In five dated yet beautifully crafted essays, Fallowell (Going as Far as I Can: The Ultimate Travel Book, 2008, etc.) mines some early trips he took for literary inspiration.
The destinations included sparsely populated Gozo, Malta and the southeastern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The author also searched for the fabulously wealthy buyer of a Scottish island, Maruma, who made art with “fire energy” and hunted for the inspiration behind the character Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Fallowell’s essays take a sweet, circuitous route, which he self-consciously describes as “a progressive revelation, as a painter starting with a few lines scattered about the canvas will eventually end up with a portrait as complete as he can make it.” The author drops hints that then reappear to guide him on his pursuits, such as happening upon an entry in The Indian Yearbook 1941-2—while stoned out of his mind in Ooty in 1975—for a woman named Bapsy Pavry who seemed to encapsulate an entire era of British imperial organization and who haunted the author for the next 20 years. Fallowell’s hopeless pursuit of Maruma in the summer of 1995, luring the author fruitlessly to the Isle of Eigg to meet him, inspires a virtuosic dissertation on the subject of the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The author’s odd journalistic persecution of the shut-in Alastair Graham, living in quiet solitude in Wales, exposes more about the sexual proclivities of the author than the once-darling “it” boy and intimate of Waugh. Fallowell ends with a swooning chronicle of London’s mad grief at the death of Princess Diana (“Beyond the Blue Horizon”).
A delicious throwback memoir, writerly and rich.