Author: Irvine Welsh
Publisher: Random House
Reviewed by: CK Bray
Like a bad trip ‘Reheated Cabbage’, a selection of short stories by Irvine Welsh, the author of
such questionable classics as ‘Trainspotting,’ ‘Filth,’ and ‘Porno’ sweeps you up in a
frightening, nauseating, yet occasionally exhilarating ride through the filthy underbelly of
Grimacing with disgust, I was tempted to throw the vile tome into the rubbish bin more than
once, particularly during the first few stories. But the uncanny talent Welsh possesses as a
master linguist, perfectly illustrating the thick Scottish brogue by spelling it out phonetically,
encourages the reader to sound out the speech patterns. I ended up laughing at myself more
than once as I tried to decipher the dialect, sounding more working-class Scottish than any
tough, full of Guinness, on a street corner in Edinburgh.
Football translates to “fitba,” doctor to “doaktir,” with olde English vernacular like “ken”
meaning to understand or know and “cannae” for cannot, lending the stories the rhythmic and
musical cadence of the Celtic locals. Almost poetic if not so saturated with profanity, I found
this approach first charming, then annoying, and then necessary. Because despite my Scottish
ancestry, I wanted to distance myself as far away as possible from these chaps. Characters so
brutally aggressive, in-your-face rude, scheming, plotting and violently abusive, that a punch
in the face was far more commonplace than a handshake.
“Aye, awright then, c’moan, but wir no steyin oot long, mind, the fitba’s oan at two, so wuv
goat tae be back by then.”
You get the idea. Once I got the hang of it I no longer had to mouth out each sentence several
times, but unless you speak like this yourself I wouldn’t recommend you read this book in
public, or others will think you have issues.
As the back cover announces “In these pages you can enjoy Christmas dinner with Begbie,” I
respond with “Yes, but are you sure you want to?” As an aficionado of chick-lit, I was so
taken-aback by the ferocious anger illustrated by these Hibernian youths I found myself
questioning what really goes through the male mind.
Despite the stomach churning viciousness present in each story, Welsh also has a gift of
spinning a story so cleverly gripping, albeit horrific, similar to a train wreck, it is difficult to
look away. The author uses his talents with laser-like precision, weaving a rich tapestry of
behavioural insight and sociology that is frighteningly accurate. I don’t want to know these
people. They are revolting and sadistic, but there is a power in their passion.
I’m glad I stuck it out because I found the last tale to be the best, providing Welsh with the
opportunity to play good against evil with astonishing results. Read ‘Reheated Cabbage’, if
you have the intestinal fortitude. It certainly provides a voyeuristic experience into scenarios
I’m overjoyed not to be exposed to, in my day to day life, but grudgingly admit found