In a Yellow Loo

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How to DisappearHow to Disappear: A Memoir for Misfits
by Duncan Fallowell
Terrace Books (U. of Wisconsin Press) 237 pages, $26.95

 

HOW TO DISAPPEAR won the Pen Ackerley Prize for autobiography last year, which may seem odd, since the five travel essays that comprise it are not exactly autobiography, and Fallowell’s prose style could not provide more of a contrast to that of J. R. Ackerley, the author of My Father and Myself. Ackerley wrote an astringent prose in which not one word was wasted (perhaps because he’d spent years as an editor at The Listener, the BBC magazine), while Fallowell writes more like a splatter painter: a voluble, richly high-and-low explosion of language. Fallowell’s travel writing is so stream-of-consciousness, however, that it feels like autobiography. He started his career covering rock music for The Spectator, belonged to an avant garde German band called Can, has interviewed celebrities, and has written novels, an opera, and the biography of a transsexual—all of which leave traces in How to Disappear. That he’s not better known to American readers is hard to understand. Travel writing depends largely on the traveler, and Fallowell’s brilliance delights in every sentence, paragraph, and page.

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