More Than A Literary Festival

One on One – Irvine Welsh

by Shivanee Ramlochan, 2013 NGC Bocas Lit Fest Blogger.

Margaret Thatcher, Scottish writer Irvine Welsh joked, ought to be heralded as the uncredited ghostwriter of his newest novel, Skagboysindeed, of his first novel, Trainspotting, too. Maybe, Welsh added with (what we may only hope to be) faux-sobriety, Thatcher ought to receive kudos for the vast majority of his writing, to date: the work would not, he emphasized, be borne out of quite the same realities, without her presiding influence. Skagboys couldn’t be a novel about what happens to the four fine, upstanding men of Trainspotting – Rention; Begbie, Spud and Sick Boy – but what it does aim to do, the novelist said, is to present the quartet on the cusp of a pre-Thatcherite age, a world in which heroin was starting to flood into Edinburgh for the first time.

In his one on one session, a conversation with BC Pires on April 26th, Welsh shared news of his forthcoming film Filth, based on his 1998 novel of the same name. Perhaps, he chuckled, it might help to get the Trainspotting film monkey off his back. Welsh won’t, perhaps, be gutted if his new film flops (though every indication points to a diametrically opposite response), because writing about failure is what interests him, arguably more than anything else. Through failure, he told the audience assembled in the AV Room, you get to see new and intriguing things about yourself that you otherwise wouldn’t have done, were you coasting along obtusely on wave after wave of “boring success”.

How, then, does his perception of his own mainstream literary celebrity fit into that? “Celebrity is neither here nor there,” reported Welsh, saying that the principal thing is to have both money and time to write, the latter being purchaseable by varying quantities of the former.

Scottish author Irvine Welsh, gesturing as he responds to an audience question.

Frankly, Welsh observed, it might be vastly more difficult now to get Trainspotting published than it was when his manuscript was accepted — since in several ways, publishing is actually, astonishingly less dynamic now than it was then. “Nowadays, people write into such genre-oriented, marketable and sellable holes,” Welsh said, noting that, “there’s a tradition of idle, rich people involved in literature, and they sometimes exercize their fifedom in curatorially limiting ways.” Writing in the face of all that, though, continues to make sense to him — after all, according to Welsh, one never knows when one’s next really thrilling failure might be in store.

Photograph by Maria Nunes, Official Festival Photographer.

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