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Like most people, I imagine, my introduction to the literary world of Irvine Welsh was by reading Trainspotting. Though I loved it, I didn't read anything else by him for about a year or so, until I picked up The Acid House.
The Acid House is a collection of short stories (and a novella) which display the same acerbic and sartorial tone as Trainspotting. In my opinion, however, The Acid House is a far more interesting study of the jilted generation and is astoundingly imaginative.
Many of the stories in The Acid House are set in the abject poverty of Edinburgh's housing projects. They deal with the substance abuse, domestic violence and desperation that festers there in an insightful, graphic and incredibly vivid way.
One of the things I enjoy most about Welsh's work is the way he captures the working class Scottish vernacular and sets it down phonetically on the page. It brings such a clarity to the atmosphere of the stories that you feel as though you are eavesdropping into someone's conversation rather than reading words on a page. When I try to write my own fiction I always encounter problems with the dialogue; Welsh has got it absolutely nailed on though, he has such a flair for it.
The stories in The Acid House are often as weird as they are wonderful. In The Granton Star Cause, Boab Coyle finds himself metamorphosed into a fly after talking to God in a run down pub. In The Acid House (the short story from which the collection takes its name) Coco Bryce's mortal soul is switched with a new born babies after a particularly heavy narcotics session. These stories add a light hearted and amusing note to the otherwise dark and macabre subject matter of the collection.
The novella, (which I shant name here for fear of upsetting any younger readers), is also fantastically entertaining. Following the life of a Renton-esque Edinburgh drop out, the novella charts his progress (or lack there of) through his early adult years. Along with his group of mates he lives a hedonistic but profoundly empty life, jumping from one dead end job to the next. Try as he might to change his life, he is continually sucked back into Edinburgh's seedy underbelly. It is touching, invigorating and ironically funny all at the same time and is amongst the best of the stories in this collection.
If you are easily offended by bad language chances are you are not going to enjoy this collection of short stories (to be honest you probably won't make it past the titles of some of them!). What I would say is that the language Welsh uses is completely in context in terms of setting and characters.
The themes of desperation, addiction and poverty run throughout this collection and should (hopefully!) be more shocking to people than the admittedly ubiquitous swear words. For me, it is these themes that keep me coming back to Welsh's work and have turned me into something of a fan. He paints his scene with such a vivid pallet you feel like you are watching the events unfold for yourself. In the short story, Welsh is a writer well and truly in his element and I would recommend his work in a heartbeat.
I updated my opinion coz i got rubbish reviews which it deserved. There's the new & I hope improved version The Acid house is 3 stories rolled into one book. Boab gets kicked off his beloved football team, dumped by his girlfriend and booted out of his house and is arrested and thrown in jail for assaulting a phone booth. After being released he heads to the local pub where he meets God. The second story is Johnny gets Catriona pregnant & has to marry. When the violent, psychotic Larry moves the flat above theirs, she leaves Johnny and the baby, for the slim git upstairs. The 3rd & final story is about Coco, a lad that like to hang with his mates at the pub & much to the dismay of his poor girlfriend. When Coco getting struck by lightning while tripping on LSD. His personality is switched with a newborn baby, which leads to an interesting result. I actually saw the film before I read the book. When I started reading the book, I had a hard time to understand the learn that Irvine Welsh but now I know that Irvine Welsh always writes that way but back then I didn't. When I finally got into the book I found it better than the film. There's always more in the books than the films. The book is written with a passion that you don't see in the film. Acid house is very sick, horrorfing, moving & funny book. After you've read trainspotting & the acid house you start to think that Edinburgh is full of junkies, drunks & low lifes.
