing and current environment are very far from being privileged. Being a mathematician, socially I define myself as 'a proletarian of intellectual labour' but I do live in a council flat in an old 9-storey panel building, have no car and earn less than a half of an average salary in my home city of Khimki, Moscow Region. And I do remember how I regularly found used syringes being left in stair landings downstairs when heading to junior school. It was back in mid 90s when a wave of heroin boom and crime associated with it started to hit Moscow working class suburbs. To witness it was not as nice of an experience as reading 'Trainspotting' while drinking mojito on your comfortable sofa.

Shari You are so simplistic and narrow minded in view and have forgotten the true value in reading.

Correct you will never get it, you are incapable.

The bourgeois might indeed celebrate this book. But that's not who this book is about or what it is about.

I may be literate, but that's just because I taught myself to read. Lucky me. The girl who sat next to me in class and died of a heroin overdose with her mother, couldn't see a way out and maybe I didn't take that path constantly on offer with heroin readily available around me, (in and out of school) is because reading was something I had. Who knows.

But this book wasn't written for the purpose to be a literary work. It's an honest account. And if you can't see that these circumstances could be relatable at the time not only in Scotland but elsewhere then No you will never understand this book. Don't criticise what you don't understand, ask questions and read more.

Shari Put simply don't criticise what you don't understand, ask more questions and read more when there is no one around to ask.

Reading is about learning about each other and sharing the stories and relating.

Alexei Shari, you're too fast to pass a judgement on me, my views and my inability to grasp 'the true value in reading'.
From the strictly literary point of view, I find no value in 'Trainspotting' aside from kinda interesting effort to give a vulgarized Scots dialects some exposure. But, on the other hand, I can't relate to its message and pathos on a pure emotional level. I could care less about some book's literary qualities if it strikes the right chord in me due to other things as I'm no fan of style over substance. But 'Trainspotting' for me is just a plain, shallow and tasteless exploitation of drug users subculture's stereotypes, done strictly for those who like to amuse themselves with something disgusting yet 'spicy', like those books about serial killers read by your typical steady-going family men. It's like those top models of 'heroin chic' era - maybe, many of them even did drugs but they were as appropriate representatives of junkheads as bballin' Obama expresses 'street niggaz' subculture. In short, it's fake. That was my main problem with 'relating' to Welsh's magnum opus.

message 6: by Quinn (new)

Quinn you cant read trainspotting in translation. Thats like reading the No Fear Shakespeare edition of Macbeth.

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