If You Liked School, You'll Love Work

In his first short-story collection since The Acid House, Irvine Welsh sets us five tricky questions.

In 'Rattlesnakes' how do three young Americans find themselves lost in the desert, and why does one find himself performing fellatio on another while being watched by the bare-breasted Madeline and two armed Mexicans?

Who is the mysterious Korean chef who has moved upstairs to Chicago socialite Kendra Cross, in 'The D.O.G.S. of Lincoln Park', and what does he have to do with the disappearance of her faithful pooch Toto?

In the title story, can Mickey Baker - an expat English bar-owner ducking and diving on the Costa Brava - manage to keep all his balls in the air: maintaining his barmaid Cynthia's body weight at the sexual maximum while attending to the youthful Persephone and dodging his persistent ex-wife and a pair of Spanish gangsters?

By what train of events does Raymond Wilson Butler, writing a biography of a legendary US film director in 'Miss Arizona' come to end up as a piece of movie memorabilia?

And how, in the novella 'The Kingdom of Fife' will Jason King - diminutive ex-trainee jockey and Subbuteo star of Cowdenbeath - fare in the world of middle-class female equestrians, and will he ever enjoy the tender and long-anticipated charms of Jenni Cahill and her remarkable jodhpurs?

All of these questions are posed, and answered, in these five extraordinary stories: stories that remind us that Irvine Welsh is a master of the shorter form, a brilliant storyteller, and - unarguably - one of the funniest and filthiest writers in Britain.

Extract

The air-conditioner on the silver Dodge Durango had fucked up earlier: the filter and cooler malfunctioning. Instead of sweet, chilled air, it had inexplicably started blowing hot desert dust into the vehicle. It streaked their sweaty faces and hands, merging with the previous layers they’d kicked up during their weekend of intoxicated dancing madness. Throats, dehydrated by drug and desert, dried out even more, as tearless eyeballs burned. They had been forced to switch it off. It had been a long trek out from the Burning Man festival, and a treacherous drive across these back desert roads. Now they were lost in this dust storm. Eugene’s spine was starting to hurt; his large line back’s frame uncomfortable in the seat. The dirt on his wet and slimy hands was turning to mud on the wheel and it was getting hotter all the time. His big chest rose and fell as his lungs struggled to fill up with the warm, dead air. This damn Dodge of Scott’s! 40,567 miles on the clock and the fucking aircon doesn’t even work! As the storm continued to kick up, the sky growing murkier by the second, Eugene was feeling the sense of his own stupidity snapping at him like a rabid dog. The short cut hadn’t materialized and as far as he could make out there were no fellow travelers around of any description. Eugene studied his pasty, wan reflection in the mirror, his filthy hair scraped back in a pony- tail, the sweat from it now running down his big forehead in rivulets of mud. Picking up an old white towel by his side, he wiped his face. He was glad he couldn’t see his eyes under his shades. Fatigued beyond tiredness, he pressed on as demons danced slowly in his peripheral vision. A bolt of lightning crackled in the phosphorous sky in front of him. He was unfit to drive; he was unfit for anything, he ruefully considered. The drugs and the sleep deprivation had taken him into a mildly psychotic status quo, which was now even starting to bore him. He was praying for clarity soon, both in the wild environment outside and in his troubled mind. And Madeline and Scott should have been awake to take their turns at the wheel. But he knew they were on a different trajectory to his, and so he’d been stuck with the driving. Rancorous bile rose in Eugene’s gut as he pushed on. Thunder quaked and rumbled in his ears on top of a tinnitus bass line that he feared would stay with him forever. This godamn mess. And Madeline. Asleep on the passenger seat next to him, his eyes straying onto her long, bare legs; tan augmented by surprising arousing streaks of muck, making her look dirty, dirty dirty, right up to the cutoff denim shorts…her long, curling blonde-brown hair cascading onto her shoulders, heavy with desert dust…dirty…filthy…. It was hot. It was godamn hot.

Reviews

“This collection of stories is a chorus of voices -rude, rough, discordant, filthy and often very, very funny...Brilliant”

- The Times

“A rambunctious return to the glorydays of Trainspotting. All the stories are slick and vigorous, written with Welsh's inimitable, in-yer-face energy...And while the outlandish scenarios may be shocking, they are often hilarious. His scabrous stories come close to caricature but they are also teeming and robust. Don't be fooled by all the drugs and sex: at heart, Welsh is a good, old-fashioned stylist.”

- The Daily Telegraph

“this smutty, macabre collection exudes a compelling energy”

- Daily Mail

Irvine's Comment

"This book was written in various locations, and it probably reflects my travelling life a lot more. Kingdom of Fife was written basically to give the book a Scottish flavour, which I felt it had been sadly lacking. I think that most of the stories are about western racism and imperialism, but I could be wrong. I thought that in 'Kingdom' I could really go to town on coming up with a vernacular, which was partly Fife, partly generic east of Scotland and partly some static buzzing around in my head. After 'Bedroom Secrets' I felt like writing something a little more playful, although I suppose that Miss Arizona is quite a dark story. It's too early to for me to say whether it's any good or not. It usually takes about a year after publication before I get that sense of it."
If You Liked School, You'll Love Work