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Filth
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2004
While it's one of the more depressing books I've read in a while, it was also one of the most enjoyable books as well. Welch does a great job with dialogue, and the narrative is entertaining. There were rare moments that I found less than credible, but they tended to be funny moments that did not detract from the book's value. He also does an excellent job of developing the character of his protagonist, who is one of the most rounded, complex and believable characters to be found in contemporary fiction. Admittedly, many will disagree with that last assertion, but I think that that is due to a misreading of the character and the book.

The protagonist Bruce Robertson seems sociopathic at the outset. He is a mean and cruel man, unable to empathize with others, and who entertains himself with the misery of others. He does not seem to have a noble sentiment in him, and he leads a filthy life of cruelty and debauchery. But Robertson is not a reliable narrator, even when it comes to himself. He believes himself to be this sociopathic monster, when in reality, he's a better person than he believes himself to be. Sometimes his more noble aspects slip out. More often, he's gratuitously cruel. Over time, we realize that Robertson is not really a sociopath at all, but that he actually suffers from depression.

This depression is brought on, and made worse by Robertson's inability to release his emotions. He fills his spare time with alcohol, drugs, and sex to avoid thinking about the horrors he has confronted on his job as a police man, such as grisly murders and child abuse. He constructs a tough façade so that he does not have to confront his feelings about his wife and daughter who have left him, or about his rough childhood. These squelched emotions eat away at him from the inside, and destroy his soul. The tapeworm, which takes over narrative duties at times, represent these parasitic feelings eating away at him from the inside because he has been unable to deal with them in a psychologically healthy way.

Disgust with Robertson gives way to pity as we realize the spiral that Robertson is trapped in. Unable to establish intimacy with friends or family because of his avoidance of his problems, he has no one to talk to about these problems as they worsen and take over his life and personality. His avoidance of these emotional problems manifest themselves physically in the form of a painful eczema on his nether regions. Eventually, we come to realize that Robertson is a better person than he will acknowledge, and this is most evident when he tries to save the life of a young man with a genetic heart problem whose death leaves behind a wife and young son. Tellingly, in the immediate aftermath, Robertson's anger is ignited when a reporter asks him how the man's death made him feel. Immediately the psychological walls are constructed, and the brief glimpse we have of a "human" Bruce Roberston gives way to the brute image we are confronted with through most of the book. This is a recurring theme in the book, as Robertson avoids the question of how major events make him feel.

