Christmas Reads: ‘Filth’ by Irvine Welsh

By Zoe Boothby

If you like your Christmas novels heart-warming and life-affirming, you should probably stop reading this article right now. This one is not for you. If, however, you like wacky, postmodern texts in which a tapeworm invades the page and periodically dominates the narrative, then stay with me.

I love Irvine Welsh’s writing. No other author seems to get in my head in the way that he does. His characters invade my subconscious, and my mind becomes as dark, twisted and hostile as the worst of them: bump into me on the street when I’m in the middle of one of his novels and you can guarantee I’m mumbling a dozen expletives under my breath.

And this is why I’m so happy that one of my favourite works by him, Filth, can be considered a Christmas novel. Christmas is one of those polarising times: for every person that loves Christmas, you can guarantee there’s just as many that hate it. Surely we need a ‘seasonal’ novel to reflect this reality?

Enter Bruce Robertson. Through this corrupt police detective, Welsh offers his readers an uncompromising exploration of mental health, addiction, family, sex, and class, all against the backdrop of everyone’s beloved festive season. Yay.

Have you ever felt like you needed to get drunk (and high) in order to endure the nightmare that is Christmas shopping? Well, in that case, Bruce is your man. Yet, despite being bolstered by various intoxicants, he nevertheless ends up with “Nae presents.” He doesn’t let this bother him, however: “Naebody tae gie them tae anyway.”

As much as I myself love Christmas, the month of December can be exhausting. Some years I feel like I’ve run out of festive cheer by the 15th. And this is why a book like Filth is so refreshing, as it allows me to recharge by indulging in some good old-fashioned misery (without forgetting what’s just around the corner). Not for too long though. Then I might end up getting lost in it.

Photograph (edited to add text): chatirygirl via Flickr

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