Volume 92, Issue 22
Wednesday, October 14, 1998
in living colour
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Welsh spots a Filthy comeback
Jonathon Cape, Random House
It has sex, drugs, violence, coarse language and a preoccupation with bodily functions. Filth is the title of the new novel by Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) and it works on so many levels.
The story is told in the coarse brogue of Det. Sgt. Bruce Robertson, a member of the Edinburgh Police force who views the merits of Dennis Leary on the same plane as Mother Theresa. Robertson has a sexist, racist, negative opinion about absolutely everything and he expresses it in four-letter words. He describes his own busy life which consists of watching pornography, snorting cocaine, having as many extra-marital affairs as possible and going out of his way to make life miserable, while maintaining his image as a morally upright individual.
However, this accounts for only half of his problems. A recent brutal murder and the ensuing investigation look as though they may interfere with his planned week-long vacation of sex and drugs in Amsterdam. A promotion is coming up in the department and to get it, Robertson needs to spread convincing lies about every single one of his competitors. His wife is missing and there is no telling if and when she will be back. Robertson also has one particularly interesting problem a remarkably eloquent digestive tract parasite.
It is ambitious of Welsh to attempt the voice of an individual who has no redeeming qualities. Like his previous works, Filth is entertaining and very funny at times. However, unlike those same works, his latest novel lacks some even remotely believable characters and this proves to be a very serious flaw.
All the supporting characters are two-dimensional, too clueless to even be interesting and none of them suspect Robertson for what he is. Even Robertson himself lacks depth.
The single act of kindness he performs, presumably to add complexity to his personality, merely seems out of character. No motivation is given for his nastiness through most of the book and the ultimate explanation is too simplistic and cliché to be satisfying.
For pure mind-numbing entertainment, Filth is not bad. It contains some hilarious dialogue ˆ la Trainspotting and one or two half-interesting plot twists. On the other hand, a reader expecting anything more than entertainment from the novel is bound to be disappointed. Like most filth, with a little probing, it disintegrates.
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