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Porno is a novel by Scottish writer Irvine Welsh, and is the sequel to Trainspotting.The book describes the characters of Trainspotting ten years after the events of the earlier book, as their paths cross again, this time with the pornography business as the backdrop rather than heroin use (although numerous drugs, particularly cocaine are mentioned throughout). A number of characters from Glue make an appearance as well.

This sequel picks up ideas of the film adaptation of Trainspotting. One example is the fact that "Spud" has received his share of the drug money, which is shown in the film, but only alluded to in the book.

Plot summary

The novel is divided into 3 sections, each of which comprises chapters with different narrators. Unlike Trainspotting which had more narrational diversity, Porno is reduced to just 5 narrators: Sick Boy, Renton, Spud, Begbie and Nikki. Another difference from the format of Trainspotting is that each character has a defined chapter heading. Sick Boy's chapters all begin with "Scam..." and then a number in front of a "#". Renton's all begin with "The Whores of Amsterdam Part..." depending on what chapter it is. Spud's chapters are just narrative, Begbie's are in capitals, and Nikki's are quotes from the chapter, for example "...A SIMON DAVID WILLIAMSON PRODUCTION...".

Each narrator is associated with a distinctive prose style. Renton, Sick Boy, and Nikki's chapters are written almost entirely in "standard" English while Begbie and Spud's chapters are in Scots. For example, in Chapter 25, Spud narrates, "So ah'm downcast when ah git intae the library, thinkin tae masel" ("So I'm downcast when I get into the library thinking to myself"). He also repeats certain words when talking such as "catboy" or "cat", "likes" or "likesay", and "ken?". Begbie often swears a lot during his chapters. Sick Boy's returning grandiose nature is featured in imagined interviews with John Gibson of the Evening News and Alex McLeish.

Section 1: Stag

Simon 'Sick Boy' Williamson leaves the London crack scene and returns to Leith when he comes into ownership of his aunt's pub. Convinced that the area is destined to become a social and cultural hub, Simon decides to focus his energy into making the pub a classier establishment.

Nikki Fuller-Smith is a university student who works part time in a massage parlour. Rab, a university acquaintance, introduces her to his friend Terry Lawson and his underground, homemade pornography operation. The scene interests Nikki.

Danny 'Spud' Murphy has been regularly attending group sessions in an attempt to kick his drug habit. His relationship with his partner Alison is strained and Spud feels like he has become a burden on her. He considers his life insurance policy and contemplates suicide.

Meanwhile, in Amsterdammarker, Mark Renton is co-owner of a successful nightclub. One night, a DJ from his hometown (Carl Ewert from Welsh's previous novel Glue) plays at one of his clubs and recognises him.

When Sick Boy learns of Terry's operation, he offers the use of the upstairs bar to shoot some scenes. During their first meeting, the group begins planning to film a full length adult film.

The first section concludes with "OOTSIDE", a chapter noting the release into society of Francis Begbie.

Section 2: Porno

While in prison, Begbie received packages of gay porn, sent anonymously by Sick Boy. Upon his release, he determines to find the culprit. While accompanying an old friend on a debt collection errand he meets Kate and begins a relationship with her. When Alison begins working at Sick Boy's pub and Sick Boy deliberately attempts to sabotage her relationship with Spud, the friendship between Spud and Sick Boy is strained. During one thinly veiled argument, Spud reveals that he received his share of the money from Renton. He also unveils his recent ambition, to write a history of Leith. Begbie visits Sick Boy's pub. As the two converse, Sick Boy considers the duplicitous trait of opportunity and threat accompanying Begbie's release. Soon after, Terry, Rab and several other friends arrive and begin discussing their upcoming trip to Amsterdam, a bachelor celebration for Rab. Sick Boy is initially reluctant to attend but changes his mind after Carl, a DJ, mentions that Renton worked at a club there.

Section 3: Exhibition

Sick Boy's "Porno" shoot becomes a slow demolition of his so-called mates. Spud ends the friendship when Sick Boy tells him he was using him for the purpose of a scam, Nikki leaves him after realising that he really has no caring side and really is the nasty deceitful person that she tried desperately to ignore, Begbie grows tired of Sick Boy being 'smarmy', although Begbie becomes angry with everyone in due course. Spud tries to provoke Begbie into killing him so his wife Allison will profit from his life insurance (which, naturally, does not cover suicide). As Begbie is violently hitting Spud, Allison and the couple's young son burst in, stopping them. Spud is hurt, but his last narration implies that he can see things getting better. The biggest departure Sick Boy has from his life is Renton. After promising to meet Sick Boy in Cannes he instead goes to Zurich to empty their joint account to start a new life in San Francisco. This deception is the biggest blow to Sick Boy as he obviously treasured their unconventional relationship and because he can not believe how he could fall foul of Renton's deception again. Begbie is hit by a car while running across the road to attack Renton, who flees the country with Nikki and Dianne, as well as Sickboy's £60,000, the proceeds of a financial fraud.

