27 March 2010


Every Day a New Meme

Remember what P.T. Barnum once said about suckers? Well, I think I could say it about book-related memes . . . and perhaps also about suckers for book-related memes . . .

We all have characters we love.
Let's spotlight these fantastic creations!
Whether you want to be friends with them
or you have a full-blown crush on them,
you know you love them and want everyone else to love them too!

So after moaning in other people's comboxes about having to make a "Top Ten" earlier this week, I find myself a bit put out now that I have to limit myself to one at a time. The nice thing about my preferred numbers--three and five--is that I get to balance some odd choices against each other; nothing ever had to stand alone.

Anyway, it looks as if I'll have to break bend one rule of "Character Connection" this first time around . . .

Renton and Spud
by Irvine Welsh

So there's Renton, who implies that the only reason anyone thinks his heroin use is bad is that they've been brainwashed by society to think so:

Society invents a spurious convoluted logic tae absorb and change people whae's behaviour is outside its mainstream. Suppose that ah ken aw the pros and cons, know that ah'm gaunnae huv a short life, am ay sound mind etcetera, etcetera, but still want tae use smack? They won't let ye dae it. They won't let ye dae it, because it's seen as a sign ay thir ain failure. The fact that ye jist simply choose tae reject whit they huv tae offer.

Choose us. Choose life. Choose mortgage payments; choose washing machines; choose cars; choose sitting oan a couch watching mind-numbing and spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f***** junk food intae yir mooth. Choose rotting away, pishing and shiteing yersel in a home, a total f***** embarrassment tae the selfish, f***** brats ye've produced. Choose life.

Well, ah choose no tae choose life. If the c**** cannae handle that, it's thair f***** problem.

Powerful, aye? I was greatly convinced myself--and probably still am. I have a loud, neon-green libertarian streak in punk-styled hair, though I try to keep it hidden under my mantilla.

But reading about drug addicts is easy only when one can keep some philosophical distance between oneself and them. Back in 2007, when I read Trainspotting for the first time and was enthralled by Renton's view of the world, I hadn't known that one person who heard me gushing about Welsh's novel, and who happened to be very dear to me, was in the process of getting hooked on drugs herself.

I suppose she saw (and still sees) her own substance abuse in the same terms as Renton: a way to get back at the world for forcing her to choose a life she doesn't care for at all.

This is where the harmless, sympathetic Spud comes in. For Spud sees Renton more clearly than Renton sees himself; and during a scene in which Renton wantonly attempts to kill a squirrel in the park, Spud muses sadly:

Ah hate it the wey Mark's intae hurtin animals . . . it's wrong man.

Ye cannae love yirsel if ye want tae hurt things like that . . . ah mean . . . what hope is thir?

The squirrel's likes f***** lovely. Hae's daein his ain thing. He's free.

That's mebbe what Rents cannae stand. The squirrel's free.

It is one thing to choose smack over life when one's idea of life is "mortgage payments . . . washing machines . . . cars . . . sitting oan a couch watching mind-numbing and spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f***** junk food intae yer mooth," and other depressing things.

Spud has a different vision of life without smack, even if he is less articulate:

"Ah think that it wid be really great tae huv a woman . . . tae love likesay . . . no shaggin likes, well no jist shaggin . . . but tae love, cause I sortay feel like lovin everybody, but no sortay wi sex . . . jist huvin somebody tae love . . ."

So there's also Spud . . . who could actually touch my heart. But the world eats people like him for breakfast, and I can see why anyone into self-preservation would want to be like Renton instead. And yet between the two of them, it is the squirrel-like Spud who is the most free. Put that in your syringe and shoot it.

Image Sources: a) Trainspotting screencap, b) Renton, c) Spud


Warren said...

It's interesting that Trainspotting has such a huge following, or subculture around it.

I wonder how do you speak to someone about the excluded middle? They reject the society, which is shallow, for their own shallowness.

The wide road that leads to destruction gets narrower as you go, until you're in one of those cattle pen type arrangements.

And the opposite is true, too. I hope so, anyways. I hope that restraint actually frees you.

On the other hand..

Those of us who live too carefully, are going to die of that, too. So nobody gets off cheap.

You can win, and you can lose, but you can't escape. The matrix has you.


readerbuzz said...

I found you through Blog Hop. And I'm now a follower.

Enbrethiliel said...


Warren: I'm not at all surprised that Trainspotting has proven to be so popular over the years. I suspect it may go the way of The Man Who Was Thursday, though, and eventually be ensconced in Obscure Cult Classic status.

I read your comment over twice, though, I don't think we're talking about the same book! =P

Readerbuzz: And I wasn't even on the Hop myself! Thanks! I do like your blog. =)