Until recently, I had made a distinct effort to avoid reading any of Irvine Welsh's books. I don't know why really, there was just something about him that irritated me, despite the excellence of 'Trainspotting'. Maybe it was the way he was feted by the literary establishment, or maybe it was the way he courted this fame with appearances at all the right parties, with his very public and endorsement of what might be regarded as 'trendy' political and social issues whenever he got the chance. Whatever, something just made me avoid anything he had written. Then I picked up a copy of 'Trainspotting', and thought it was even better than the film, so when I saw 'The Acid House', I decided to give it a go, and I have to admit that I'm glad I did, because once I got started I couldn't put it down! What you have here is a collection of incisive, witty and disturbing short stories, accompanied by a novella entitled with a title that would probably get this opinion deleted from dooyoo! The short stories are all very tightly written, and many of them contain a twist that just jumps out of the page, just when you think you know how the tale is going to end. Almost of the stories are set in the same Edinburgh tenement housing projects that dominated 'Trainspotting', and all of them reflect the gravity of life in these bleak, grey blocks. It is of course easy for me to come out with a statement like that, without ever having visited such places first hand, but Welsh writes so convincingly that you feel you have been given an insight into life there, even if it hardly what you would call uplifting. The stories focus on what might well be termed lowlife - people whose life consists of the dole (with occasional menial jobs), the pubs and clubs of Edinburgh and the alcohol, drugs and base sex that are the only way they can get through life. These characters don't stray far from the projects, like n
othing better than a smoke, a drink, some skag and a good swedge, and the very fact that the stories all revolve around these themes is revealing just for that - there is nothing more to life for them than this, which is not so much a criticism of the people as a condemnation of the society that has created modern-day ghettos of this kind. The nearly permanent depression is lifted by some slightly more light-hearted tales - especially memorable is the one that involves a man at his lowest ebb (he has lost him home, his job and his burd all in the space of a few hours) meeting God in a pub, and I also liked the story of two university professors slugging it out in the streets of Govan, in one of the few stories set outside Edinburgh. The novella is also a very enjoyable read, being the story of a few months in the life of a seemingly typical resident of the projects, as he bums from Edinburgh to London and back again, getting work here and there, doing drugs and pulling whenever the chance arises. The ironic thing is that his father is head of the local anti-drug campaign, and Ronnie, one of his mates, gets married while totally out of it on jellies, only for his wife to divorce him when he comes off the pills as he is now too boring! The story itself has a very dark ending that knocks the otherwise fairly light tone of the tale for six, and it makes you think - without even realising it, Welsh has dealt with poverty, drugs, alcohol, homosexuality and the problems of broken homes, all in a few pages and without ever making the issues leap out of the page, which suggests to me that he a very skilled storyteller. What will put some people off is the constant swearing and violence, and the almost impenetrable Edinburgh dialect that features on every page, but I can only suggest that that is a fair reflection of the area and people that are being represented here. And anyway, the dialect isn't difficult to understand - what you need to do i
s read it out loud in your head (if you see what I mean), as it's a very phonetic dialect, and saying the words as they appear on the page is often the easiest way to work out what it means. On the other hand, given the context it's in, 'swedgin' is easily recognised 'giving someone a good smack/shoeing/kicking/insert as appropriate'. See? Easy. Another bonus is that you get to meet the famous Spud, the catboy from 'Trainspotting' again, and he is one of the characters I found it easiest to warm to. So in conclusion, this is violent, coarse, funny, depressing, dark and yet somehow enlightening. I thought it was excellent, and I recommend that you give it a go, likesay.
The Acid House is without a doubt a very clever insight into the Scottish psyche. In a similar vein as Mr. Welsh's more seminal work "Trainspotting", The Acid House explores the rich street life of Scotland and the modern drug culture in Britain. The book comprises several short stories, some poetry and a 'novella'. I personally found the short stories to be the most interesting part of the book. Welsh dumps you, with explanation of excuse, into the middle of someone's life - often at crisis point or their lowest ebb. The first few short stories concentrate on giving a twist at the end of the plot - playing on preconceptions to steer the reader one way before yanking them back another - I won't spoil them for you here! As soon as the reader begins to adjust to this, and almost expect it, we are then led into a more surreal portion of the book - imagine meeting God in a pub and having him judge you before turning you into a bluebottle! The metaphors are strong, but the language is stronger. The author frequently gives his characters strong regional dialects, which can make the reading fairly heavy going at first. Similarly, the effect and shock of the level of swearing and explicit sexual/drug content soon wears off - a poignancy of the book which I’m sure was intentional. If you enjoyed Trainspotting, and want to go into the minds of such characters, then you will thoroughly enjoy this. Be warned, the main characters in most of the stories are fairly two dimensional (again intentionally) but the richness of the ancillary characters is something that many authors would struggle to achieve.
This book is like many of Welsh’s other’s. The language is vile, the stories are frequently disgusting and depraved. Yet there is a reason for all this shock treatment. When it has worn off you cannot feel anything but compassion for these misfits who live in the gutter. This book does differ from the rest that this author has written in that it is actually a collection of short stories, plus a novella. I did find that some of the stories in the collection were rather weak while others were very memorable, with very clever endings.