Book review: The Sex Lives Of Siamese Twins

Scottish author Irvine Welsh at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Picture: TSPL
Scottish author Irvine Welsh at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Picture: TSPL
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IRVINE Welsh has always been a creature of pop culture, at risk of being misclassified due to the scarcity of authentic working-class voices in fiction. There is less danger of that here. Welsh, who now lives in Chicago and Miami, has written an American book, about America, in American.

The Sex Lives Of Siamese Twins

Irvine Welsh

Jonathan Cape, £12.99

His heroine, a self-styled “hardass” fitness trainer called Lucy Brennan, is an amiable psychopath who is part Tank Girl, part Terminator, with “thick brows set over big, piercing almond-shaped eyes” and “a sharply defined trapezoidal jawline”.

This is not realism. Lucy exists in a kind of porno universe. Her “arid pussy” makes the first of several excitable appearances in the fourth paragraph. By page 68 it is “Niagara Falls moist”.

Lucy is a Joan Jett-loving, bisexual, Amazon avenger whose underlying mood is bilious rage, and whose misfortune it is to intervene in a violent dispute in a Miami street, saving an unworthy man from certain death, and becoming a tabloid TV celebrity when Lena, a passing artist – herself a collage of Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst – films the event on an iPhone and inveigles her way into Lucy’s life as a kind of obese stalker.

The fat matters, because it disgusts Lucy, who decides to make it her project to get Lena thin, whether Lena wants it or not, which she doesn’t really, except when she does. Any more would spoil the, er, fun.

Lena’s dad is a crime novelist, so there’s some stuff about the responsibilities of fiction; there’s some spoofing of the art world; and some soft play about emails and therapeutic writing, calorific values, and dildos. Welsh keeps himself going with the suggestion that extreme fitness programmes are like cold turkey, which makes dieting like drug abuse. Kinda.

It’s not really a book. It’s fast-food fiction, or a bad film: like Tarantino remaking Bad Lieutenant from a discarded draft of Thelma And Louise in which the sex was written by a boxing commentator unable, after years of voyeuristic pugilism, to separate disgust from desire.