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Filth? Ah'll gie the cunt fuckin filth.—Bruce
You loved once. Surely everybody does.—The Self
Bruce Robertson is pure filth in every sense of the word. He's a misanthropic, racist, sexist, homophobic and very corrupt sergeant detective working for the Edinburgh "Polis" who, when not satisfying his cravings for drugs, junk food or orgasms, entertains himself by manipulating and tormenting his friends, colleagues, and everyone else he meets with vindictive schemes he calls "the games". His wife's just left him, taking his daughter, but he doesn't spend a whole lot of time thinking about the divorce, preoccupied as he is with his upcoming vacation in Amsterdam, the growing rash on his testicles, a prospective promotion from his hated boss, and the case of the murder of the Ghanian ambassador's son (which he doesn't plan on solving).
When Bruce eats an uncooked gala pie, however, he ingests an existentially-curious tapeworm. The tapeworm, who starts calling itself The Self, acts as Bruce's inner soul and conscience and begins unearthing Bruce's most repressed memories, which quickly explain why he is the way he is.
Written by Irvine Welsh, so expect lots of phonetic Scots, salient characters, petty crime, typographical experimentation, and extremely dark humour. It's got something of a twist ending and is creatively written, so it's the kind of book you have to read twice to get the full understanding of.
Soon to be a film starring James McAvoy as the lead.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Bruce is very fond of the Sun's page three girls. And gymnasts.
- Arc Words:"How did it make you feel?"
- "The same rules apply in each and every case."
- Berserk Button: Bruce doesn't like being called filth. He really hates sympathy, though.
Bruce: GET ON WITH YOUR FUCKIN JOB AND QUIT PLAYING THE AMATEUR FUCKIN PSYCHOLOGIST!
- Child by Rape: Bruce.
- Comedic Sociopathy: In-story Bruce delights in abusing his fellow citizens, while, for the reader, a good part of the book's humour derives from the crassness with which Bruce handles different situations.
- Continuity Nod: True to form other Welsh characters make cameo appearances: Mark Renton, Ghostie Gorman, Sick Boy, Spud, Lexo Setterington, Post Connelly, Juice Terry and Francis Begbie are encountered or referenced. This is also the first Welsh novel discussing what Begbie does for a living (he runs a second-hand furniture store with Lexo).
- The Cynic: Bruce.
- Dark Comedy
- Deus Angst Machina
- Dirty Cop: Bruce. Some (all) of his colleagues, like Ray, also qualify to a degree, but unlike him, they're still pretty decent people.
- Downer Ending: Bruce commits suicide to claim revenge on his ex-wife, but his final thoughts are of regret.
- Erotic Asphyxiation: With Chrissie. Could be seen as Foreshadowing.
- Friendless Background: Relationships make Bruce "suspicious".
- Jerkass: Bruce, many more.
- Kavorka Man: The list of Bruce's sexual conquests seems endless. Occasionally he's paying, but quite often the women simply fall for his self-assuredness and greasy charm.
- Meaningful Name: The Self is the tapeworm that acts as Bruce's conscience and tells his life story. The Others are other tapeworms representing society in general, forming a crude metaphor for how Bruce interacts with the world.
- Mood Whiplash: Once the tapeworm becomes self-aware. Any pretense of comedy has been dropped by the second-to-last chapter, "The Tale of a Tapeworm".
- Narrator All Along
- Pet the Dog: Any time that Bruce is not feeling overtly hostile towards everyone around him is notable and comes across as this, such as his one-time description of Ray as a "sound cunt".
- A major one occurs when Bruce unsuccessfully attempts to revive a dying man.
- Refuge in Vulgarity: Try counting the times Bruce's festering rash is graphically described. Or his filthy flannels. Or the texture of his excrements. Also see below.
- Seven Dirty Words: All of them. Repeatedly.
- Single-Issue Psychology: Averted. Bruce's shitty memories are as numerous as his bad habits.
- However, some of Bruce's habits are directly explained by single issues in his upbringing (for instance, his gluttonous consumption of junk food and coke addiction are a result of being forced to eat coal:
The Self: Can you still taste it Bruce? Can you taste the filth, the dirty oily blackness of fossil fuel in your mouth as you choke and gag and spit it out? Can you still hear your father's voice in your head telling you to eat? Eat, eat, eat ... Because I know that it's never left you alone. Now you can eat what you want to eat. For me, for you, for all the Others. Now you can consume to your heart's content or your soul's destruction, whichever comes first.)
- The Snark Knight: Bruce is his own breed.
- Villain Protagonist: Then there isn't really anyone good or heroic around.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: The Self gives a monologue to this effect near the end of the book.