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Irvine Welsh

He sells millions of books by writing about human degradation in a Scottish phonetic vernacular. Is this Britain's strangest literary phenomenon?

In his new collection of essays and criticism, The War Against Clich?, Martin Amis has a section called “Popularity Contest” in which he chews over the qualities of writers who dwarf his own sales. Dissecting Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park sequel, The Lost World, Amis first makes witty sport with dinosaur lore in order to display verbal powers to which Crichton himself could never aspire. Then Amis signs off with the scrupulous superiority of a literary author who nevertheless can’t quite waft away the rude pong of another writer’s popularity. “Like all good bad stuff,” he writes, “it is conjured with…

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