by Irvine Welsh
It is always a little risky, after seeing a movie based on a book, to read the book, because movies tend to leave us with specific visual images that can hinder the imagination. It was actually helpful in this case, though: the phonetic spelling of the Scottish accents in Trainspotting were difficult to translate at first, so I read it to myself in Ewan McGregor's voice -- it worked like a charm.
The book is about a group of heroin addicts, alcoholics, and petty criminals living in Edinburgh. They are searching for meaning in life, but have little interest in conforming to the standards of a world that has given them few breaks. I was reminded from time to time of On the Road and A Clockwork Orange.
Strangely, "trainspotting" hardly figures more in the book than it did in the movie; I was hoping that maybe it would shed some light on this bizarre pastime. The book gives a much more multifaceted view of the characters than the movie, but is less sympathetic to Mark Renton, the nominal protagonist. The movie version of Trainspotting makes an odd transition from drug movie to crime movie during the last hour -- the crime scene is a postscript to the book rather than an integral part. I think the story works a lot better that way. It is funny, sick, and in my opinion, worth reading.
copyright © 1997 John Regehr