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Thursday, November 8, 2012

"If You Liked School, You'll Love Work", the filth and the fun

If You Liked School, You'll Love Work- Irvine Welsh 

After enjoying "Reheated Cabbage" a lot, I wanted to give it another shot to Irvine Welsh's short fiction, so I got my hands on "If You Liked School, You'll Love Work" quickly, expecting another dose of the Scottish writer punching and vitriolic prose.

And that's exactly what I have found in this book. For the good, and also for the not so good. Maybe it has to do more with the structure of the five stories, closer to novellas, with "Kingdom of Fife" clocking over 200 pages, a novel on its own. Or maybe it is just that feeling of being there, done (in that case read) that.

The familiar territory for the reader arrives in several areas. First and foremost, in his writing style, straightforward, direct, dynamic and irreverent. Whether you like or not, it will get you, and most of the times, you will find yourself laughing. Then in many of the characters and their behaviours (men are all again chaotic Peter Pans with a mind focused in sex and violence is always present) And finally, you have the stories themselves.

"Rattlesnakes", the first one of the collection, it might be Welsh's sickest story I have ever read from him. It's worse than that. Scatology and violence have been ever-present trademarks of his prose, but the usual shadow or open irony has completely disappeared here. Put it simply, it's creepy, gross.

"If You Liked School, You'll Love Work" is Welsh-by-numbers, the novelty is moving the sex-obsessed British to an unusual location, Lanzarote. But despite being the lightest of the lot, its among the best of this compilation, because is a really funny, contagious, absorbing tale.

"The DOGS of Lincoln Park" on the contrary, rates among the most challenging and refreshing. Traditionally male-minded, this story is completely feminine, and a bit surprisingly, it works. It's a satire with an acid but at the same time seriously sad background, as it portrays the hollow lives of a bunch of pretty horrible, posh and repulsive young Americans. 

Alongside with the previous one comes "Miss Arizona", in which Welsh adopts a more traditional tale approach that turns into a more morbid, chilling story as we reach its end. Cinema, myth, fallen idols, a dark side that is notorious, right from the start, but reveals itself slowly. It's a very suggestive story.

And we finally reach the latest one, "Kingdom of Fife", where my mixed feelings about the whole book can be summarised. On the positive side, there's fun, the usual ability of Welsh to engage you, to make you read more and more, and the creation of an interesting bidirectional structure, male-female, that works nicely, as an impossible sort of diary. But on the not so positive, the male perspective receives a lot more attention and has the weight of the story, which is frustrating, as Jenny Cahill is a far more attractive character, with a lot of potential, than Jason (which, on the other hand, it is again very funny). Besides, some secondary roles are wasted (Jason's father deserved much more!) and there's a sensation the story is a bit messy.

Will entertain you, for sure, but I do believe Welsh's has reached higher levels in other books.

SCORE: 6,25/10

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