Imbuing Roy's sordid story with compassion and complexity, Welsh creates a scorching tale of despair—and, perhaps, redemption. Joy Press
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.”
“Extremely funny...as clever as Alasdair Gray, as elegant as Jeff Torrington, as passionate as James Kelman, Welsh has got it all.”
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.)
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"
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
From the Publisher
“A wonderful success: a funny, cleverly composed, genuinely exciting and assured leap of a novel.”