This psychological complexity is one of the books greatest strengths as Welch weaves a compelling tale of great depth. A path of salvation, and a potential chance for happiness for Robertson are evident towards the end of the novel, and this, I think, is another interesting aspect of the novel, as it shows that everyone has a chance for redemption, and that life is never hopeless. Most people might find that an interesting lesson to take from this book, as it perhaps isn't so superficially evident. But I think a careful reading, which I believe this book warrants, bear this out. Very Highly Recommended.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 1999
Irvine Welsh didnt read much fiction, before becoming a novelist, and therefore he has no regard for lit norms. He has a fresh, sobering point of view that seeths through all of his work. "Filth" his newest novel, that takes place in the same literary universe as "Trainspotting" and "Marabou Stork Nightmares,"(Begbie, and Lexo are mentioned in all three novels, and many others are mentioned in two of the three) is another must read by this talented author.
"Trainspotting" is about the junkies, "Marabou Stork Nightmares" is about the thugs, and now we see the point of view of a policeman in "Filth."
Irvine Welsh does a little more chiseling away at our xenophobia, he creates characters that are so lifelike they jump off the pages at you. "Filth" is about a nasty cop, but you almost find yourself rooting for him, hoping he gets his promotion, and that he can keep his superiors happy. Irvine Welsh has been called the voice of the chemical generation, and drugs are commonly dispersed in the plots of his novels, but that is all beside the point. His social commentary, and perspective are invaluable. A naturally gifted "writer" who keeps you turning the pages, following characters that seem all too familiar.
As far as a brief synopsis of the novel, read the back cover, i wouldnt want to give anything away. It's a must read....along with his previous two novels, and "ecstacy," and "The Acid House"
Irvine Welsh is still young for a novelist, Dostaevski didnt write his best work until he was in his 60's, same goes with bukowski, burroughs, other authors that may interest you if you like irvine welsh. All I can say is, keep it coming Irvine Welsh, and maybe we will see a grand masterpiece in the future. Although he hasnt hurt the collective collection of literature with his work so far. I personally put him up there with the greats, remeniscint of the before mentioned authors. READ IT!!!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2000
Welshs' Bruce Robertson has not one redeeming personal quality that is required for our co-existence as a society. After all, he is a liar, thief adulterer,racist;a drunk with a "wee" coke problem,a gay basher with no respect for his superiors and especially women in authority/general. The books Scottish dialect does take some getting used to especially its rhryming slang, but it is brutally honest as far as seeing life in the first person of a true "sociopath" whose progressive demise into the abyss is at the same time very gratifying, yet very depressing, for Bruce took "life" for granted. He was fortunate in that he had a family,friends and freedom but his insecurities and selfishness fuelled his need to destroy others, so that in effect if he couldnt enjoy life then no-one else would.He was jealous of anyone that dared to live a life that he could so have easily attained. This was a brilliant book,a laugh a minute -no even a second - but its message far exceeds this aspect and after all the schemes,backstabbing,prostitutes,drugs and ointment you could poke a stick at, this was all that this masterful storyteller was trying to say. This book could not have been called anything else and I'll never be able to look at a pig again without thinking of Bruce. "We hate ourself for being unable to be other than what we are" Irwin Welsh - "Filth"
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2002
"Filth" is doubtless one of the most brilliantly sick books I've ever had the pleasure of reading. It's disgusting, offensive, obscene, and loads of fun. Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson of Edinburgh, the book's protaganist and nattator, deserves to go down in history as one of fiction's great antiheroes. He's a highly unpleasant character, a bigoted Machiavellian who looks down his nose at all those around him without showing much reverence or respect for anyone or anything. He spends most of the narrative drinking, doing cocaine, abusing his authority as a police officer, angling to get a promotion by any means necessary, covertly tormenting his poor co-worker Bladesy, and having lots and lots of sex. The narration, delivered entirely in Scottish dialect, is littered with profanity (apparently they're big fans of the "C" word over in Scotland) and describes Robertson's personal life down to its most grisly details. Although Bruce Robertson is not at all a likeable person, I think what makes him such an appealing character is that for all his abrasiveness, he's still rather believable. Sure, he's somewhat of a caricature, but at the same time he's a sort of perverse everyman. I mean, who knows how many people like Bruce Robertson are out there, playing nice to our faces while never letting on their true thoughts and maybe even plotting against us? I'm willing to bet that there are many such people. Detective Sergeant Robertson is just one hilarious example of the type of misanthropic person that the world is probably full of. I also like the idea of having Bruce's tapeworm do some of the narrating, especially towards the end of the book; it's an innovative way of filling the reader in on the back story and it's often pretty funny as well. The only part of this book I didn't like very much was the ending, as it was the one thing I didn't want to see happen. Oh well, this is still a hard-hitting and humorous read. Highly recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2005
Admittedly, this book will not be for everyone...some of you may be too prude to swallow Welsh's violent and raw prose ;)

Some may be turned off by the tape worm's story, or by the chronic masturbation, or by the abundant misogynist comments. But others may think it's a brilliant bit of creative sickness...others who are sick and twisted like me, that is.

The use of Scottish vernacular/phonetic spelling may slow some down, but I feel it truly adds depth and feeling to the story. For me, Welsh's writing is musical and realistic (almost painfully so).

