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9780393314809I made the mistake of picking a couple of novels off a “You need to read these” list of 25. One of them was Irvine Welsh‘s Trainspotting. Set in Glasgow, a city of about 600, 000 in a country of about 5.5 million, the book apparently (I didn’t get too deeply into it.) follows the adventures of a bunch of underworld druggies.

I’ve nothing against stories of that genre. I do have something against a text that makes me work so hard to understand just what’s going on that I can’t get into the tale. Towit:


Scotland’s a country with a small population, only a small segment of whom speak this jargon, and I’ll wager only a slightly larger segment of whom would understand it. I think of my black high-schoolers trying to read texts that purportedly recorded their dialect. They were lost. What’s wrong, I say, with giving the flavor and allowing the rest of the English speaking world into the game? Something like this:

The sweat wis lashing [great word here] off Sick Boy; he wis trembling. I wis just sitting there, focusing on the telly, trying to not tae notice the cunt. He wis bringing me soon. I tried to keep my attention on the . . . video. 

You can sail through, picking up the meaning of the unfamiliar words by context without having to stop and puzzle, and you still I have the idea that your dealing with people speaking a dialect you never heard nor probably never will and that no amount of tortured spell-rendering will make available to your ear.

On the other hand, this was supposed to be an international best seller, so, once again, who am I to object? Who do I have to be?


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