But it is possible for hardened attitudes to change and one source of such a cultural shift is the arts. Our world view is shaped by many factors, but books, films and other works of art play a significant part. Abraham Lincolm reportedly greeted Harriet Beecher Stowe with “so you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war”, after Uncle Tom’s Cabin laid bare the horrors of slavery for many in pre-Civil War America; John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath exposed Depression-era poverty; and George Orwell’s 1984 remains a powerful warning about the dangers of totalitarianism.
Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting was a publishing sensation that got people talking about drug addicts in a different way. If his draft of a novel about gun violence in the US and the “unhealed wounds in American society” has anything like the same appeal, we may have another title to add to the relatively small list of genuinely life-changing books.