Books

Porno by Irvine Welsh (Norton)

It's been 10 years since Scottish author Irvine Welsh injected his tale of heroin and delinquency, Trainspotting, into the forearm of Western pop culture. Mates Sick Boy, Mark Renton, Spud and Begbie are back to explore further deviance — this time in the sex industry — in Porno, a sequel that's as sardonic and gritty as its predecessor. Welsh divides up his chapters and narration duties among the blokes, along with his first female protagonist, Nikki Fuller-Smith. Nikki, a college student, works at a sauna, "hand-delivering" special bonuses to customers for a few extra pounds. Nikki meets up with Simon David Williamson, a.k.a. Sick Boy, the pompous criminal with grandiose aspirations. He hatches yet another big scam, a porno flick, Seven Rides for Seven Brothers, and enlists the help of Renton, who operates a nightclub in Amsterdam, as financier. Amid filming, snorting coke, schmoozing and blackmailing, Sick Boy still finds time to seek revenge on Renton by siccing the ultra-violent Frank Begbie on him. The outcome of the "twisted soul brothers" relationship provides great cinema-friendly fodder for the next adaptation (which, of course, is already in the works).

Welsh bounces back and forth between the male and female perspectives of Sick Boy and Nikki, peppering in narratives from Renton, Spud and Begbie. Sick Boy is not only flawed, he's downright disgusting, but he's also wittily entertaining, brandishing the best lines in the book; e.g., "I don't know if she can read, write or drive a tractor, but I reckon that she can bang like an ootside-lavvy door in a gale."

From the same mind that spawned the chauvinistic Sick Boy also comes the male-fantasy Nikki — she's brilliant, has a toned body and "arse," and knows how to "play people, make them feel special." However, Welsh manages to make her well rounded and the most human of his characters.

As for Begbie and Spud, we could use much less of them. Spud at least offers a little bit of poignancy with his pathetic life, but Begbie's psycho blather is tedious at best. Welsh's Scottish phonetics for the two — though this literary device has become an impressive and popular gimmick — becomes tiresome and slows down the plot much like badly acted filler scenes in adult films.

In Porno, as Nikki says, "Porn per se is not the real issue ... it's how we consume." Welsh deftly explores the psychology behind greed and lust, making a worthwhile allegorical statement on how they pervade our culture in the millennium.

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