Irvine Welsh on Drugs
Irvine Welsh grew up in Leith, Scotland. The son of working class parents, he spent his childhood in government housing, a milieu he gave voice to in his hugely popular novel and subsequent film, Trainspotting. The book was an international success and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 1993. Welsh moved to London in his twenties and played in local punk bands but returned to Edinburgh in the late-80s. Drawing inspiration from the the rave culture there, he began writing seriously and submitting to literary journals. After Trainspotting, he published Ecstasy, Glue, Porno, The Acid House and The Bedroom Secrets of Master Chefs. His books’ themes range from the Scottish identity, sectarianism, classism, immigration, unemployment, AIDS and drug use. Recent works are The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs (2006), a play, Babylon Heights (2006), written with Dean Cavanagh, and If You Liked School You'll Love Work (2007). His latest novel, Crime, was published in 2008. He has taught undergraduate creative writing at Columbia College in Chicago and currently divides his time between Miami, Chicago, Dublin and London.
Question: How have drugs affected your writing?
Irvine Welsh: Yeah. The transition for me, really, was… when I first became a drug addict it was… It sort of… This is something I’ve only kind of realized in retrospect. There are some people who are basically kind of, basically drug addicts because they’re kind of, in some ways, kind of physically or emotionally disequilibrated, and the drug kind of, they fill some kind of way of stabilizing them because the world just has too many sharp edges. For me, I’ve kind of realized this now.
There’s more of a react, an inappropriate reaction to kind of adverse circumstances at the time, . I think, it probably, I was a self made drug addict rather than an [natural] one. So, it was…. Again, it was a series of making the wrong choices and sort of… And kind of, there was a willful kind of stupidity about and this is what I’m doing because I can, to an extent. And I think you get kind of immersed in that.
Again, because of the way that see yourself and your whole self image becomes kind of in some ways tied up with it. But, what I found was when I kind of go over that was I don’t… it doesn’t have any kind of real pull on me. It’s not like a physical need that I have,
Once I kind of detoxified and got on with stuff it wasn’t a physical need that I had to get back into that. So, that was quite interesting. But, then again, I kind of… My experience with drug addiction really, it was like… I’ve known people that have been junkies for, like, 30 years and they’ll turn to me and say, “Oh, God. You’re, like, in 6 months, or a year, whatever…” that’s just putting it, on some extent, it is I think that this…
I think it’s an element and a kind of, there’s almost like a sort of… I think, probably, in every novelist, in a way it comes out. In every writer, I think there’s an element of wanting to sort of, to try different things and to immerse yourself in a whole different way of life, . So, I think I think a lot of it has to do with that.
Question: What’s the most challenging thing about writing?
Irvine Welsh: Yeah, it is. It’s tough sometimes. It’s not an easy thing. There’s always… The first if I have a big session on a book the first couple of days I’m really enjoying… I lock myself in a room. The first couple of days, I’m really enjoying it. I think, this is exactly where I want to be, . And then, about the third day the kind of, the opportunity [to cause] things starts to kick in. What is everybody else doing? It’s a nice day outside. They’ll all be having a good time. They’ll be down the pub having a laugh. I should go down there. I should meet everybody. And then, by the fourth or fifth day, you realize that you can’t anyway, because you’ve just become such a kind of an introverted retard.
You wouldn’t be able to say anything of you went to the pub. You just stand there, kind of, and just start knocking back drinks until you fell over. So, it is kind of, it’s a difficult thing. You basically, well, once you’ve finished a big, kind of long sort of writing session on a book, you have to kind of reboot yourself socially because you really ready for company. If I’ve been about 5 or 6 days writing solo, I can basically talk to the wife. I kind [don’t] talk to anybody else. If anybody comes to the door, I [say to myself], “Oh, my God! [IB],” . “[Nice and full in the…]” whoever, . So, it just takes me a little while to decompress, really, and to get back into the kind of social zone again.
Question: What’s you stance on drug policy?
Irvine Welsh: I don’t think there’s a war on drugs. This is the biggest sort of [calling] ever. There’s never been a war on drugs. I mean, it’s like, I think that the… it’s a [IB] drugs. The whole idea of, [if you give me], in the West, the whole idea that we could have… Well, everything is a festival. Everything is an event, and the whole events culture. The whole idea of having that without intoxication is just nonsense. It’s always been nonsense.
Well, there is an attempt to prescribe which ways, by what methods we get intoxicated, and I don’t think that the war on drugs is serious. I think that they know that if they legalize and license drugs, they would kind of, they would stop it straight away, they would cut out the whole criminal underclass and the whole kind of, all these criminal relationships and… But, there would be no…
That would just put so much, … There would be no kind of need for sort of kind of law and order and that kind of sort of this whole kind of security oriented society. The [IB] is like, eliminates any pretext for social control, and I think that’s what people politicians and sort of power mongers, they don’t want that. They want this very pretext for social control as possible, so I think they’re happy to keep staging this phony war on drugs for as it, as long as it goes on.
Recorded on: September 8, 2008
Irvine Welsh talks about addiction, recovery and drug policy.
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