From here on out, whenever I start to question my drinking habits, I'm running straight for my copy of Irvine Welsh's newest, The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs. I'll never be near as bad as alkie protagonist Danny Skinner—it's hard to compete with Skinner's drunken tumble into alcoholic deterioration.
Skinner is a hard-working, hard-drinking young restaurant inspector in Edinburgh who spends his afterhours drinking with his mates, reading philosophy, and begging his mother to reveal his father's identity. Skinner's compulsion to drink is nearly all-consuming, until the young, nebbish Brian Kibby is hired as his coworker. That's when the drinks really start flying. Inexplicably, Skinner hates the nerdy Kibby with every fiber of his being, and the two begin a battle of wills that destroys both of their lives.
The juxtaposition of Skinner and Kibby is woven craftily throughout Welsh's novel. While "bad guy" Skinner might be a womanizer, Kibby is a lonely, model-train-lovin' virgin. But it's never so simple. Skinner loves women and enjoys being their friends, while Kibby eyes women from afar and thinks of them as heartless harpies. It's a fine example of Welsh turning what could be stereotypical characters upside down.
While Welsh's prior novels like Trainspotting and Filth have dealt with his favorite topic of oblivion, Bedroom Secrets does the same—but here, Welsh explores the realms of consequence. The actions of Skinner have immediate effects upon Kibby, and vice versa. Plus Skinner's realizations about his need for total annihilation come to the forefront early on—there's no oblivion for its own sake. "It's the alcohol: it leaves a taint of sleaze, of dirt in your mind... I'll just have to bear my own burdens. Face up to my mortality. So be it, I can't complain, I've had enough of a head start."
Welsh has an uncanny talent for black humor and exhilarating storylines, and Bedroom Secrets is no exception. It's a morality tale with gothic undertones disguised as a Welsh story of dirty, orgy-blurred stupor. Dig in.