Interview with Irvine Welsh
Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh has recently returned to the short story with If You Liked School, You'll Love Work, his first collection in the form since 1994's The Acid House. The former Leither talked to Edinburgh-based writer and journalist Tony Black about his latest work, his home town and why Alex Salmond is the best thing to happen to Scottish politics in centuries.
TONY BLACK: Your face has been everywhere of late - is the publicity round getting tiring?
IRVINE WELSH: Yes, but it has to be done if you have something out there.
What's the worst question you've been asked?
Who was the best shag you had - a sex mag in Australia.
I read somewhere that you feel you don't do enough self-promotion?
I'm starting to [do] better stuff with regards to websites, blogging etc. I forget that the people who buy my books are usually far younger, cooler, hipper than myself and know all about these things.
If You Liked School, You'll Love Work has been selling in crate-loads - are you happy with how well it's been received?
All my books tend to be received in exactly the same way. The people that are meant to get them do, the people that are meant to hate them do. I'm never surprised.
Did this collection grow out of a desire to return to the form (your first story collection since The Acid House in 1994) or did you just find yourself with enough for a new book?
I just fancied writing some again.
Short stories don't make the best-sellers' lists very often these days, and yet their online popularity is mushrooming. Do you think they're due a mainstream comeback?
Yes. A novel is too much on-line but stories work well. I want to get some of my older stories that are out of print together in one collection.
I once read a short of yours featuring extraterrestrial casuals and I heard you in an interview, years ago now, say there was a book featuring them on the way... what happened to it?
It would be that one in the above collection.
If You Liked School, You'll Love Work is book number nine. Which of your titles are you most satisfied with to-date?
Glue. I think it was a very underrated book.
Can a writer ever be satisfied with a completed work?
I never am. I just send them off to the publisher when I can't bear to them around any more.
Who are you reading right now?
Darkmans by Nicola Barker.
How do you feel Edinburgh is shaping up as the first UNESCO City of Literature?
I don't know much about how that is going to be frank.
Taking any interest in the Festival this year?
Did an event at the film fest, not in town long enough to take in anything else.
There's been a lot of changes in your old hometown of Leith lately, a move apparently to bring in a 'Continental-style cafe culture'... are you worried about the yuppification of the place?
It's not really my place to worry about it, as I no longer live there. Obviously though, I'd like to see people that come from Leith not be squeezed out by rising house prices and rents.
You've settled in Dublin now, and have married, but the wandering spirit remains intact, where's next on your travels?
I don't know, because I really like it here, but my feet are itchy.
How does your wife feel about joining the Irvine Welsh tour bus?
She does her own stuff. I join her tour as much as she does mine.
You're now heavily involved in screen work, what do you think about Alex Salmond's latest moves to boost Scotland's creative output in this sphere?
I feel very positive about Alex S. In fact, he's the best thing that has happened to dreary, stagnant politics of Scotland in centuries.
With Waterstone's taking a virtual monopoly on the high street, do you think Scottish culture is under threat?
They wish. Tesco might have something to say about that. Scottish culture is always under threat, but so is English, German, Swedish, American. The purpose of globalisation is to institute a bland, monolithic culture.
And finally, what do you think Beckham can do in States that Hibs' Bestie couldn't achieve?
Best v Beckham. It's the white Briton's Ali v Jordan. The fact that the latter pair can be mentioned in same breath as the former shames us all and our dull little globalised world.
Tony Black's first novel PAYING FOR IT is to be published by Random House in 2008. Ken Bruen kindly praised the book, saying it "blasts off the page like a triple malt... one adrenaline-pumped novel that is as moving and compassionate as it is so stylishly written". More of his writing can be found online at: Scotsman.com, Thug Lit, Shots Magazine and is forthcoming in Demolition and Out of the Gutter. Black lives and works in Edinburgh. Reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org