Marabou Stork Nightmares

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Overview

In a hospital room in Edinburgh Roy Strang lies in a coma - which doesn't save him from reliving the sordid developments that brought him to this state. He seems at times to be engaged in a strange quest in a surrealistic Africa to eradicate the evil predator-scavenger bird the marabou stork before it drives away the peace-loving flamingos from Lake Torto. But Roy's hallucinatory adventures keep being interrupted by troubling memories of his bizarre family, the housing project in which he grew up, a disastrous ...
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Overview

In a hospital room in Edinburgh Roy Strang lies in a coma - which doesn't save him from reliving the sordid developments that brought him to this state. He seems at times to be engaged in a strange quest in a surrealistic Africa to eradicate the evil predator-scavenger bird the marabou stork before it drives away the peace-loving flamingos from Lake Torto. But Roy's hallucinatory adventures keep being interrupted by troubling memories of his bizarre family, the housing project in which he grew up, a disastrous emigration to South Africa and his youthful life of casual brutality as a club-hopping soccer thug. Meanwhile his parents and his nurse bombard his inert form with inane conversation, even more inane pop music, and intimate massage...
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When the narrator's polished account of a surreal African safari suddenly gives way to an Edinburgh soccer thug's obscenity-laced vernacular, it's clear that Welsh's unrelenting exploration of the Scottish underclass has undergone an unexpected transmutation. The LSD and heroin of the author's previous works (a story collection, The Acid House; a novel, Trainspotting) have changed into the hospital-bed fantasies and hallucinations of the comatose Roy Strang, but the flashbacked details of his damaged childhood and hooligan's career are as raw and despairing as any Welsh has depicted before. To escape from a bleak public-housing existence, Roy's ``genetic disaster'' of a dysfunctional family emigrates from the U.K. to South Africa (``Sooth Efrikay'' in the novel's endemic Scotch), where young Roy encounters a right-wing, child-molesting uncle as well as the Marabou Stork, a vicious predator-scavenger. Returning home, Roy graduates from abused to abuser. Welsh expertly handles these realistically brutal episodes, from Roy's knifing of a schoolmate just to establish himself, through adult pub-wrecking. Then there's the harrowing secret Roy is trying to repress by imagining, amid ludicrously distracting family visits, a fantasy quest to eradicate the flamingo-killing Stork-``the personification of all this badness... the badness in me.'' With as good an ear for Scotch as James Kelman and as twisted an imagination as Will Self, Welsh makes his novelist's debut stateside with a darkly hilarious, deeply disturbing but ultimately compassionate book. First serial to Grand Street. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Roy Strang, is dreaming his way through a coma. The novel alternates between a hunt set in Africa for the Marabou Stork (a gruesome, atavistic creature) that he weaves in his mind, and his recollections of his upbringing and youth. His history is marked with violence and rape-experienced both as victim and perpetrator. The storylines are at war, careering off each other in a race to the finish. Though his life is a litany of degradation, the tale of the stork hunt is an attempt to recast himself as a hero, and its completion promises transformation. Roy does not wish to be revived until the tale is told. Welsh (The Acid House, Norton, 1995) writes in the rough gutter-slang of Edinburgh, Scotland, and his phonetic transliterations take some deciphering but this work is well worth the effort. The unsparing, brutal prose is not for the squeamish, but for those with the stomach, this exceedingly original first novel is highly recommended. For all libraries.-Adam Mazmanian, "Library Journal"
Baldinger
Fantasies and dream-states have been literary staples from the days of Gilgamesh to the twentieth century hallucinationsof Huxley, Castaneda and Burroughs. In his intermittently dazzling new novel, Irvine Welsh, the young Scottish-born author of last year's highly-praised The Acid House, introduces yet another wild, almost shamanistic state of consciousness: the coma.

Maribou Stork Nightmares unspools the tale of a club-hopping soccer thug from a very unlikely vantage point: its hero's unconsciousness. Roy Strang, a failed suicide, can hear everything going on around him in his hospital room as he recounts his ghastly upbringing in the grim council estates of suburban Edinburgh. He intersperses these memories with a lucid nightmare about an imaginary hunting expedition in Africa to catch a monstrous predator, the Maribou Stork. "The world we live in is not run by cuddly, strong bears, graceful sleek cats or loyal friendly dogs," Welsh writes about these odd beasts. "Maribou Stork run this place, and they are known to be nasty bastards. Yes, even the vulture does not get such a bad local press."