If you haven't read any Welsh yet - you're missing out! If the reviews on this page are turning you off, try Trainspotting first - it's a good introduction to Welsh's style & not nearly as revolting or shocking.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2000
After the blockbuster Trainspotting and the equally brilliant but unrecognized Marabou Stork Nightmares, comes this novel Filth. One thing is for certain - Welsh writes brilliantly in the scottish slang vernacular and he has an ability to deliver one powerful ending after another. He is a deranged O'Henry. 3/4 of the novel is shocking, disgusting, revolting, hilarious, and all the other adjectives used when describing Welsh's talents and his prose style. The tapeworm and its philosophical musings is hilarious, irrelevent, and original. The actual ending is shocking but the events leading up to the final scene get away from Mr. Welsh. Yes, his relations with his wife are absolutely jaw-dropping(Can't go into detail, just read and you will see) but I just didn't feel like Bruce's past from the coal mines should have been told by the tapeworm. He left out information vital to the story and had the tapeworm fill the reader in. Pretty weak narrative device. But i am an admirer of Welsh and his original voice so I still enjoyed the novel. It is just flawed, that's all. Just don't ever let your guard down when reading this book. He will surprise you with a few scenes here and the ending is true to the title Filth.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 16, 1999
I have never read a more disgusting book in my life and never run across a character bad on as many levels as protagonist DS Robertson. Welsh's wild and well written hyperbole carries us through some truly vile scenes to a finale which manages the nearly impossible: it humanizes Robertson by making him even more evil.
It is not usually idea of entertainment to watch horrible people do horrible things. Therefore I consider this book not an entertainment but a very clever literary stunt. As a stunt, it works.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2000
Some of the elements are not original. The evil nature of the rscist, sex-obsessed alcoholic drug-addicted cop is explained by an unhappy childhood in which he was not loved. The solution of the murder mystery is similar to Agatha Christie's "Murder of Roger Ackroyd" but this is a long way from Agatha Christie. Much of the story is told in phonetically spelled Scottish dialect. and some from the point of view of a tapeworm. The medical aspects say more for Scottish helminthology than dermatology.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 1998
As an Englishman living abroad (in North America) I had almost forgotton the sometimes degenrate levels to which a small element of the population of my former home could descend. This book, in a surprisingly welcoming way, has reminded me. It reminds me why I am pleased to be removed from certain aspects the UK.
The central character's vulgar, racsist and sexist ways, whilst taken to the extreme, are familiar to anyone exposed to the British (I use this term to include Scotland - no offence meant to devolutionists) Yob culture of the soccer match, the pub at closing time and the "yoof" vacationing in Ibiza.
I note that critical reviews appearing here eminate, in the main, from North America. The nature of the book is such that no-one who has been bought up outside the UK could fully understand the import of the writer's narrative. It is a cynical parody in its purset form. The slang and actions of the "hero" will be more than familiar to the Britisher, and with it comes a clear association the identifiable type to whom they attach themselves.
I would expect "non-Britishers", therefore, to only be able to critique the book on a superficial level. In fact, I am surprised at the number of favorable reviews from such sources.
A great flowing book with the punch of a drunk, crazed soccer fan after you've laughed at his team's relegatation to the lower division.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 9, 2007
I was only bored for about 1.5 pages of this book, which says quite a bit for a novel. Usually I get to about page 180 of a book and say, "All right, let's wrap it up. Enough's enough." Not so with "Filth" (or "The Great Gatsby" [which isn't all that long, mind you].)

If you buy this book and read it and have some sort of decency about you, you will, at times, feel ashamed that you continue to turn the pages, wondering what D.S. Bruce Robertson is going to do or say next. The main character is about as deplorable as any human being can be, but he does try to save a man having a heart attack, so he's got that going for him.

Robertson has a tapeworm inside him that occasionally speaks through text overlaid on text. Trust me, you don't miss anything due to some words being obscured.

The part where Robertson goes to Amsterdam is really the part where the hammer drives the spike. Just remember, there are people out there like the main character, spiralling into depravity and cruelty.

It's really a wonder that this thing ever got published . . . but I'm glad it did. Long live free speech and publication.
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