THE ACID HOUSE by Irvine Welsh



 A collection of 21 stories and one novella--Welsh's second book, but his first published stateside--that will inevitably be compared to last year's Booker winner, James Kelman. The Scottish dialect, the urban lowlife characters, and the vulgar slang all make a similar claim to authenticity. Welsh's punters prowl the streets of Edinburgh, not Kelman's Glasgow, a distinction likely to be lost on most American readers. In any case, not all of his mean and grungy stories rely on a thick Scottish brogue, though a number of casual pieces are one-joke gimmicks. In the sci-fi-ish ``Vat '96,'' a head is kept alive in a jar while ``his'' wife entertains men in his presence; for ``Where the Debris Meets the Sea,'' four Hollywood glamour girls sit poolside and comment on the bodies of working-class men. Such simple reversal is at the center of the title story, in which a newborn and a teenaged acid head exchange bodies in a freak lightning storm. Welsh's best stories, including the novella, ``A Smart Cunt,'' are mostly days-in-the-lives of aimless, drug-addled fellows who live for sex, football, and violence (often in combination). In ``Eurotrash,'' the narrator goes to Amsterdam to kick his habit, and has an affair with a ``repulsive and ugly'' woman who turns out to be a transsexual. ``Granny's Old Junk'' packs a clever punch when it's revealed that the little old lady who's about to be ripped off by her junky grandson is a longtime user herself. Such brutal ironies come easily to Welsh, as does a nihilism that seems designed for effect. In ``The Last Resort on the Adriatic,'' a ten-year grieving widower joins his wife in a shipside suicide; and the video-obsessed drudge in ``Snuff,'' having seen every film in his guide, records his own suicide on videotape. Welsh often settles for shock value, sleazy sex, and heroin chic, but he's actually a better writer than many who've been here before, especially Burroughs and his epigones.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-393-31280-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995


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