THE directions Louise Welsh has given me to her Glasgow flat are so precise I feel like I'm a character in one of her novels. "Go through an underpass . . . climb the stairs . . . cross the square . . . " They are fail-safe instructions and get me there just as her partner and fellow writer Zoe Strachan is arriving home. We climb the stairs together, past the plant pots on the top landing and into their neatly kept flat where Welsh awaits us, the book case taking pride of place in a sunny, TV-free living room.
Interview about His Dark Materials.
DO you have difficulty telling your hobbits from your daemons? Can you spot the difference between an Orc and a Gyptian? How easily could you distinguish a Ringwraith from a Cliff-ghast? If you're at all unsure, you better not mention it to Philip Pullman. The author of Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass (collectively known as His Dark Materials) is in no doubt that his trilogy is in a different class to the work of his fellow fantasist JRR Tolkien. They may be operating in the one genre, but the two are not the same. "I don't like The Lord Of The Rings," says Pullman. "It is profoundly conservative. It is Little England nostalgic in a way that I have never enjoyed."
LITERARY critics keep a special dictionary for James Kelman. It is a book full of the most sober words. The Glasgow author is "challenging", "meticulous" and "powerful", they like to say."He never compromises the integrity of his subject for the sake of entertainment," runs one assessment. Another claims Kelman did not write his 2001 novel Translated Accounts in a "spirit of light-minded japery". Their message is that he is serious and resolute.
INTERVIEWING Denise Mina is a hoot. The conversation will be going swimmingly when suddenly she'll come to a halt. "Usually when I start talking about Stanley Fish it's time to shut up," she'll say, half embarrassed to have mentioned an American literary theorist.
IRVINE Welsh is not the man you expect. As he tucks into a lunchtime baked potato looking nothing if not cuddly in his lumberjack shirt, it seems implausible that this lucid, softly spoken 35-year-old could be the same Irvine Welsh who has put his name to some of the most uncomfortable, disturbing and vitriolically funny fiction of the decade. Is this really the man who, in last year's debut novel Trainspotting, described in agonising detail the retrieval of two suppositories from a blocked and overflowing lavatory by a junkie with a habit to kick?
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