Tuesday, 19 April 2011
On Saturday 16th April 2011 I went to visit Duncan Fallowell at his home in West London, to chat about books and writing. It was a beautiful, warm spring day, and being in his library-like lounge, with the sun coming through the windows overlooking Notting Hill terraces, felt a lot like being in an Alan Hollinghurst novel (see the Sergey Stefanovitch film above).
I found this acclaimed novelist and travel writer a most genial and charming advisor, who was evidently extremely erudite and experienced (for example, he was once invited to become the lead singer of the massively influential German band Can, but turned them down). As a Joy Division/New Order fan, Krautrock was where it all started, and is, as I explained to Duncan, the next phase of my educative musical journey. Indeed, I found myself thanking him on behalf of my generation for all the work 'you guys' did in the Seventies and Eighties; people of Duncan's age are our spiritual contemporaries. Their initial thoughts, aphorisms and inventions are what whisper most clearly, compellingly, delicately and everlastingly into our ears.
Fallowell is a writer who understands art. 'A book is a physical object. Writing is a physical act, a sculptural act as well as an intellectual act,' he says in the film, and he told me something similar on my visit. He is full of wisdom and memorable quotes: 'They could all do a brilliant intellectual fireworks display,' he says of the scores of authors whose works line his walls. 'When I write, I try to seduce people,' he said, pursing his lips to sip his tea, somewhat felinely. In fact, I learned more about writing in two hours with Duncan than in several years of reading the often unwielding, opaque surfaces of high literature.