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    "The slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts" ~ George Orwell





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    Thursday, October 28, 2004

    Book Review: Porno - By Irvine Welsh


    I joined the sinister cabal of Blogcritics and posted my first review. I'm posting it here too, since they encourage it and I'm still absorbing the morning news over coffee. Read: Free reason to ping! It's a good idea though, and I'm planning on doing more. So I can only get better right? If you want to review my review, uh...go ahead. Everyone's a critic and it would serve me right anyway. I just realized I said *nothing* about the way the Scottish accents are written in phonetically...That's probably the best part too. Ah well, Yeah, I'll get better at this...

    Porno is the sequel to Trainspotting, the highly acclaimed book(and movie) about a group of drug-addicted schemers in Edinburgh, Scotland. It rejoins the group ten years after the conclusion of Trainspotting and it is quickly clear that while the time has changed everyone, some things never change. While heroin use dominated Trainspotting, cocaine use seems to be the new drug of choice. As before, money is the prime motivator and everyone has different means toward this end.

    The main scheme this time involves Sick Boy's idea to produce a pornographic film. There are twists and turns in the plot that involve other schemes and manipulations of course, and Welsh does a good job of writing each character's actions based on their own self-interest. The interplay of the goals and desires of each character is cleverly written, with each chapter written from the first person perspective of whichever character the chapter focuses on.

    There are new characters brought in and all the old personalities are back. A constant theme is that everyone looks out for themselves first, while trying to balance loyalties and circumstance in order to get the biggest cut from the action. Begbie is back and serves to create tension with his predictably unpredictable rage and violence. Sick Boy is the same egotistic manipulator who conceives of the idea and plays the role of mastermind. Renton is back from Amsterdam, where he fled with the loot at the conclusion of Trainspotting and is a much more subtle manipulator. The lovable Spud is pitiful and mostly well-meaning if a bit vulnerable to the guile of his friends and his addictions. The beautiful Nikki enters as the star of the film, along with Terry the bar owner, both of whom are looking to have fun while scoring easy money. Other minor characters are woven in and affect the plot here and there which adds to the complexity of the story.

    Each character remains true to their personality, with good and bad results. Everyone has specific desires and fears that are at the root of their actions, but these are not always apparent to everyone else. A common idea amongst them is that they are aging, and something must be done soon with their youth before it slips away completely. It is interesting to note that some of the diverse behavior of the individuals boil down to the exact same anxieties. There is a good study of human nature here, with two distinct levels: how we think and feel about things, and how we act on those thoughts and feelings in a group. The interplay of both serves the development well.

    Wanting to belong is as big a motivator as wanting to escape from that which you belong, Welsh seems to be saying. Some characters are wrestling with inclinations towards both, and some don't question such things at all. Through all of this, everyone considers themselves the star of the story it seems, regardless of their actual standing in the plot. The result is that it is hard to fully root for or against any one character. It is easier to root for each to be true to themselves, even when this means the character is not true to anyone else.

    It is hard to pick out just who had the biggest hand in the plot getting to the conclusion. A semi-directed collective of everyone's action plus chance equals the outcome of life, the book seems to say. A nice blending of chance, opportunism and forethought. Even so, the outcome seems natural, almost as if it had to be this way, given the equation.

    The plot is fairly screenplay-ready and ends up tying all the diversity of storylines together pretty well. A third installment is also left open by the conclusion, which is well written but also fairly predictable. The details of the loose-end tying make it worth reading to the end, and by this time the characters are developed enough that the reader is not required to know much about the first installment of the series. While Renton is the main protagonist and Sick Boy is the main antagonist, everyone has enough to like or dislike about them that the reader can choose among their favorites to judge this for themselves.


    posted by M@ at 6:23 AM   0 comments links to this post

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