The writing's on the Net

Norman Mailer once said that watching a film based on a book you'd written is as traumatic as having your dog shot. Irvine Welsh, on the other hand, takes a more relaxed view: a film is like a remix of the book, a variation on the same theme. And anyway, he says, what's the point in moaning when you're making loads of money?

There's more to this than just a straightforward clash of views. In Mailer's heyday, text was sacrosanct. It had been commissioned, sweated over, polished, edited, printed and marketed. There were enough barriers between aspiring authors and "real" writers to ensure that everything published was endowed with some kind of kudos. It's no surprise that Mailer (right) once said that "the Internet is the greatest waste of time since masturbation was discovered".

Welsh, who came to prominence in the age of techno and the Internet, is inevitably cooler about what happens to work when it is adapted, sampled and generally kicked about. There's so much digital chaff floating around, we are having to learn a new skill: working out what's actually worth digesting. (Some people still insist on being doggedly obtuse about the difference between print and online text. Janet Street-Porter, writing for the latest edition of a computer magazine, lambasts the Internet for being "emotionally unrewarding" because it "works by emphasising the solitary experience, away from human contact"; presumably she also has a big problem with books and jogging.)

You might expect the Internet, the tool of a new generation of readers and writers, to be bursting at the seams with material about a zeitgeist writer like Welsh, whereas Mailer, that desiccated old man of letters, would be all but absent. Far from it. The medium has already become too mainstream for any such obvious distinctions to present themselves, but there are differences.

Mailer's presence online is, as you might expect, rather staid. The New York State Writers' Institute has produced a comprehensive but fairly straightforward potted biography and a bibliography; unfortunately, it has no real feel for the freedom that the Internet can give. It's the sort of thing that could just as easily have been printed in a brochure.

Compare that with Welsh. His publishers, displaying an admirable understanding of the writer's natural constituency, have constructed a truly epic Trainspotting website. You'll recognise the site design immediately because it's the same as the film posters which have already become (the world being just a little too postmodern these days) transcendental classics. The site, however, is put together with a real passion. It has links for every subject in the Trainspotting universe from Iggy Pop to heroin-addict sites.

Some have already said that Welsh has moved on from being a writer to being something altogether different. He has already embraced the Ecstasy generation. My guess is that sooner or later the digital generation will follow.

www.albany.edu/writers-inst/mailer.html

Potted Norman Mailer biography

www.reedbooks.co.uk/docs/fiction/trnspot/author.htm

The trainspotting home page

www.pulpfiction.com/rave/welsh.html

Another Irvine Welsh page

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

    £23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

    Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

    £14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

    Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower