The Scotsman goes to San Francisco to see Babylon Heights and hear about Master Chefs:
“The Bedroom Secrets Of The Master Chefs, on the other hand, is a deeper, more ambitious novel than some of its predecessors. It follows the lives of two young Environmental Health Officers in Edinburgh. Both are ambitious, are haunted by the absence of their fathers, and both run into a celebrity restaurateur who seems to have it all, apart from a clean kitchen. But Brian Kibby is a social misfit and geek, Danny Skinner a hedonistic party boy. Their divergent personalities lead to a vicious rivalry – and the hatred takes dramatic physical form.
“The whole book’s about identity: who are we and how do we know who we are – the genetics, the environment, the learning that we have, the opportunities that we have, the decisions that we make. It’s trying to look at that.”
As Welsh says, this eighth book – like Trainspotting, Marabou Stork Nightmares and Filth – features characters that are at “an extreme point in their life. [In those previous novels] one guy’s a heroin addict, one guy’s part of a gang rape, one guy’s having a mental breakdown basically”. In The Bedroom Secrets… Kibby is reeling from the death of his father, while Skinner is coming to the painful realisation that his addiction to alcohol, and obsession with finding his absent dad, is causing his life to spiral out of control. But Welsh sets these characters – and scenes both hilarious and brutal that are vintage Welsh – in a richly-drawn family dynamic. It’s a context that Welsh edged towards with Glue and Porno, but which he portrays vividly and empathetically in the new book. “
Publisher Random House have launched an Irvine Welsh mini site to celebrate the publication of Bedroom Secrets Of The Master Chefs. The site features an extract from the book and a competition where you can win rare Irvine Welsh goodies.
Neel Mukherjee of The Times isn’t impressed with Welsh’s new novel at all:
Let’s call a spade a spade — Irvine Welsh’s sixth novel is so awful that, to paraphrase James Wood, it invents its own category of awfulness.
Five novels later Welsh is still doing his substance-abuse-in-Edinburgh shtick, but it has become a meaningless brand — look carefully and you can almost see the TM symbol — emptied of all authenticity, forced and false. Like most such products, it should go straight in the bin. [Read more]
First review of Welsh’s new novel from The Guardian:
Irvine Welsh is in a class of his own. Whatever the flaws of his books, they have a seething life in them that rivets attention and an inventiveness with story and language that continually amuses and amazes. The elaborate choreography of his predators and victims as they circle each other through the bars, offices and “fitba” terraces of Edinburgh seems powered by inexhaustibly rich reserves of desire, rage, guilt and scabrous humour.
The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs may not be his best novel (parts of it are not very good at all), but it shares the same roiling chorus of hard men, wee hoors, old jakeys and biddies as its predecessors, builds with the same logic of escalating perversity, and leaves one with the same reeling sensation of having got quite a bit more than one’s money’s worth.
The hero is Danny Skinner, a restaurant inspector for the Edinburgh council. Good-looking, ambitious, cleverer than anyone around him (he reads Schopenhauer between drink and drug binges with his mates), he’s a type at which Welsh excels: the slick chancer whose prospects are imperilled only by his own self-destructive appetites and impulses.
The explanation offered for the latter is his mother’s refusal to tell him who his father is; a mystery that propels half the action of the book. The other, more interesting, half is set in motion by the appearance of a teetotal virgin, Brian Kibby, who attends Star Trek conferences and plays childish videogames. Kibby gets a job at the restaurant inspectorate, entering Skinner’s derisive orbit in the unfortunate possession of a toy train, purchased on his way into work. Almost immediately he awakens a demonic hatred in Skinner. The two find themselves in competition for the same office promotion, and the old dance begins.
Read the full review
Irvine Welsh will be speaking at The Dancehouse Theatre, Manchester on 9 August, tickets 0161-839 1248. There’s a lengthy interview with him in The Independent today, about Babylon Heights and Bedroom Secrets Of The Master Chefs, which comes out this week.
Evening Times: Welsh will visit Waterstone’s in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow to talk about The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs. He will meet fans of his work to discuss his life, work and his new title which focuses on the modern day obsessions with food, sex and minor celebrities. The event begins at 6.30pm on Wednesday, August 11, and tickets cost £3, redeemable against the purchase of the book.
The script of Irvine Welsh’s new play, Babylon Heights, has now been published in the UK and the US. [Buy it at
Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com]. Here’s the synopsis:
“If you put four dwarfs in one room with enough opium and alcohol, it’s bound to end in tears…In 1935, MGM studios embarked on a movie adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. The production called for the casting of many dwarfs to play the Munchkins of the mythical Land of Oz and the studio began recruiting ‘small persons’ from all over the world. During production, rumours spread around Hollywood of wild Munchkin sex orgies, drunken behavior and general dwarf debauchery. More sinisterly, a Munchkin is said to have committed suicide by hanging himself on the set during filming – what appears to be a small human body is clearly visible hanging from a tree in the Tin Woodman scene. It is a claim that has passed into Hollywood legend. Set in a hotel room in Culver City, California, “Babylon Heights” is Irvine Welsh and Dean Cavanagh’s scabrous and hilarious imagining of what could, very possibly, have led to that dwarf suicide. “Babylon Heights” premiered at the Exit Theatre, San Francisco, in June 2006.”
The Scotsman: “Veteran television presenter Melvyn Bragg is to visit Leith for a South Bank Show special tracing the life and work of Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh.
Lord Bragg will interview the best-selling novelist, who was born and bred in the area. A string of locations which inspired Trainspotting, his famous debut novel, are expected to feature in the programme, which will be shown on ITV in the autumn.
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Researchers have been interviewing a number of local luminaries in preparation for Lord Bragg’s visit, including Mary Moriarty, landlady of the Port o’ Leith, one of Welsh’s favourite watering holes, John Paul McGroarty, artistic director of Leith Festival, and Tim Bell, the tour guide who leads Trainspotting tours around the port.
Among the locations expected to feature in the programme are the site of the former Leith Central Station, now home to the Scotmid supermarket, which inspired the title of Trainspotting.” [Read more]
Welsh writes in The Guardian about his motivations for writing his latest play, Babylon Heights, which is about the munchkins in the Wizard Of Oz and which opens in Dublin next month:
Last week, a disability group representing people of restricted growth attacked the production, which is very disappointing. I am sure that if they see it, they’ll change their minds. The play certainly doesn’t ridicule small people. Anybody turning up expecting to see Mini Me from Austin Powers, or the “baby” star of the current hit film in the US, Little Man, will be highly disappointed; none of the characters evoke these tired stereotypes.
The play resolutely attacks the spirit of discrimination, including the type actively practised by the studio at the time. It does this not by painting the characters as perfect and virtuous, but by making them real people. We have assumed that they have a sexuality, are influenced by carnal needs and experience the drives common to most human beings. I have yet to see any dramatic representations of persons of restricted growth that acknowledges this very basic fact.
Irvine Welsh – the former heroin addict, one-time socialist and best-selling novelist who famously chronicled the dying days of Thatcherism – has revealed himself as an unexpected convert to the Conservative cause.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, the author of Trainspotting spoke warmly of David Cameron’s attempts to revive his party in the wake of three shattering election defeats. He said of Mr Cameron: “What’s attractive about him, for me, is he is very much another Blair, but without the weariness and baggage.
“With Cameron, things feel very much like they felt when Blair was coming up to take over from Major. Just as Blair did for socialism, so I think Cameron is doing for traditional Toryism, or at least Thatcherism.” [Read more at The Daily Telegraph]