on October 16, 2001
As with most of Welsh's writing, Filth bucks and ripples with the heavy brogue of Scottish vernacular, with it's roots in Gaelic, Norse and Middle English, along with the occasional term borrowed from Jamaican immigrants and African American music.
This seems to annoy and confuse many readers still virgins to Edinburgh inner city slang. However, hope is in site. Look up "snogging" or "the craft", or generalize with "Scottish slang" on most internet search engines, and you'll be moving along nicely in no time. In step with Shakespeare, Hemmingway, Joyce and Salinger, Welsh shapes, moves, and often rips violently, the English language. Sure, a little research is needed, but if you're hungry for a reading experience the intellectual equivalent of a drunken fist fight at 2:30am in a strip club parking lot, Welsh is your man, and Filth may very well be your novel. If you're content with linguistic tea biscuits and verbal aromatherapy, I hear Oprah's got some lovely book ideas.
on July 26, 2001
This book certainly gives me a new perspective of police officers in my society. Welsh threw in any mordant situations in this one. Bruce Robertson, a police who has power in his grasps but not for liberal or righteous reasons. He was a manipulative man, loads of debauchery, loathesome friends, incredibly bad hygene and to top it off, he has a bit of a rash. Practically, all he ever wanted was his vacation and a promotion but on the way he found himself in a bind, sordid crimes, racial murder, his wife being in Australia with his daughter, it was all too much for him. He was in numerous liaisons with women that are fairly close to him. His real father detested him and also by most of his colleages. The ending was quite a surprise who ever was caught in the story but he had it coming. It was somewhat a twisted fate. Bad karma to think about it. He also had a narrative living being inside of him that told his life story(mainly at the end). Welsh was very vivid through-out the book. Very creative and certainly a winner with this one.
on May 18, 2001
Well, it's actually been a little over a year since I read this deliciously twisted piece of literature- and I have yet to get over it. It might be easy for someone to dismiss Welsh as simply going for the gross-out/shock factor with his stories (as they are all written in a similar vein), but, in my humble opinion, it is just as much an art form to plumb the depths of human debauchery and wallow in its excesses as it is to tell tales of a more user-friendly nature. "Filth" is the proof. Just as Richard Pryor gave artistic credibility and validity to the use of profanity- say that ten times fast- Irvine Welsh demonstrates that life's stories involve raw, disgusting, infected matter as well as pleasant. You don't see many characters in books, movies, etc. that have a tapeworm (yikes!) or severe cases of rash... in the nether regions-- does that mean they don't exist? Tales of murderers, rapists, junkies exist in literature- these are not novel concepts- but, Welsh pushes the extremes to such a degree that even as your cringing it is not without a hint of delight. His brilliant style of writing, especially concerning the vivid formation of eccentric characters, is completely captivating. You will actually find yourself cheering him on to push it further, take it deeper, scrape up more filth (no pun intended) to heap on top. The story? Not much should be said; to give away too much would be unforgiveable. Our hero, Bruce Robertson, despite his many physical ailments- one of them helps narrate the story- is still anxiously anticipating an upcoming vacation to the Netherlands for a romp through the fields of sex and drugs. A violent murder takes place in the city in which he lives and works; if it weren't for the fact that Bruce works for the Department of Law Enforcement, and is also seeking a valuable promotion, he'd be able to pack his bags sooner. Let the investigation begin... Every page of this novel seethes with the raw energy that pervades all of Welsh's work: his characters are always fascinating, even when they're despicable. I love Welsh for being absolutely unafraid to be incorrigible and unconventional- he seems to challenge you, dare you, to throw the book down and wash your hands of it! I urge you to take him up on the challenge! And, his ingenious use of the helpful tapeworm co-narrator gives your eyes something new to look at; literary "devices" like this are what put Irvine Welsh in a category all his own! DON'T LISTEN TO THE POOH-POOHers! This guy's the solution for boring, run-of-the-mill reading.
on May 6, 2001
The beginning of the twenty-first century is supposed to be a grand time filled with optimism; the things of the past can be swept away, erased or pushed underneath the carpet to make the house look cleaner. However the brave new world of our present will always have its deep scratches that are hard to wipe off with soap. So hard to get rid of sometimes that the scratch will only spread, lining every corner of the house until there's nothing left to scratch, and will turn in on itself to go only deeper till it becomes exhausted, decimated.
Welsh's "Filth" is a novel that proves this world is hardly perfect. In his creation, Welsh brings us the misanthrop Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson of the Royal Lothian Constabulary (the police force that covers central eastern Scotland, including Edinburgh). On the onset, Robertson seems like a policeman who's probably been on the force a few years, seen enough things to make him a tad-bit pessimistic about the world, but ultimately knows what he's doing. But very quickly does the reader find out that Robertson is anything but the model policeman. Robertson, who narrates the whole story using his Scottish dialect, sprinkled here and there with slang he picked up from London, is the kind of policeman that would make ACLU laywers go gonzo with lawsuits. Robertson deliberately makes his police hours--in this case, the murder of the son of a African diplomat--his own hours, filled with long overtimes consisting of trying to do things with as many prostitutes and stray women as possible, while his own wife has left him. He also uses the time to go out with fellow unproductive police officers, complaining about everything from socialists, homosexuals, the Labour Party, English wankers taking over native Scotland, soccer players and blacks, which infuriate Robertson so much that his racism beckons the reader to hate him.
