9780393315639 / 0393315630

Marabou Stork Nightmares


Publisher:W. W. Norton & Company



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About the book:

Irvine Welsh delivers another grisly yet enthralling insight into the mindset of the Scottish underclass in Marabou Stork Nightmares. This bleak tale is told by Roy Strang, a jug-eared underachiever who happens to be in a coma. As he flits in and out of reality in his hospital bed, we learn about the dysfunctional Strang family--Vet, his well-intentioned dinner-lady mother, John, his violent security guard father, half-brothers Bernard and Tony, disabled brother Elgin and naive little sister Kim.

Growing up on a housing estate in Muirhouse, Edinburgh, Roy unavoidably gets into scrapes with other kids and, as his crimes eventually become more serious, the police. Welsh expertly interweaves into this base reality Roy's surreal hallucination of his time spent in South Africa with "Sandy Jamieson"--the fearless hunter (a figment of his troubled mind) with whom he goes in search of the vicious but elusive Marabou Stork, a beast that isn't what it seems to be. Roy trains his mind to shut out the present and finds comfort in his African escapism--anything to avoid dealing with the consequences of his actions in real life, and his mother's singing.

The Strangs move out to South Africa in the hope of making a better life for themselves and to raise their "prospects", but they are disillusioned when, in a country where white skin is considered superior, they still fail to achieve their desires. Back in Muirhouse Roy works his way up to systems analyst from a trainee, but in his own time gets his kicks from football hooliganism; he gets involved with a bad crowd whom he finds himself joining in the docks before long.

The exercise and abuse of power is a consistent theme throughout the book: it's depicted between the hunters and animals, nurse Patricia Devine and Roy, Roy and the family dog, uncle Gordon and Roy, Lochart Dawson and the black South Africans, rapists and their female victim. Having been abused in his early years--physically, verbally and sexually--Roy, in a comatose state, is unable to fight anymore and is rendered a victim as well as a perpetrator in his state of limbo.

Using style nuances now familiar in his work, such as writing in dialect and eschewing quote marks, Welsh presents a modern-day Kafka-esque tale of exaggerated realism, told with dark humour and making sure to blunt any polished edges. --Angela Boodoo

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