Blog Roll

Anecdotal Evidence
Biology of the Worst Kind
The Book Depository Editor's Corner
Book World
Buzzwords Blog: 3AM Magazine
Edward Champion's Return of the Reluctant
The Elegant Variation
John Baker's Blog
KR Blog
the Literary Saloon
Long Sunday
MadInkBeard - Updates
The Midnight Bell
pas au-delà
The Reading Experience
splinters: books, authors, literature, travel, politics
Tales from the Reading Room
This Space
University of Nebraska Press
Weblog - A Don's Life - Times Online
Weblog - Peter Stothard - Times Online
Powered by Bloglines


One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs: "Mark Thwaite ... has a maverick, independent mind"

Wednesday 19 July 2006

Welsh is a Tory; Bissell on the ULA

So, Irvine Welsh, the "chronicler of the chemical generation", shock-jock writer of Trainspotting, has come out as a Tory. I don't know why anyone is in the least bit surprised about this. It seems obvious that the innate conservatism of his books -- and of so much "cult fiction" -- reflected an essentially conservative mind. One can only hope that more readers will now realise that writing about smack, or porn, or other drearier aspects of the quotidian, does not a revolutionary make. Transgressive writing is rarely progressive and rarely very good.

Nice: Protesting All Fiction Writers! -- Tom Bissell on the Underground Literary Alliance (via Wet Asphalt)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
Tags: ,

Reader Comments

Wednesday 19 July 2006

Andrew says...

I await inevitable claims that it was a wind-up or was isolated qualified remarks taken out of context.

However, Jeanette Winterson was positively gushing about David Cameron's faux green credentials recently (she has a second home in his Oxfordshire constituency), arguing Blair had let her down over Europe and she might be tempted to cast her vote for the Tories, just for that nice David Cameron chap who's so in touch with the needs of Notting Hill folk. Why did this bizarre conversion not receive similar disdain?

Wednesday 19 July 2006

Michael Rosen says...

I'm sure you've noticed that a long-lost poem by Shelley has been found:,,25341-2266779,00.html

It raises some interesting questions, the most pressing of which to my mind is why the hell aren't we allowed to read it now, this minute, this second?

Thursday 20 July 2006

Tim says...

Read the original:

Welsh says some positive things about Cameron, and acknowledges that he's lost some of his chippiness about middle-class people; he admits that some pleasant people he's met have been Tories.

Nowehere does he say that he's a Tory. Slow news day. Silly season. Blah blah.

Thursday 20 July 2006

Max Dunbar says...

I agree. The title of this post and of the Telegraph piece is based on two responses in an eight-page interview. Nowhere does Welsh reveal himself to be a card-carrying Tory. He said in essence that just as Blair made the Labour Party less socialist, Cameron is making the Tories less Thatcherite - a statement of the obvious and an opinion shared by much of the Westminster village. If Welsh is indeed a rightwinger, it certainly doesn't come through in the books.

I'm reminded of something Welsh said in a much earlier interview (sorry, no link): 'I'm not into all that personal political purity shite... We all have our contradictions and we just have to work through them as best we can.'

Thursday 20 July 2006

Ben G says...

Andrew - I remember reading years ago in an article by Ms Winterson saying she voted for Maggie in 1979, I've also read her praising the grammar school system and fox hunting. In short, it's not much of a "conversion" on her part, so less "shocking" than Welsh. On the other hand these comments are qualified isolated remarks taken out of context.........

Seriously, what Tim says is right. Welsh's remarks do not say he's a Tory at all, these are more like the "ah, well, I can see the other guy's point of view now" mixed with the growing apoliticisation with age (and cash) that affects many. I find them a bit wearisome and disappointing, but a party election broadcast for the Tories they ain't.

For the record I am a mild fan of Welsh. While I fully agree with Mark that writing about "smack, or porn, or other drearier aspects of the quotidian" certainly doesn't make anyone revolutionary, and plenty of transgressive literature is both anti-progressive and simply poor, I don't think either applies to Welsh. The way undeniably left-wing messages are somewhat unsubtly riven through, for instance, Marabou Stork Nightmares and Filth would seem to contradict this.

