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Glue Paperback – May 17, 2001
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With a title like Glue, it would seem reasonable to assume that Irvine Welsh's fifth book is a meditation on the pitfalls of solvent abuse. In fact the word refers to the bonds that unite four boys, all of whom have grown up in "the scheme"--i.e., Edinburgh's slum-clearance flats, whose optimistic construction in the 1970s give way to the poverty, unemployment, and crime of the succeeding decades. It is the pervasive despair of these crumbling projects that defines the lives of the protagonists: budding DJ Carl Ewart, boxer Billy Birrell, work-shy, sex-mad Terry Lawson, and Andrew Galloway, a drug addict who has tested HIV-positive.
Recounted in the author's inimitable style, Glue is a grungy, Scots-accented bildungsroman. The novel follows the boys through their early forays into sex, drink, drugs, and football violence. Contemplating his erotic initiation, Carl Ewart poses such crucial questions as "How dae ah chat up a bird?" and "Do I wear a rubber johnny?" Here and there Welsh injects political commentary into the mix: Billy Birrell, for example, reflects that "having money is the only way to get respect. Desperate, but that's the world we live in now." For the most part, though, the author sticks to sex and violence and his famously offhand one-liners: "Guilt and shaggin, they go the gither like fish n chips." Fans of Trainspotting will love the book, even down to the brief appearance of Begbie and Renton. Others may feel that Glue is more of the same, and that, despite its graphic charms, the book finds Welsh stuck in a rut. --Jerry Brotton
From Publishers Weekly
Spanning four decades, Welsh's first full-length novel since 1998's Filth chronicles the friendship of four boys from the Edinburgh projects who cling together through football brawls, "shagging" ordeals, encounters with the law, drug experimentation and loss. The POV of this brutally dark tale shifts smoothly among the friends, showcasing Welsh's finely tuned ear for dialect as well as his ability to craft rich, memorable characters. Although the lads differ in many ways Juice Terry Lawson is a bawdy ladies' man with an eye for resalable goods; Billy "Business" Birrell is a rational-minded, all-around athlete with an iron fist; NSIGN Carl Ewart is a philosopher king and a talented disc jockey; "wee" Andrew Galloway (aka Gally) is a warmhearted but luckless drug addict they are bound by the same set of principles: never hit a woman, always back up your mates and never snitch on anyone. Welsh's prose is sometimes coarse and sometimes surprisingly introspective as he describes the introduction of new technologies into factories and contemplates changing mores in Scotland. These general observations give depth to the foreground adventures of Terry, Billy, Carl and Gally, who, despite changing circumstances, strive to stay mates as they approach middle age and the new millennium. A character from Trainspotting makes a cameo appearance during a bungled heist, and readers will note other correspondences with Welsh's cult classic. Stocked with his usual quirky, sympathetic characters, this rollicking new tale sparkles with the writer's trademark satiric wit. Its heft and narrative breadth should convince any remaining skeptics that Welsh now effectively the grand old man of in-your-face Scottish fiction is a writer to be taken seriously. (May)Forecast: Considerably longer than any of Welsh's previous efforts, this brick of a book will sit well on display tables. Loyal readers will likely pack readings on a nine-city author tour; if critics pay homage, too, this could be Welsh's biggest seller since Trainspotting.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
set in the familiar surrounding of the Scottish "schemes," Glue follows three decades in the lives of four friends who have an intimate attachment and loyalty to each other that supercedes even time. although they are different in many ways, they share a unique bond that begins at where most bonds begin, their societal position. all of the same working class neighborhood, the boys [Terry, Carl, Billy, and Andrew] are actually linked up through their parents, if not their elementary school. needless to say, the similarities end there.
Carl is a budding DJ, Billy a budding boxer, Terry is a budding sex fiend, and Andrew is a budding loser. all of them are nice lads, and Welsh is an expert at describing the psychology of each character so that the reader can see the inherant differences in each ones modus operandi. they each approach each situation, weather it be girls, thugs, drugs or death, with their own seperate ideas and methods, but their unflappable bond remains unsevered throughout it all.
Welsh's prose, written largely in Scottish dialect, is not as tight as expected, and sometimes the plot gets a little tangental, but each chapter, as told from the first person perspective of one of the characters [usually one of the four main guys, but sometimes from an ancillary character] has ceratin gems of insight and developement that carries the reader on to the next. hardly is the language as strong and gritty as "Trainspotting" or "The Acid House", which had some truly inspiring prose, but the fluidity and effortless dialog is still in tact.
still, even though it is stressed repeatedly, the reader never gains the same bond with the characters, nor sees the strength of the bond between them. it just never becomes clear just WHY these guys are so loyal to eachother. i personally didnt see the charm. unlike the characters in Trainspotting, which not only are these lads most similar too, but who also make a welcome and sometimes hilarious appearance at different times in the book, i never understood why the antics of certain guys in this book were tolerated. there was no sense of desperation that kept them together [like in Trainspotting] nor were some of them that 'lovable,' regardless of their charisma. in the end, i didnt see much redemption in any of the characters, and didnt care what happened to them.
but as i said, its not like i wasnt satisfied, and the growth of the characters, while sometimes tedious, was well done. when you get towards the end of the story it makes sense that they would be where they are, and the writing, while not as stunning as some of his past efforts, is better than a lot of writing you'll find. its a good read for fans of Welsh's, but not essential overall.
The book details the life of four close friends growing up in Scotland from the 1970s into the new millenium...through troubles and joys. It is a fun read told with Welsh's unrestrained yet stylish flair. The human element is very strong here...we see the four friends in every light; what brings them together, what drives them apart and ultimately the tragedy that they must all overcome. It is a sad and beautiful story, yet more upbeat than some of Welsh's previous works. Personally, I think it is his finest. If you enjoyed Welsh's other efforts, definitely pick this one up today. It is worth every page.