The author of Trainspottinggives a master class in gallows humor in his first story collection since The Acid House(1995). Three of the five stories take place in the U.S., and Welsh relishes punishing ugly Americans. In "Rattlesnakes," a trio of vapid hedonists lost in the desert are forced to perform sexually degrading acts by an unhinged illegal immigrant, while "The DOGS of Lincoln Park" finds a bitchy Chicago princess throwing a hissy fit over her missing papillon, Toto, who she fears has landed in her Korean neighbor's crock pot. Page-turners both, but the characters are too easily satirized. More likable is the narrator of "Miss Arizona," an aspiring auteur whose interviews with his filmmaker hero's ex-wife turn increasingly creepy. Welsh shines in the title story, about an ex-pat skirt-chasing bar owner in the Canary Islands, and the novella, "The Kingdom of Fife," set in a glum Scotland town. Narrative duties in the last are shared by "wee" Jason King, a former jockey and current compulsive masturbator and table football champion, and Jenni Cahill, a horse jumper and local gangster's daughter. That a story featuring a gruesome decapitation, dogfighting, equine death and rampant wanking can produce such an amiable effect is testament to Welsh's delightful degeneracy. (Sept.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Several of the five stories in this collection from Welsh (Trainspotting) deal with one of society's ugliest realities, bigotry. Characters from disparate parts of society are thrown together in settings that are either geographical or moral deserts, there to display bigotry's main features: fear, obstinacy, and unenlightenment. In "The Kingdom of Fife," by alternating the narrative between the repulsive but charming Jason and his unlikely paramour, the well-to-do Jenni, Welsh seems to suggest that we can break the cycle of bigotry only by listening to and genuinely getting to know one another. Incidents are as dramatic as they are unlikely-decapitation by road sign, poisonous snake strike on male genitalia-yet, because of Welsh's skill as a storyteller, the consequent action is tremendously funny and makes the original event believable. Despite occasionally slipping into the British argot in narratives set in America with American characters, these exceptional stories give readers a glimpse into the lives of people with whom most would not ordinarily come into contact. Recommended for public and academic libraries.