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Irvine Welsh presents a pretty bleak view of human nature in his latest novel, The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs (Norton). Young and handsome Danny Skinner is a drinking, brawling, womanizing Edinburgh restaurant inspector consumed by the need to find the father he's never known. His nemesis is his polar opposite, coworker Brian Kibby, a skinny, shy, awkward misfit who loses himself in video games and model trains. Skinner hates Kibby. He hates him so much, in fact, that one day his fury brings down on the pair a powerful Dorian Gray-style hex. The result: Kibby suffers the effects of Skinner's debauchery--the hangovers, the beatings, the liver damage--while Skinner carries on unscathed. Suffering on the periphery are lovers and family, in particular the mothers: former punk Beverly, a beauty shop owner who refuses to tell Skinner who his father is (could he be celebrity chef Alan De Fretais, author of The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs? A punk rock drummer who died young? Joe Strummer?), and timid Joyce, who harbors a dark secret of her own. Despite their mutual hatred, the relationship between Skinner and Kibby becomes increasingly symbiotic: what one despises in the other is inevitably what he despises in himself. All the characters are fairly loathsome, but Welsh's writing is relentless and the story line compelling. There is a resolution of sorts at the end, but one that offers little hope for redemption. Thu 8/17, 7 PM, 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th, 773-684-1300.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steve Double.

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