Characters in "Porno"

  • Simon David "Sick Boy" Williamson - Marred by a string of failed business ventures, decides to make a porn film. A heavy cocaine user. Still bitter about being ripped off by Renton in the previous novel. In the years since Trainspotting he had a son with a woman who is now his ex-wife. He has also lost some of the charm and physical attractiveness he previously possessed.
  • Mark "Rents" Renton - Kicked heroin and owns a successful nightclub in Amsterdam. Agrees to finance Sick Boy's porn film in exchange for a share of the profits, despite a mutual lack of trust and amiability. Has got into shape and learned martial arts in anticipation and fear of an eventual meeting with Begbie.
  • Nikki Fuller-Smith - 25-year old university student and film studies major who moonlights performing minor sexual favours at a sauna/massage parlour. Has body image problems (she occasionally vomits after meals) and is attracted to Sick Boy. She decides to help Sick Boy with his film by starring in it.
  • Daniel "Spud" Murphy - Still on drugs but trying to kick them. The only one compensated for his role in the drug deal at the end of Trainspotting, and holds no ill will against Renton as a result. Married with a son, Andy, but is plagued by marital and self-esteem problems.
  • Francis "Franco" Begbie - Spent three years in prison for manslaughter. The crime was actually a murder, but he managed to stab himself and plant false evidence to make it seem like manslaughter. Harbours a lot of resentment towards Renton for ripping him off in the last novel and blames him for the crime he committed. Still as violent and psychopathic as ever, now even more paranoid due to heavy cocaine use. The fact that Sick Boy anonymously sends gay porn to his prison cell doesn't help.
  • Lauren - Nikki's best friend and flatmate, a feminist, who tries to dissuade Nikki from being in a porn film. She is generally regarded as a bore and motherly figure.
  • Terry "Juice" Lawson - Amateur porn star that Sick Boy employs to be in his film. A main character in Glue.
  • Rab - Friend of Nikki and Lauren also younger brother of "Business Birrell" from Glue, who introduces them to the underground porn scene. Engaged with a child on the way.
  • Dianne - Another flatmate of Nikki's. Had a relationship with Renton during Trainspotting while she was underaged. Currently studying for a psychology degree, with particular attention to sexual psychology.

One of the major themes of "Porno" is the aspirations of its main characters, and the way their social status crushes them. This is more explicit in the chapters dealing with Spud, who tries to kick his heroin habit, tries to save his relationship, and tries to become a writer, only to fail because of his lack of education and common sense. The characters fool themselves into thinking that they can do better, and can do something important, and in the end, they are either in the same situation they were in at the start of the novel, or, in Mark Renton's case, in a better one not because they worked hard, and did something remarkable, but because they turned on their own friends, and scammed their way into their new status. Welsh claims that the only way to get out of Leith, and the environment that it entails, is to come to terms with your own nature—which consists of being a merciless arsehole, with no real strings attached to any of your so-called mates.

On the other hand, Begbie has no aspirations, and is seen as a force of nature, a sort of Leith incarnated. He doesn't let other characters move on with their life, and destroys lives and aspirations whenever he makes an appearance.

Also, the class issues are exemplified by the fact that now, only Begbie and Spud, the only two characters that have made no real changes since the last novels, are the only ones who narrate using Scottish dialect, and Renton, who has changed over the last nine years, and Simon, who now considers himself rid of the Sick Boy persona, and sees himself as a businessman with prospects, use standard English.

Film adaptation

Danny Boyle has stated his wish to make a sequel to Trainspotting based on Porno which takes place nine years later. He is reportedly waiting until the original actors themselves age visibly enough to portray the same characters, ravaged by time; Boyle joked that the natural vanity of actors would make it a long wait.On 10 September 2009, Robert Carlyle revealed that Boyle was "edging closer" to making Porno. Carlyle, who played Begbie in the film, said he would "jump through hoops of fire backwards" for the film-maker and would "do Porno tomorrow for nothing."

The novel will pick up on the same characters 10 years later.But Ewan McGregor, who played anti-hero Renton, has said in interviews that a sequel would be a "terrible shame".Boyle and McGregor have not worked together since 1997's A Life Less Ordinary, when the pair famously fell out over Boyle's big screen adaptation of Alex Garland's novel, The Beach.

Release details

  • 2002, UK, Jonathan Cape (ISBN 0-393-05723-2), Pub date ? August 2002, hardback (First edition)
  • 2002, USA, W. W. Norton (ISBN 0-393-05723-2), Pub date ? September 2002, hardback

  • 2002, USA, W. W. Norton (ISBN 0-393-32450-8), Pub date ? ? 2002, paperback
  • 2003, UK, Vintage Press (ISBN 0-09-942246-8), Pub date 1 August 2003, paperback


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