Does the word "pig" come to mind by any chance? Just curious.
Robertson in essence is the thorn in the stomach of the productive race relations which have been continuing since the end of the sour Thatcher era and onwards into late 1990s Britain. As demonstrated in one part of book beautifully when a fellow officer tries to talk about why American gangsta-rap is popular in lower-income homes, Robertson can only reply how he loved it when it was "open season" on ethnic minorities in the past police departments he'd served in, from London to New South Wales.
With his racism clear, as well as a murder that he hardly investigates and a string of extramartial affairs that seem to be pulling him in all directions, nothing can get worse for our anti-hero. Instead it goes deeper. He's also suffering from a badly infected case of eczema. Not to forget that he has tapeworms, which constantly remind him of a conscience, on how things got to this point in the first case. Welsh very effectivly (and very originally) places the tapeworms' comments on Bruce (the Host) right in the middle of his banter on life, smudging the middle of the pages like a bubbling pipe.
Through the course of the book, we witness Bruce do everything and anything possible to make you think that he is indeed filth. Everything from the sacrificing of his supposed friendships with fellow officers in order to recieve the promotion he thinks he deserves, to innocent bystanders who just so happen to be within his destructive sway. Or his messy cocaine habit shared by fellow misanthropic Lothian officer Ray Lennox, who seems to be Bruce's twin in every shape and idea.
From "Filth"'s violent beginning to self-destructing end, this is a book that grabs your attention; even if you can't stand him, you begin to like Bruce, despite his deeply-flawed past and his twisted present. Filled with moments of drama, comedy and grizzly depictions of life on Edinburgh's other side that tourists don't see, "Filth" is bound to be sat next to Welsh's other gem, "Trainspotting," which itself was a landmark in modern-day British fiction. Like Chuck Palahniuk's "Survivor," this is a narrative that is ultimately heading towards somewhere whether the reader likes it or not. We stand with helplessness and laugh.
on January 16, 2001
As in, "I am perplexed that this book was even published." The title of the novel serves a duel purpose, alerting the reader to the content of the narative and the quality of the book. Welsh seems to have forgotten the strong characters that populated his wonderful "Trainspotting" and instead focuses on depravity and shock value. Also, there are no strong supporting characters, forcing DS Bruce Robretson to shoulder the load, which is clearly a bad idea. DS Robertson is the most vile human being you'll ever meet, but there is no explanation for his actions until the novel is nearly over. The lack of any depth in the main character makes it impossible to read because you keep waiting for some sort of explanation or background, but it doesn't arrive until the very end of the book. The first 350 pages are merely strung together anecdotes that don't propel the plot or develop the characters. Oh, and when I say plot I mean no plot.
The lack of any story makes this a grueling read because nothing happens. The murder case that was supposed to be the main element fades away quicker than a bad TV sitcom, and is not even a mystery once you pass page 50.
What this book boils down to is coke-fueled shenanigans that disgust but do little to help the reader connect with the characters. Welsh strives to show how disgusting human nature can be and tries to show the dark parts of humanity we all harbor. That he fails is disheartening, but had he succeeded it would have been truly filthy.
on September 24, 2000
After the blockbuster Trainspotting and the equally brilliant but unrecognized Marabou Stork Nightmares, comes this novel Filth. One thing is for certain - Welsh writes brilliantly in the scottish slang vernacular and he has an ability to deliver one powerful ending after another. He is a deranged O'Henry. 3/4 of the novel is shocking, disgusting, revolting, hilarious, and all the other adjectives used when describing Welsh's talents and his prose style. The tapeworm and its philosophical musings is hilarious, irrelevent, and original. The actual ending is shocking but the events leading up to the final scene get away from Mr. Welsh. Yes, his relations with his wife are absolutely jaw-dropping(Can't go into detail, just read and you will see) but I just didn't feel like Bruce's past from the coal mines should have been told by the tapeworm. He left out information vital to the story and had the tapeworm fill the reader in. Pretty weak narrative device. But i am an admirer of Welsh and his original voice so I still enjoyed the novel. It is just flawed, that's all. Just don't ever let your guard down when reading this book. He will surprise you with a few scenes here and the ending is true to the title Filth.
on July 20, 2000
Filth is one depraved piece of writing. Without warning or pause we are bombarded with the uncensored, delightfully preverse, bitter, vindictive and spectacularly cruel first person narration of Detective Sargent Bruce Robertson. Through numerous and intentionally repetitive tales of sodomy, pornography, blackmail, theft, intimidation and just about every other crime there is, the reader stops, looks away from the book and towards the ceiling with a soft gasp and a little smile on his/her face. The delight the reader feels is that of a voyeur.