As the novel's multiple layers of reality develop, they come to feel almost like multimedia: Strang's reminiscences -- often wrenching in their emotional complexity -- and his allegorical nightmares are occasionally interspersed with the voices of nurses, doctors and family members as they try to talk him back to consciousness. It's a device that works well, offsetting some of the novel's more predictable elements: the ferociously gritty depiction of working-class life in Thatcher's England, and a surprisingly politically correct feminist denouement. When all of its realities come into play, however, Welsh's Maribou Stork Nightmares attains an eye-opening synergy, casting an idiosyncratic light on the surreal states in between life and death. --Salon

Details
Imbuing Roy's sordid story with compassion and complexity, Welsh creates a scorching tale of despair—and, perhaps, redemption.— Joy Press
Boston Phoenix
In a brief time, [Irvine Welsh] has emerged as a writer of scope, imagination, and a savage brand of compassion. Long may he rave.— John Purim
Joy Press - Details
“Imbuing Roy's sordid story with compassion and complexity, Welsh creates a scorching tale of despair—and, perhaps, redemption.”
John Purim - Boston Phoenix
“In a brief time, [Irvine Welsh] has emerged as a writer of scope, imagination, and a savage brand of compassion. Long may he rave.”
Tibor Fischer
“Extremely funny...as clever as Alasdair Gray, as elegant as Jeff Torrington, as passionate as James Kelman, Welsh has got it all.”
From the Publisher
“A wonderful success: a funny, cleverly composed, genuinely exciting and assured leap of a novel.”
New Statesman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393038453
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/1996
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.07 (w) x 8.57 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh is the author of Trainspotting, Ecstacy, Filth (soon to be a major motion picture), Glue, Porno, and Crime, among other works. Welsh is also producing movies and writing screenplays. A native of Edinburgh, he lives in Chicago and Miami.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2004

    Welsh's best. One of my favorites!

    I have read and re-read this book countless times. In my opinion it is Welsh's finest work. It's one of the few books that never slows down and keeps you reading. Some of the material will disturb you, make you cringe, want to close the cover and catch your breath, but you cant stop. It is that good. The format it is written in is odd yet interesting with the 'Going down' and 'Coming up' descriptions of Roy's travel through his different concusses. I suggest this to everyone whom has an open mind and enjoys something truly different. A fantastic read, one of my favorites.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2005

    Wickedly addicting!

    Irvine Welsh is one of my favorite authors and this book is one of the reasons why! I love the unique format and dialect as well the imagery his language evokes!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2004

    Irvine Welsh at his Best

    This book can relate to all of us that has issues such as guilt, respect, revenge,dignity, shame and perhaps redemption. During the apartheid revolution in South Africa Roy Strang saw the most hideous creature in the zoo 'The Marabou Stork' relating to his stories,dreams and memory he finds himself more concerned about his hatred toward his action. Resting in a coma in Edinburgh with voices hearing by, Yet for a boy like him can he really be forgiven...?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2002

    Raf, 21, Philly USA (SJU)

    The first Welsh novel I read. Welsh does a fine job of captivating his audience; in a sense, Welsh has mastered his craft. He starts off bizarre, then turns into intense, reminding you that things can only get worse. 'Filth' was just purchased yesterday-I wonder what the next tale will be like...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2001

    An Amazing Headtrip of a Novel!!!!! Magnificent!!!

    Brutal and forceful in its convictions, yet somehow compassionate in meaning, this novel certainly is not for the inexperienced reader. It weaves a web of complex emotions, from the Roy's surrealistic african hunt, which symbolizes the personification of the character's own struggles, to memories of his childhood and adolescence, including his transformation into a brutal thug. All this is interrupted by realizations of what is going on around him. As the parallel stories converge, the reader realizes the meaning of all of the madness taking place inside Roy's comatose head. There comes a time when one can no longer run away from struggle, but must fight it, hoping only that it is not too late. Welsh spares no aspect of this novel any injustice. He deserves full praise as one of the most developed novelists in British history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2001

    Breath taking

    I thought this book was wonderful. the changing perspective kept it interesting. There are so many books that u read and u keep waiting for them to get to the deeper subject and they never do. this book is all about depth and perspective. It induces you to hate/love/respect/criticize the author one page at a time. Roys hunt for the stork is symbolic and his coma life is a sort of sickly realistic world full of irony that u can recongnize in our world. I felt the real heart of the book were his childhood/growin up memories, as u can almost justify his actions based on his experiences. It is alos inspiring because u meet peoplke everyday and wonder, 'Is this really all there is to him/her? Whats deeper?' Welsh provides a detailed story pushing u to see the main character in a negetively shallow way and then when the character finally comes to terms with himself you feel as though if there is hope for somone to create a character like this there is hope in the world.

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