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Welsh comes of age
on 1 May 2002
Just like Oasis, Welsh shot into the public consciousness with a staggering debut ("Trainspotting") and has spent the rest of his career trying, and failing, to match it. 1999's "Filth" came pretty close, but the tapeworm sub-plot showed that Welsh still hadn't got over his penchant for playing literary games instead of doing what he does best, i.e. characterisation and dialogue.
With "Glue", however, he is definitely back to his best. On the face of it "Glue" sounds similar to "Trainspotting", following as it does a group of mates from the Edinburgh schemes as they get drunk, stoned and generally battered & bruised over a 4-decade period.
But the book is as much about Scotland, and Britain as a whole, as it is the central characters. Welsh's grasp of period is faultless, as he traces the social changes in British society from the 1970s through Thatcherism and the E generation to the present day, and the way his characters either ride the wave or are swept away.
The usual Welsh elements are all there - drugs, booze, sex, football, humour, swearing, politics - but for the first time there's a maturity here, a soul, a desire to place the characters and their activities into a sociopolitical context which can in some way explain their lifestyle choices.
Ultimately, it's a book about friendship and loyalty, and how these qualities somehow manage to endure even when the world keeps on kicking you in the teeth. A funny, gripping, and for the first time touching Welsh novel.