I was a voracious reader since age 4, but sometime in middle school I just completely lost all interest, until in 9th grade when I picked up Trainspotting. Then I would take the train to the Philly Free to read all his other works, and it got me right back on the horse, so to speak (no, not heroin!). So even though I don't read much contemporary literature now, Irvine Welsh's works have very special memories for me.
I got to the Free Library and sit in the 4th row center of the reading room and I had a perfect vantage point from which to take pictures. As the place filled up (it was surprisingly full) one of the workers said no photography was allowed. Drat. Welsh approached the podium, bald as a cue, sporting an awesome kelly green track jacket and a surprisingly placid facial expression. My general impressions of him in person were that he was a much kinder, gentler person than his writerly voice would suggest.
He read some passages from his new book, The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs, and the first two were funny enough and it was especially lovely to listen to his Scottish brogue lilt over the dialect. I looked around at the crowd and saw there were a fair amount of people my age who probably read Trainspotting as teens. But I also noticed some extremely elderly folk hanging out, which I felt was a bit out of place. Is Grandma really reading about shooting junk, anal sex, and House music? In fact, in front of me was a regular white-haired cabal of olde women.
At this point Welsh, losing some of his nervousness, launches into his last passage where one of the characters goes to an old witch living in a Scottish project to try to figure out how to reverse a spell he's inadvertenly cast, and the woman propositions him for sex, which he reluctantly agrees to. What followed was an absolutely filthy, detailed depiction of the sex act that went on for quite some time. The crackle of the audience was audible as we blushed, laughed, and shifted in our seats. I look at the olde ladies, who were shaking their heads in disapproval. Then one, much to my delight, actually stuck her fingers in her ears!
After a nice little Q&A (I thought it was interesting that Welsh comes up with a title before he writes a book. Who does that?) He went upstairs for the signing. When I approached with my copy of Marabou Stork Nightmares (my favorite of his) he smiled warmly and said my name with that lovely accent of his. I had witnessed a veritable parade of geeks gush all over the man like the various fluids in the passage he had just read, and I didn't want to do that, but what happens when I get up there? "Hi Mr. Welsh. I just wanted to say that I love the way you visually lay out the words on the page in some of your books. It's almost like concrete prose, it's remarkable."
Yeah, that's right, I said CONCRETE PROSE.
I am Megan's bottomless well of embarrassment.
The smiling, gracious Mr. Welsh thanked me and told me he loves my city, and I thanked him (taking credit for all of Philadelphia in the process) and scooted over to the book table to buy his new book with the literal last dime in my wallet from a nice shaggy haired fellow. Then I took the extraordinarily shitty, dark, grainy, fuzzy picture that you see below.
So that was it! I'm glad I went, glad I now have three signed books in my collection (Marabou Stork Nightmares, Sarah Vowell's Take the Cannoli, and Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States) and I still never cease to amaze myself, that I can work at a place for 3 years where I met world leaders, musicians, and movie stars on a weekly basis with barely the bat of an eye, but put me in front of a writer I like and I turn into an absolute silly little girl. So it goes!