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Irvine Welsh: ‘If reading gives you comfort, you’re not doing it right’

Irvine Welsh: ‘If reading gives you comfort, you’re not doing it right’

My earliest reading memory
Mum and Dad reading to me before bedtime. I can’t remember reading much of my own volition as a young boy, other than football scores. I hated getting picked to read at school but loved listening to the other kids read. Perhaps this was because I was too lazy and I liked having other people doing the work for me.

My favourite book growing up
Lion Adventure by Willard Price. It was the story of a couple of posh schoolboys in Africa on safari. All of a sudden, I got reading. I was transported. I read all the others in the series – by the time they got to Centipede Adventure, they were scraping the bottom of the barrel, and it was time to move on.

The book that changed me as a teenager
Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and George Orwell’s Animal Farm. I had previously only encountered novels that seemed to be about plot and character; I never knew they could pack such a political punch, rising from the thematic nature of the material, but also using characters as symbols and archetypes.

The writer who changed my mind
Orwell. If you read his novels today they inform us about the dystopian mess we’re in. His work considers how financial, social and political systems based on hierarchy – whether by implicit or explicit design – are about the reduction and disassembly of our humanity.

The book that made me want to be a writer
Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh, or all of what has come to be known as “the Guy Crouchback Trilogy”. Waugh writes beautifully about the rivalry and loyalty between men. I remember being on a long flight with Auberon Waugh to Australia, telling him about his father’s influence on my work. It probably wasn’t what he wanted to hear – come to think of it, he died shortly after this.

The book or author I came back to
Ulysses by James Joyce. I read it when I was too young. You can’t read it as a straight narrative. You have to trip on the language …

The book I reread
… so, therefore, I’ve come back to it and get more from it every time I read it. In fact, it presents like a different book at every stage of life. I think it has a big influence on Trainspotting – like Dublin in Ulysses, Edinburgh itself becomes a major character in the novel.

The book I could never read again
Never say never. Some of the books that have been the biggest influences on me as a writer have been the ones I’ve hated. If you read something you detest or don’t get anything from, it’s much more useful to you as a writer than simply being awed by some virtuoso performance. Besides, I’m sniffing AI’s hand in most of the modern novels I read and I’d rather find something a bit raw than robot-flawless.

The book I discovered later in life
It’s yet to be discovered. I’m way too young for that game.

The book I am currently reading
Piero Della Francesca by Alessandro Angelini. I love reading about artists’ lives and influences. Much more interesting than writers or musicians.

My comfort read
If reading gives you comfort, you’re not doing it right.

Source: theguardian.com