If You Liked School, You’ll Love Work is a short story collection by Irvine Welsh. There are five stories in it, almost all around the length of fifty pages (The last one could actually be called a novel, it’s got almost 190 pages).
And you can not believe how many stupid looks I got in the subway while reading, just because the cover looks like that:
Or maybe you can believe it. Thinking about it, I probably would have given myself surprised glances as well…
What I like most about Irvine Welsh is the way he can – seemingly without effort – include dialects in his writings. He usually writes from a third- or first-person point of view and he really knows how to nail a character’s voice. The language and the dialect is always perfectly in tune with them. In this short story collection, where he changes from a young American guy, to a middle-aged English man and then again to a very posh Chicago woman etc., this is especially obvious.
All the stories had me hooked, although it always took me a couple of pages to get into them, to get used to that sudden change of voice.
In the Nevada desert, two young men and a young woman are stranded, after attending a rave. And as if things weren’t complicated enough without that, one of them gets bitten by a rattlesnake.
The story is funny, but in a “I rather laugh than think about that” way. It builds up to a big explosion in the end and delivers (not literally, though) just that. The end’s open and in this case, I would have liked it to go on a bit more and show us what happens next.
If You Liked School, You’ll Love Work
On Fuerteventura, an English bar owner is torn between the women in his life: his ex, his daughter, his lover, his sometimes lover and his next conquest.
The story is divided in five parts and each part concentrates on one of the women, but it’s still a stringent story. Mostly, he talks about sex, in a direct way, and with pretty frank details. I like that.
The DOGS of Lincoln Park
Three yuppie girls meet regularly in an Asian restaurant, where they talk about guys and bitch about each other, at least inwardly. When the chef of the restaurant moves into the same apartment building like one of them, worlds collide.
The way the girls treat each other strongly reminded me of American Psycho, even though the story goes into a different direction. The DOGS… kind of takes the yuppie lifestyle as a given, and does not explore that, but our prejudices. It’s funny, but the ending seems a bit uninspired.
A director/writer sets out to write a biography about a recently deceased independent filmmaker. For that, he interviews his widow, the former Miss Arizona, by now old and washed up, who lives alone in the desert.
The story is meant to be surprising, I think, but it utterly fails to do that. But I enjoyed it anyway, especially the way the relationship between Miss Arizona and the writer unfolds slowly.
Kingdom of Fife
A young, unemployed man more or less stalks a rich horse rider. The horse rider’s best friend struggles with her family and place in life.
The story takes place in Fife, Scotland and is written alternatively from the man’s and the best friend’s perspective. When the young man’s talking, the book looks like this (that’s the first paragraph):
Ya hoor, sor; the conversation in this place wid make a pornographer blush. — You ken Big Monty, it’s no as if eh isnae well hung or nowt like that. Eh’d goat a hud ay that crystal meth fae some boy in Edinbury n it wis up like two fucking cans ay Tennent’s, yin oan toap ay the other; his words no mine, the Duke ay Musselbury says aw sagely, liftin the pint ay Guiness tae ehs lips n takin a swallay. Thir’s a ridge ay foam, or cream as the Porter Brewery chaps in Dublin wid like ye tae think ay it, hingin fae the dirty ginger mowser oan ehs toap lip. Early Seturday n we’re the only cunts in the Goth, wur local boozer. Great place, the Goth, an awfay warm howf, wi aw thon mahogany-coloured wood everywhaire. Thir’s a big screen oppposite the bar for the fitba, usually just Scottish (borin, only two teams kin win), or English (worse, only one team kin win), bit they sometimes show Le Liga or the Bundeslegia. Thir’s a big partitioned pool room at the side, surrounded by gless, makin aw the bams in thaire look like goldfish.
Admittedly, writing in dialect like that, slows the reading down at first. A lot. But that’s all made up by the cool-factor, and my obsession with Scottish. And you get used to it pretty quickly, so the tempo goes up again and the coolness stays the same.
The story is really sweet, sweeter than I’m used to, coming from Irvine Welsh. I really liked the two main characters, always a good thing. I think it’s my favourite from the collection.