Thursday 20 July 2006

Andrew says...


I saw her grammar school whinge too -- she didn't get to go to one and reach her potential earlier, ergo those who abolished them were 'morons'.

A few years back, Welsh said he would support the Scottish Nationalist Party were it not for the fact that Alex Salmond was a rabid Hearts fan. Most of that set of Scottish writers tend to gravitate towards the Scottish Socialist Party, who've certainly done the legwork to get them (Calton Hill Declaration etc).

It's not as clear cut as in the US, where you have two parties in a highly charged polarised system. In 2004 the Democrats could count on the New York publishing set to endorse them and more recently a group did that Proud to be a Liberal book. It'd never happen here. At the last General Election, the New Statesman asked a range of authors who they'd vote for. Surprisingly, JG Ballard said he'd vote Labour, grudgingly, but that he felt let down by Blair. I've seen Will Self give lukewarm endorsements for the Lib Dems.

1936 Spanish Civil War it aint though (John Walsh's piece in the Indy recently was superb).

Thursday 20 July 2006

Ben G says...

Indeed it ain't. I seem to recall reading something about Gollancz sending out a circular asking writers where they stood on the Spanish Civil War, and collating the replies. Orwell was very angry, saying, "Why do they bother with this shit?" and refusing to take part. I think it was a fairly laudable project myself, though I can see where old George was coming from. Predictably, the only one to come out in favour of Franco was Evelyn Waugh.

I think there has always been a strong degree of the apolitical about Welsh, he was just so drenched in his Hibs working-class socialist upbringing that it had to come out in his writing, and with the wearing effects of age and wealth in one so uncomitted that was bound to subside. I think you're right in saying his lack of support for the SSP and silly-arsed football based non-flirtation with the SNP are quite symptomatic of this.

In a way however his lack of "commitment" and *relative* lack of polemicising (as I said, Marabou and Flith are among several exceptions to this) are what I liked about his voice, giving it -to me- a more authentic feel. And I still think at his best he has both a feel for everyday language and a willingness to experiment in form that make the charge of structural conservatism in his writing, quite apart from political conservatism, a bit unfair.

Thursday 20 July 2006

Tim says...

Didn't someone do something similar to the Gollancz pamphlet about the Iraq war? Does anybody remember who came out for? Hitchens, obviously... I seem to recall Rushide leaning in that direction, but he's gone quiet since.

Friday 21 July 2006

Andrew says...

There's a story in 'Ecstacy' where Welsh has fun at the expense of a student revolutionary turned Blairite middle manager.

Dan Rhodes tried to get the other writers on the 2003 Granta Young British Authors list to participate in some joint declaration against the Iraq war. A handful made positive noises and the rest told him to fuck off. Some pundits said it wasn't the business of writers to do that sort of thing.

I think Salman Rushdie generally speaks out on anything concerning Islamism and public policy, for obvious reasons.

Friday 21 July 2006

Ben G says...

On tonight's Newsnight Review

"I'd rather be accused of being a Hearts supporter or a paedophile. I was expressing a sneaking admiration for people like Blair and Cameron who just destroy there parties in their quest for power. That's all."

So he won't be joining Jeanette at the Berkshire hunt after all......

Add a comment

If you have not posted a comment on RSB before, it will need to be approved by the Managing Editor. Once you have an approved comment, you are safe to post further comments. We have also introduced a captcha code to prevent spam.




Enter the code shown here:  

Note: If you cannot read the numbers in the above image, reload the page to generate a new one.

Submit News to RSB

Please let us know about any literary-related news -- or submit press releases to RSB -- using this form.

-- Mark Thwaite, Managing Editor


Memorial Tablet

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’... that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west...
What greater glory could a man desire?

-- Siegfried Sassoon
Collected Poems (Faber and Faber)

-- View archive

Word of the Day

The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or two

Pre-order Anu Garg's new book: The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-So-Common Words (ISBN 9780452288614), published by Penguin more …

-- Powered by

October's Books of the Month

The New Spirit of Capitalism The New Spirit of Capitalism
Luc Boltanski; Eve Chiapello
Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM
Steve Lake, Paul Griffiths

-- View archive