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How to Disappear: A Memoir for Misfits
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How to Disappear: A Memoir for Misfits

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  52 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
Duncan Fallowell sets out to odd corners of the world in pursuit of some extraordinary and improbable characters who were in most cases momentarily famous—or infamous—and then simply disappeared. The first to disappear is the author himself—to a ghostly hotel on a Mediterranean island. His subjects, though unmet or hardly met, live for the reader with remarkable vividness, ...more
Hardcover, 242 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by Ditto Press
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Jim Coughenour
Jan 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, sui-generis
This morning I decided to finish Duncan Fallowell's How To Disappear, after abandoning it several months ago. I opened to the essay entitled "Who was Alastair Graham?" which begins
At the end of the nineteen-seventies I was living in the small town of Hay-on-Wye writing a book.
Until three days ago I'd never heard of Hay-on-Wye – a small English town on the border of Wales – until, that is, I read Mark Haddon's The Red House which is set in that very town. Somehow I wasn't surprised. This kind o
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a very strange but very lovely book. It purports to be a kind of travel journalism, but is really a series of meditations on various 'misfits', individuals that Fallowell comes into contact with (in usually chance ways) and who he becomes fascinated with. The people having nothing in common other than they are all eccentrics and all touch him in some way. All the stories are incomplete, and have as much to do with the author's reactions to them as anything else. My favourite chapter was ...more
Felice Picano
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'd never heard of Fallowell until this book crossed my desk. Now I'm a huge fan and looking for all and any of his books to read. This is an engaging and actually at times quite funny and then sad and then funny again book about particularly 20th Century and British (or Commonwealth) characters that the author became interested in and eventually tracked down. Probably the selling point is his long piece "Who Was Alistair Graham" about the man who was the inspiration and model for Evelyn Waugh's ...more
What a damned quirky book this was indeed! Part travel narrative regarding the author's experiences in the places he visits, as well as compelling cases as to why he should devote himself to following the trail of these largely obscure figures. The "Brideshead" section was a bit long for me, though I could see his enthusiasm for the later breakthrough in details. Diana's story never really interested my much (see also: O. J. Simpson), but I suppose he felt it a noteworthy ending.
Patti Flanagin
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the things I most appreciate about British writers is how they frequently refer to other writers in their books, leading one from one delight to the next. Alan Bennett recommended "How to disappear" in his "Keep on keeping on" and I am so glad that I made note of it. Fallowell's book is hard to categorize: part travel writing, part memoir, and part biography. Its stories are unexpected and the writing completely delightful. I will definitely re-read it soon!
Catherine Brown
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an extremely interesting book. There are so many snippets of information and gossip which can lead you into many directions of future reading. I love Duncan Fallowell’s style which is refreshingly shocking at times and very descriptive of places and people. I’m sorry to have finished it.
I have just bought a book on Kindle as a result of reading this book. Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman by Minoo Dinshaw. My next book to read.
Victor Olliver
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
First published on Madame Arcati blog:

July 19, 2012: News - Duncan Fallowell wins PEN/Ackerley Prize for Memoir for How to Disappear.

Is Duncan Fallowell’s seventh book How To Disappear: A Memoir for Misfits his actual life story? True, he confesses on p236 to an impressive 40 ‘sexual partners’ in the month following Princess Diana’s death, ‘including a group of women in a naturist Jacuzzi in Brighton.’ And certainly he liberally seeds us with tantalising glimpses of private multi-generational Du
Jim Puskas
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: place-and-time, ill
First off: Where to shelve this one? Memoir? Travel? Not sure. Yes, it's about particular places and times but somewhat like Henry Miller's The Colossus of Maroussi, it's not so much about the place itself as how being there affects the traveler telling the tale. "The crucial factor in all adventures is the gift. Something coming at you unannounced, unscheduled, free of charge, impossible to refuse." Fallowell cannot abide being "herded"; he seeks experiences. He is fascinated by people who "dis ...more
Aug 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: people, non-fiction
P. 183 reads:
"At the root of Western literature is The Iliad which is about leaving one's home to go out into the world and realise oneself in the battle of life. Only after, as a sequel, comes The Odyssey, the attempt to return, the wandering search for home once again - and hoping to recognise it when you find it. These great seminal books told us long ago: expect to be surprised by the human adventure, expect to be hurt, expect to be moved, upset, mirthful, angry; and give love, find love."
William Heath
Apr 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Out of the way, dusty corners of literary history relentlessly tracked down and picked over with forensic charm while linked to lively topography make this book difficult to put down. One reaches the end but in truth one would like these tales to go on forever - or at least for a very long time.
Oct 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wonderful and quirky - I inhaled it over a weekend.
David Corvine
Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Found the hippy trail and Alistair Graham (loosely Sebastian Flyte) material very interesting and enjoyable.. the Diana section less so.
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“If once you enter the arena of intimacy with someone, you owe them honest explanations to the best of your ability. You must never blank people when intimate relations have arisen; you must never slam the door in their face.” 1 likes
“There is not much mystery about death. It's being alive that's the mystery. Death is the normality, life is the exception.” 0 likes
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