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from White Ivory, chapters 7 & 8

< chapters 5 & 6    chapters 9 & 10 >

A Fortnightly Serial.


Chapter Seven

The first thing Will did when he got back home was to take his one remaining copy of Kicking Away the Ladder from the shelf. He stood by the window and turned it over in his hands. Marie had arranged a launch all those years back, but it had been a joint launch at a ritzy bookshop along Piccadilly.

‘We’ll have to piggy-back you, Will. It’s the only way I’m going to get you in there.’

And so he had shared the publication party of his book on the meaning, or perhaps meaninglessness, of philosophy, with a man who had written a book on Carlyle. Will had had ten copies of his own work before him on his little table, while the other author, seated at a much larger table fifteen feet away, appeared to be surrounded by hundreds of his much fatter volume. They formed stalagmites all around him, on the desk, on the floor. These he was working his way through, signing them with industrial efficiency, prior to any actual demand in the form of a bona fide paying customer. He seemed unhappy, constrained, buttoned into a mournful blue suit. Bank manager black glasses. Hair short, slick, combed. His chin had been razored with military briskness, leaving one freckle of blood as a coordinate on his cheek. His frown suggested a grave disapproval of frivolity. Which made the arrival of the floor manager, a female vision of expensive superficiality multiplied by several powers of ten, tall lacquered hair seemingly designed by Tatlin after he had finished his monument to the Fourth International, all the more discordant. Like particle and anti-particle they met and proceeded along the road to mutual annihilation.

‘Have you written any other books?’ she asked in a voice at least an octave too high for any human requirement. A diction warped by suburban over-breeding and several years in a Swiss finishing school. Urbane oral flatulence.

‘Yes,’ he said crossly, his own vocal register deepening in response to his anti-particle’s falsetto, as he turned his eyes back down towards the book he was signing. ‘Quite a few. Launched the last one here as a matter of fact.’

‘I don’t do anything in travel.’

‘What?’ He stared up from his work and gave her a look of undisguised incomprehension.

‘I don’t do travel. You said this one’s Carlisle.’ Her egregious error dawned on him, making his red face fractionally redder.

‘Carlyle,’ he said very slowly. ‘Not Carlisle. My book is about Thomas Carlyle, the nineteenth-century thinker, not the town in the north.’

The penny dropped through the seemingly depthless vacancy of her mental well. Then it went plop, and everything was once more back on the surface.

‘Oh, silly me,’ she trilled in self-delighting idiocy. ‘Well, I can’t be expected to remember everything, can I? I mean, the number of books that go through here, you simply wouldn’t believe. But fancy me mixing up Carlisle and Carlyle. I mean, it’s not as though you could ever get a train from Cheyne Walk, now is it?’

The reading had subsequently begun with Carlyle. And that’s also where, for most of the audience, it had ended. By the time Will’s extract from Kicking Away the Ladder began, there was Marie, three of his colleagues from King’s, and the upper middle-class mop-head lurking underneath her blonde beaver. But the shop manager arrived shortly after the start, amidst a hush of apologetic whispers. Marie evidently knew him well and made overtures. After the reading, during the sipping of wine, this punctilious person, in his immaculate suit and lizard-green waistcoat, asked Will if he would mind personally inscribing a copy of Kicking Away the Ladder.

‘For Percy French, if that’s all right. It’s not often I attend an occasion of such intellectual distinction. And I attend a lot of these occasions, I can tell you. But your book is quite remarkable.’

Will had signed, and added his own flourish of gratitude as a supernumerary bonus. It had made his evening. The following week he had gone in there to find something by Hegel and had spotted Percy giving directions to a lowly book-shifter. He had walked over and smiled broadly. ‘Hello, Percy, nice to see you again.’ There had been a pause. ‘Will Fenshawe…Kicking Away the Ladder.’ Percy had simply pointed his ready-made expression of bonhomie back at the potential customer.

‘Lovely to see you too,’ he had said. ‘Really lovely.’ It had been all too evident that he simply hadn’t had the faintest notion who Will was. Or what he was. Or, once he turned away, even whether he was.

‘Oh, he doesn’t actually read anything,’ Marie had said cheerfully that evening. ‘But he comes to all the launches, all the same. He’s very popular.’

As though the cycles of his mind left spoors; as though his psyche might one day need tracking.

