Irvine Welsh may have had his cultural moment in the mid-1990s, when British rave-punk culture took over both sides of the pond. Danny Boyle's film version of his debut novel Trainspotting came out in 1996, just as the Spice Girls, Pulp, Oasis, Belle and Sebastian and Tricky were making the British youth scene as vital as it had been in a generation.
Reading his latest novel, The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs (now out in paperback), one notices that the same demotic brilliance is there:
"'Did they have a mobby?'" one hoodlum inquires, observing a brawl. "'Cause the fucking bizzies will be all over us.'"
"'Might no git a signal here,' Dempsey said sheepishly, 'the waws ay the quarry.'"
But where the Scottish colloquialisms seemed ultra-hip as they lubricated the heroin-addled escapades of the Trainspotting characters, in Master Chefs, Welsh's writing—even if it hasn't changed much—seems more comfortably ensconced in the British kitchen sink tradition. In his new book, we follow the increasingly intertwined destinies of two young food inspectors, Danny Skinner and Brian Kibby. Skinner is cut from a familiar cloth, the angry, self-destructive man who obliterates his kinder instincts with nightly drinking, drugging and brawling, while wondering about the father he never knew and alienating the sweet woman who (implausibly) loves him. Kibby, meanwhile, is a model train enthusiast (those trains again!) and well-intentioned innocent who earns Skinner's increasingly overt contempt around the office (which sometimes, in Welsh's telling, resembles The Office).
In a beguiling narrative strategy, Welsh tells his story from both men's point of view, in the first person in alternating chapters. And, if that weren't enough, Welsh also intersperses chapters written in the third person. Soon enough, the multiple perspectives become necessary as The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs leaves the stifling tenements and pubs of Edinburgh for the wider landscapes of California, celebrities and cultural commentary.
Irvine Welsh will appear with the Dirty South Improv Company in two shows at 7 and 9:30 p.m. this Friday, May 11. DSI Comedy Theater is located at 200 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro. For tickets and info, call 338-8150 or visit www.dsicomedytheater.com. The event is sponsored by Bulls Head Bookshop.