The novelist, travel writer and Prospect contributor on his writing strategies, how he met Warhol, and why he is the first travel writer who is not a wankerby Georgia de Chamberet / May 24, 2008 / Leave a comment
Duncan Fallowell is a novelist, travel writer and cultural journalist (see a list of his Prospect articles here). During the 1970s he travelled extensively in Europe and Asia, collaborated on the punk glossies Deluxe and Boulevard and began working with the avant-garde German rock group Can. Later he lived in St Petersburg, the south of France and Sicily. His first novel was published in 1986 and first travel book in 1987. He wrote the libretto for the opera Gormenghast, first staged in 1998, and co-authored a 1982 biography of the transsexual and model April Ashley.
His novels are: Satyrday, The Underbelly and A History of Facelifting. His travel books include: To Noto, One Hot Summer in St Petersburg and Going As Far As I Can. Duncan is currently working on another novel and a second collection of interviews, Platinum Peepshow. GdeC When you are writing a book, do you read other authors?
DF I don’t read my contemporaries, particularly in my own society or culture, because they’re standing in the same place as I am, looking at the same thing, and what they make of it is not relevant to what I might make of it. But I like reading contemporary writers in other cultures, and I like watching contemporary films, especially non-Hollywood films. And I read classic authors—there are still a couple of Dickens I haven’t read.
GdeC Do you ever show your work to other writers?
DF I have once or twice, and it’s been a deeply disappointing experience. Usually they’re just looking to see if there is anything there they can use. One friend asked to read a manuscript of mine, so I showed it to him. I thought I might get some useful feedback, but all he said was, “I enjoyed it.” End of conversation. In other words, he just wanted to check out the competition.
GdeC Can creative writing be taught?
DF Not if it’s worth reading! [laughter]
GdeC But can a writer learn style?
DF Certainly a writer can improve himself, especially by reading the great writers. It depends what a writer wants to be—some want to be rough and primitivist, others want to be mandarin and highfalutin’. Me, I want all those different textures in my work. Sometimes a mandarin reviewer will give me a black mark for a…