Hello there. Hope you’re feeling well today.If there is one type of writer I’m drawn to. It’s the writer that doesn’t have a type. It’s the writer that cannot be simply slotted into one section of the library/bookshop. It’s the writer who can be relied upon to engage a reader in a whole variety of subjects and you would be interested. Even if in your normal day to day world you’d cross the road to avoid confronting them for fear of endless chatter on whatever has obsessed them that day.
Al Alvarez is that type of writer. Capable of writing about poker and poetry, swimming and suicide. You become interested in what he’s writing about. Even though I still don’t understand poker, poetry with a few exceptions is the biggest gap in my reading experience, I can’t swim yet I’ve read a lot of his books and enjoyed them (I haven’t got round to reading his book on suicide, The Savage God, yet).
Where Did It All Go Right? is his autobiography and it’s just as fascinating. A name like Alvarez gave him a mysterious Latin air in London. Add to that the fact that he is Jewish meant that from an early age he had the aura of the outsider. There, but not quite fitting in. I suspect that is one of the things that makes him interesting. Despite being in a public school he would never be considered “establishment”.
Being “London Jewish” is a subgenre in itself and in the future I might chat about it. Though Catholic by upbringing (I’m an atheist) now I lived in Redbridge in the seventies and eighties which at that time had a large Jewish population and is worth a post in itself.
There is love of poetry (He was poetry editor for the Observer) and yet he would climb Welsh mountains I suspect he like me fell in love with the Welsh landscape. Mind you I wouldn’t take my love that far. Climbing a mountain is not something I’m afraid of. Dropping from it is though.
He also takes the time to chat about the artistic (mainly poets) he has known through his varied life. The passage concerning Sylvia Plath is worth reading by itself.
As an adult he seems to have developed a chameleon like quality of being able to slot into the various lifestyles described above and fitting in (name me another poetry editor who has written about working in the North Sea. Mind you I suppose the poker helped!)
It struck me (rather like Victoria Coren) that he is in fact the John Arlott of Poker.
He’s written about aspects of his life in other books. So I’m not sure how complete this is. Still I enjoyed it and would recommend it.
Until the next time.