But it doesn't last, the comedy I mean. It masks the uglyness for a while, but the direction is downhill. Welsh deceptively gives the impression that he is not in the driver's seat, that this whole book is a door opened from this pervert's mind and all you get is his bigotry. And as you enjoy this temporary abandon of moral restraint Welsh gives you a one sentence paragraph "HOW DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?" Weather good old honest to Satan Bruce is harrassing his best friend's wife on the phone, the same bespectacled friend he takes to Amesterdam "to go whoring for Scotland", the same friend so in need of his spectacles that Bruce is naturally delighted to crush them under his boots while the big oaf sleeps. Preversely hysterical stuff, but there is Welsh again with "HOW DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?". By the time Bruce is burning his boss's hardwork on a screenplay, it not very funny anymore, it is pathetic. I know this a difficult concept for some to understand, but the book's very lack of moral prespective redeems it. There is no pop physcology here. The less perceptive among its readers will laugh a little longer, but all readers will eventually realise that Bruce Robertson is digging his own grave.
In my first review I made clear my dislike for the tapeworm narration. I still dislike it, it is an ingenious and original device. But it is a "Device" and goes against the stream of consciencness approach. Maybe he had to include it, just to point the way.
Filth is a virtual reality experience, for a few hundred pages YOU ARE BRUCE ROBERTSON. Therefore you want him to get that promotion, to get the better of his enemies and getaway with his crimes, no matter how vicious they maybe. Everything seems different froom the inside looking out. Towards the end Bruce (and inturn you the reader) gets to see himself from the outside, from his colleages' point of view, and its a tragic sight. After its over get up, look at a mirror and ask yourself "HOW DID THAT MAKE ME FEEL?".
on May 2, 2000
Irvine Welsh has a fetish for feces and things in life that make the average man run for the toilet -- both to throw up and pray for a cleaner world. A parasite lingering in the syphillised open pussing scab of Detective Bruce Robertson's body narrates part of "Filth".
This is likely the darkest novel I have ever read, so grotesque and unrelenting, exploring a horrid level of depravity that is almost refreshing in its baseness. I was struck with the thought of how this novel could improve (on the disgust-o-meter) I was at a loss. It defeated my imagination. It was wonderful. No punches pulled...
This is not Trainspotting, and is all the better for not being that. The same great style and wit is present in a tighter story -- ridden mercilessly by a wonderful talent for characterization.
I loved "Filth". For me it breathes hope into modern novels -- there is unexplored ground left. Who knows what critical praise this recieved -- but for me Welsh has created something wholly unforgettable, -- no matter how much you might want to forget you ever knew the narrator.
on February 14, 2000
Welshs' Bruce Robertson has not one redeeming personal quality that is required for our co-existence as a society. After all, he is a liar, thief adulterer,racist;a drunk with a "wee" coke problem,a gay basher with no respect for his superiors and especially women in authority/general. The books Scottish dialect does take some getting used to especially its rhryming slang, but it is brutally honest as far as seeing life in the first person of a true "sociopath" whose progressive demise into the abyss is at the same time very gratifying, yet very depressing, for Bruce took "life" for granted. He was fortunate in that he had a family,friends and freedom but his insecurities and selfishness fuelled his need to destroy others, so that in effect if he couldnt enjoy life then no-one else would.He was jealous of anyone that dared to live a life that he could so have easily attained. This was a brilliant book,a laugh a minute -no even a second - but its message far exceeds this aspect and after all the schemes,backstabbing,prostitutes,drugs and ointment you could poke a stick at, this was all that this masterful storyteller was trying to say. This book could not have been called anything else and I'll never be able to look at a pig again without thinking of Bruce. "We hate ourself for being unable to be other than what we are" Irwin Welsh - "Filth"
on October 2, 1999
Irvine Welsh didnt read much fiction, before becoming a novelist, and therefore he has no regard for lit norms. He has a fresh, sobering point of view that seeths through all of his work. "Filth" his newest novel, that takes place in the same literary universe as "Trainspotting" and "Marabou Stork Nightmares,"(Begbie, and Lexo are mentioned in all three novels, and many others are mentioned in two of the three) is another must read by this talented author.
"Trainspotting" is about the junkies, "Marabou Stork Nightmares" is about the thugs, and now we see the point of view of a policeman in "Filth."
Irvine Welsh does a little more chiseling away at our xenophobia, he creates characters that are so lifelike they jump off the pages at you. "Filth" is about a nasty cop, but you almost find yourself rooting for him, hoping he gets his promotion, and that he can keep his superiors happy. Irvine Welsh has been called the voice of the chemical generation, and drugs are commonly dispersed in the plots of his novels, but that is all beside the point. His social commentary, and perspective are invaluable. A naturally gifted "writer" who keeps you turning the pages, following characters that seem all too familiar.
As far as a brief synopsis of the novel, read the back cover, i wouldnt want to give anything away. It's a must read....along with his previous two novels, and "ecstacy," and "The Acid House"
Irvine Welsh is still young for a novelist, Dostaevski didnt write his best work until he was in his 60's, same goes with bukowski, burroughs, other authors that may interest you if you like irvine welsh. All I can say is, keep it coming Irvine Welsh, and maybe we will see a grand masterpiece in the future. Although he hasnt hurt the collective collection of literature with his work so far. I personally put him up there with the greats, remeniscint of the before mentioned authors. READ IT!!!