“Don’t let Jesus in. AA is just one obsession replaced with another…”
I read a lot of American fiction, a lot of dystopian horror and I try to read the occasional classic. This means that I rarely see myself represented in print. The eagle eyed amongst you will know that my home town of Doncaster isn’t in Scotland. That doesn’t mean that I can’t instantly relate to Irvine Welsh’s Edinburgh with its jakeys, violence and fitba. Spiritually, Doncaster might as well be another tenement filled suburb of Edinburgh, perhaps right next door to Leith.
It is this familiarity that has resulted in a deep appreciation for all of the Scottish authors work. That being said, I have rarely strayed outside of the Trainspotting universe with Filth being the only novel of Welsh’s I have read that doesn’t feature any of Spud, Renton, Sick Boy or Begbie as a central character. To my initial shock however, I think I enjoyed Bedroom Secrets more than any of the Trainspotting canon.
Danny Skinner and Brian Kibby cross paths through their respective jobs at Edinburgh Council. Skinner is everything Kibby is not, cool, loquacious and confident, he is also a raging alcoholic. Their rivalry defines The Bedroom Secrets of the Masterchefs. Alcoholism, and the destructive power that it holds, is another one of the key themes of Welsh’s sixth novel. As with heroin in the Trainspotting novels, drink is never romanticized but the attractions are discussed frankly and realistically. As too are the crushing and debilitating lows.
Midway through the novel there is a drastic change in tone and genre, one that I struggled with at first, but soon I came to appreciate being ripped from my comfort zone and the second half of the novel is as riveting as anything I have read in the Irvine Welsh bibliography. The quality of the prose and the extent of the philosophical musing is, at times, astounding and I look forward to reading the rest of his work quick sharp.
The Bedroom Secrets of the Masterchefs is not always an easy read, some passages had me wincing in disgust but then life is never easy. Americana has brought a dramatic romance to diners and bars, street lights and cars. It’s refreshing to see someone doing the same for working class culture in the United Kingdom.