Saturday, April 28, 2012

Books: The Acid House

I'm not sure how I feel about short stories.  I find them very easy to read, but also rather unsatisfying.  This might be because I'm slow to empathise with characters and situations, so don't make those quick connections that are important for short stories.  Or it might be that because they're short and easy they don't make me feel like I've done some serious reading.

I read an essay about Trainspotting once, before I'd read the book, that argued that while the film had its good points, it failed to present Renton & co.'s lifestyle as a viable alternative.  Reading the Acid House, and in particular the novella A Smart Cunt, the contours of this alternative become more clear.  It's a lifestyle designed to enable the acquisition and use of various drugs.  The scale and urgency of use varies, but they are always an organising principle.  Casual work, benefits, itinerancy, canny union reps, the erratic kindness of friends and family, petty theft and dealing, rent and tax arrears.

The characters in Welsh's stories live on the margins but their lives don't seem precarious.  They have no careers, possessions, houses, happiness, dreams or people they really care about that they can lose.  The lack of formal structure in their lives gives them resilience.  The only things they really risk are their bodies, battered by drugs, police, thugs, friends, neglect.

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