Last week, the terrific annual Book Fair in Pordenone, Italy was in full swing. I’ve written about this event in the past, so won’t go into detail other than to mention what makes it really great.
Authors from all over the world are there. They meet the public, present their latest book, answer questions, walk around the charming city, and revel in the culture of reading that is so strong here.
I have been fortunate enough to get into Press Conferences where authors meet the media. These smaller venues lend themselves to a more animated discussion, which is exactly why I enjoy them.
The first author I met was Scottish-born Irvin Welsh who was presenting “The Blade Artist.” He is best known for his brutal but sometimes funny description of drug addiction, “Trainspotting.” When made into a grim and troubling film, movie-goers met Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle.
“The Blade Artist” reintroduces us to one of the characters from “Trainspotting.” Begby – played by Carlyle in the film – has (sort of) cleaned up his life, changed his identity and moved to the U.S. The death of the son he hardly knew has him return to Edinburgh where old wounds are reopened.
Welsh talked about taking a former character and changing him so completely from his past. “I just wanted to keep up with the character. His trajectory was prison or death, not very interesting for a writer. I felt the possibility for change in Begby was an interesting idea.”
But you can be sure that some of Begby’s old habits will resurface.
Welsh talked about the phenomenon of what he dubbed white male rage. “We see it all over the world and in politics too; white male rage over the democratization and liberalization that has eroded their influence. Begby is the white male rage poster boy.”
Other media folks in the Press Conference were Italian, therefore interested in Brexit. Welsh called it a start, not an end. “It is a debate about who we are in England right now. It is exciting politically but there will be great stress on the society. But in the end, we just can’t have super-national organizations like the International Monetary Fund dictating to democracies. When a group like that protects banks but not states, it is a problem.”
Happily, the discussion went back to writing, or to reading, actually. Welsh said unless we encourage reading in schools, we are shutting the doors on the next generations. He feels doing so will likely increase the stress of white male rage and international disagreements and intolerance across ethnicities.
All in all, Welsh presented himself with an interesting and slightly pessimistic outlook.
Coming up: Peter Hoeg, Colm Toibin, and Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks.