In a novel unfolding through the stories of a group of Scottish heroin addicts, “Trainspotting,” by Irvine Welsh, is brilliant, disturbing and undoubtedly hilarious.
Set in the estates of Edinburgh in the late 1980s, the novel tells the individual stories of a group of junky “rages” (crazies) through a series of small excerpts.
Although the novel is narrated through the eyes of several different characters, junky Mark Renton is the novel’s main chronicler.
Renton is a long time heroin abuser with a cynical attitude toward life in Scotland, his friends and even his own addiction.
Though Renton is marked as the heaviest user of the bunch, he is also the most intelligent and philosophical, displaying his outlook on the mundane routine of life on several occasions within the novel.
Describing his constant struggle with the mediocre life of a Scottish boy, Renton longs to rise above the everyday working stiffs who “choose life” and proceeds to deflect his boredom with heroin use.
Renton’s friends, Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson and Daniel “Spud” Murphy, tell their own stories within the novel as well, giving the reader a completely rounded view of life as an addict.
The story delves into a range of substance
abuse stories that include shooting up heroin in apartments, alcohol abuse at bars, casual sex and several attempts at kicking the addiction.
As the use of heroin is continuously glorified throughout the novel, a unique feature is the novel’s phonetic Scottish dialect. The text throughout the story is written primarily in this form, a dialect readers may need time adjusting to.
Although this vernacular is unique, it adds a completely graphic, potent spark to the wording.
This lingo transports you to Scotland with the characters and reads precisely as the “skag” boys would say it. As Renton begins to describe the feeling of a heroin “hit,” for example he says, “Take yir best orgasm, multiply the feeling by twenty, and you’re still fuckin’ miles off the pace.”
While remaining acquainted with this troupe of junky folk, Renton and the rest are subjected to ridiculous situations.
Ranging from heroin withdrawal hallucinations, to sleeping with an underage girl and a risky business transaction, “Trainspotting” takes the mediocrity of every day life and presents it in a disturbing, yet widely comedic way.