Glue Paperback – 4 Apr 2002
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With a title like Glue, it would seem reasonable to assume that Irvine Welsh's new novel is a profound reflection upon the pitfalls of solvent abuse. In fact, the glue of Welsh's book deals with the bonds that unite four boys growing up together in "the scheme", the "slum-clearance" flats of Edinburgh, whose optimistic construction in the 1970s give way to the poverty, unemployment and crime of the 1980s and 1990s. It is this despair that defines the lives of Welsh's central protagonists: Terry Lawson, work-shy and sex-mad; Carl Ewart, budding DJ; Billy Birrell, boxer, and Andrew Galloway, a drug addict who tests HIV-positive.
Glue is a bildungsroman of growing up bad, recounted in Welsh's inimitable style. The novel follows the boys through their early forays into sex, drink, drugs and football violence, written in the author's trademark vernacular. Carl Ewart poses crucial questions such as: "How dae ah chat up a bird?" and "Do I wear a rubber johnny? (If so, nae problem, I've started trying them on so ah ken how tae fir them)". Welsh also attempts occasional political comment on the friends' difficulties: Billy Birrell reflects: "Having money is the only way to get respect. Desperate, but that's the world we live in now." However, Welsh is better at grotesque moments of sex and violence and offhand one-liners, such as: "Guilt and shaggin, they go the gither like fish 'n' chips". Fans of Trainspotting will love Glue, even down to the brief appearance of Begbie and Renton, but others may feel that the novel is just more of the same, and that this performance finds Welsh stuck in a rut. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Wild, brave and funny" (Sunday Times)
"Welsh is brilliant at what he does... This is his most readable and memorable novel since Trainspotting" (Independent on Sunday)
"His most ambitious, but also his most complete and engaging work to date... arguably, his best book" (Times Literary Supplement)
"Full of incident, mad, crackling dialogue, attractively appalling characters and some of the funniest and rudest sex scenes I have read since Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint" (Sunday Times)
"With razor-sharp dialogue, a powerful odour of ordinary desperation and an incisive understanding of what makes these men's friendship tick, Welsh is at the top of his game" (The Face)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
The four main characters each have their own distinctive personalities and the interactions between them are realistic, complicated and often very moving. Welsh manages to capture perfectly their individual personalities from the start and develop them as they grow through the novel (from the unbridled confidence of a child, to the introspective, rollercoaster emotions of a teenager, and finally the complex doubts and worries of their adult selves). You really feel you get to know these characters as people, they seem so real - I genuinely feel if I ever visited Leith, I could walk into a bar and be hit on by Juice Terry Lawson or could get into a club to see DJ Carl Ensign Ewart play. There are also cameos from some of Welsh's other well known characters, sometimes just mentions (Lexo, Begbie, Spud, Sick Boy et al).
The title of Glue obviously refers to the cheap high that teenagers can get from huffing it but it also refers to the bond that holds this group together- it can be broken but re-mended; the cracks may still show but they just tell the story.
As literature Glue is surprisingly adventurous. Lots of characters viewed from a variety of different angles over 40 years. A plot, morals, and good Welsh-style entertainment.
I loved his other books (maybe not Filth so much - it was disappointing) and you'll smirk if you've read them to catch brief guest appearances in Glue by Begbie, Rents, Spud etc.
If you're new to Irvine Welsh you'll probably find the 'scottish' dialect he writes in a bit tricky to start with. Bear with it.
I highly recommend this book. Would be great to take on holiday.
I think it helped that I was born myself in an Edinburgh scheme, Oxgangs, there are instances where I believe that an outsider would not get 100% out of the story and the dialect is pretty exclusive in parts to only those who have ever lived in the South East lowlands of Scotland but this shouldn't deterr anybody whatsoever, this is a fantastic read, brilliantly funny but at the same time absolutely shocking. The stories are engrossing and at times the action is relentless, this was a book I didn't ever want to finish.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Irvine Welsh is at his best in Glue – it’s a book about friendships, and how the glue that holds us all together is affected by the passage of time, and our surroundings, and all... Read morePublished 26 days ago by SocialBookshelves.com
Superb, outstanding and has the usual Welsh "bite" about it. Particularly liked the highs and lows of the October-fest trip!Published 11 months ago by Dex
I considered ditching this book due to my loathing of "Juice Terry Lawson "
Born a schemie myself the charisma of the other main characters Billy, Carl and Gally... Read more