An unnamed petty criminal defends himself against the police thugs who try to arrest him, goes on to immediately be acquitted of any charges of striking a policeman, sees the police officers in question be convicted of police brutality, testifies before a Senate hearing on police violence, and in between all this he diddles his girlfriend at the movies, gambles in the alley with the boys, tortures the police officers by training them to be dogs, observes the police officers pulling over a woman and forcing her to do naughty things with them, takes walks in the country, takes walks in the city, enjoys the love of his family, especially his mother, and periodically opens his eyes to stand before the wall of his cell or to check the progress of a large, painful carbuncle on his face.
By the time I got to the later chapters of Irvine Welsh’s novel, Filth, I wasn’t even aware of his writing being filled with Scottish dialect, Cockney rhyming slang, Britishisms, Australian references, drug argot, or out and out obscenity. But I have a suspicion that, as a writer, Welsh lost some of his early steam and pushed through the finale without too much concern for a gritty narrative voice. I might be wrong and if you want to perform a more scientific analysis of the language in the novel, drop me a note with your results.
When I was in school we were treated to a movie version of Shakespeare’s MacBeth. Early on it became obvious that no one in the class (this was Los Angeles) could understand anything that was being said. Personally, I found that it didn’t take too long to get into the rhythm of the dialogue and it became easier and easier to understand. Scottish dialogue is just that way.
Have you ever heard Sean Connery speak in his natural Scottish brogue?
I have read a few books written in Scottish dialogue with much the same experience: start out slow and before you know it, even the most difficult dialogue makes sense. But when I stop to think about it, I am sounding out the words in my head as if they are dialogue in a movie. I wonder if my lips move.