No, I still haven’t finished the post about Irvine Welsh. I’ve got to the part where I’ve discussed his previous books and his basic trajectory, and am just away to turn to discussing Skagboys. Suffice it to say, it just isn’t very good (despite what the majority of Amazon reviewers seem to think). I’m afraid I don’t have the time or energy to really go through it and discuss the key points – which would mean a concerted re-reading.
It’s weird. When I was young, I had such a voracious appetite for books and culture in general that it now amazes me. By age 16, I had already read DH Lawrence’s The Rainbow and Sons and Lovers; EM Forster’s Howards End, A Passage To India, The Longest Journey, A Room With A View and Maurice; James Kelman’s The Burn, A Disaffection and Not Not While The Giro; Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, Marabou Stork Nightmares and The Acid House; Orwell’s Animal Farm, Burmese Days and Nineteen Eighty Four; and William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, Queer, and The Soft Machine. The sheer desire, the ferocious hunger, to become familiar with these great writers I distinctly remember. It was almost physical in intensity. Similarly, in one year, from age 15 to 16, my total writing output (creative writing, diarising and recording events I went on – i.e stuff done entirely spontaneously), was something like 400,000 words – about 2/3 the length of Lord of the Rings, say. (I tore it all up, which I really regret doing now).
I say this not to boast but to point out the contrast. In recent years, I have entirely lost touch with current films, books, TV, and music. I simply do not have the mental energy to watch new films or TV, listen to new albums, or read new fiction (I still have the appetite for non-fiction). The time I do have to relax, I watch old comfortable stuff: The Empire Strikes Back, Roseanne, Alien, Spaced, Ghostbusters, Frasier. I re-re-re-re-re-re-read books that I know and love.
Does this happen to everyone? I remember talking with my Scout leader many a moon ago. He was telling me about a book, Wild Swans, that his wife was reading and raving about.
“You should read it, then,” I said.
He shrugged. “I just don’t have time.”
I didn’t say anything, but in my adolescent certainty, felt that one should always make the time to read. This guy was married, had two sons in their tweens, ran a Scout troop and had a professional career (a land sureyor, I think he was). Now I’m astonished he had time to be talking with, never mind arranging activities for, wee nyaffs like me.