Will put his book down on the table and walked across to the other side of his room where he opened a drawer. This drawer contained dozens of old boxes and bottles for his medication. He never threw them out for some reason. As though the cycles of his mind left spoors; as though his psyche might one day need tracking. Andoplin, Sefflex. Between them they were meant to hold him in the mental saddle; hold the mania down to vivid smiles and tame depression to a mere manageable melancholy. If he ever got excited enough, his blood pressure escalated alarmingly. He pushed his hand through the cardboard and the glass until he found the envelope right at the back. A large brown battered envelope.

He sat in the armchair and took the letters out one by one.

I really need to talk to you Will, very badly. Something has happened you must know about…

You can’t just walk in to someone’s life like that and then walk out again…

Will, please contact me. I’m going out of my mind.

How could you do that, after all the things you said?

Don’t you understand what’s happened?

All signed with Rachel’s hurried scrawl of a signature. Will hadn’t felt too good when he’d received them. And he didn’t feel any better rereading them now.

As though it had violated her, left her beside herself, with another small being that had come out of what had once been herself.

After Charlie’s birth Marie had suffered a postnatal depression so debilitating that she had returned to the family home in Esher with the boy. She needed constant company. Will had stayed in North Kensington to get on with his work, and to avoid Marie’s parents, whom he found difficult to take, even for the duration of a lunch. It had all gone on for months. At times Marie had barely been able to speak on the phone. He had gone down there at weekends, but was always happy to leave again on Sunday afternoon. It seemed all the more remarkable given Marie’s constantly sunny disposition before their marriage. It was as though the birth had shocked her in some profound way. As though it had violated her, left her beside herself, with another small being that had come out of what had once been herself. She had seemed permanently distraught. At times she had stared at little Charlie with a perplexity not far from hostility.

And during that time he had had his one extramarital affair. With a student; a student by the name of Rachel. He should have found someone less needy. It had become intense, unmanageable. Then one day Marie had announced she was coming home with Charlie. The following day. Just like that. It was time to get on with things. And before Will even had time to contact Rachel and try to talk things through, the pair of them had been back at home once more. It was out of term. There was no reason to see any student. So he hadn’t. He had been so relieved to have Marie back functioning again and starting to regain her sunny disposition, so glad to have a competent mother for his son, that he had quickly edged Rachel out of his mind and conscience. The letters came less frequently. Finally they stopped altogether. Marie, so far as he knew, had never noticed anything.

Years later, during his mental collapse, he had told Marie about it.

‘While I was sick with Charlie?’

‘It wasn’t premeditated. It just happened.’

‘And then kept happening.’

‘Until you came back. Until you both came back. I never intended anything.’

Marie had never forgiven him and the marriage had never entirely recovered from the revelation. So much for truth and reconciliation, he thought.


Chapter Eight

THE OCCASION WAS the birthday of Will’s father’s, Charlie’s grandfather. Alasdair Fenshawe was ninety-one. He had been forty years old when Will was born. Despite the shrivelling of his senses five, he was still a formidable figure in Will’s life. At least one psychiatrist had insisted that all of Will’s troubles came from his relationship with the old man. His mother had been too long dead to be still making waves in the darkness. Though a stepmother who was exactly his own age had occasionally given him pause for thought.

The sign outside had once said Ivory Mount, the word ivory formed out of slender elephant tusks against an ebony board.

Now different members of the Fenshawe family were making their several ways across the country towards Ivory Mount, the Fenshawe home in North Shropshire. The family’s money had been made in ivory. Fenshawe Ivory had once meant imperial commerce; it had even had its own wharf at the edge of the Pool of London, where ships arrived laden from the African shore. The sign outside had once said Ivory Mount, the word ivory formed out of slender elephant tusks against an ebony board. But one night shortly after Will’s collision someone had come and hammered away the ivory. They had broken into the billiard room at the same time and taken various items. No one had ever known why. It had seemed a curious sort of burglary. The family had never taken the trouble to replace the ivory; by then it would probably have been illegal to replace it, given the new laws. So Ivory Mount was now simply the Mount.

At the bottom of the hill, in a cratered garden overgrown with nettles and daisies, stood Shepherd’s Cottage. Charlie was already there. He liked coming to the old ancestral pile. Loved the cottage with its beams and rafters and coal fire. Liked the acoustics of the wooden floors. He was also the only member of the Fenshawe clan who appeared to have an entirely unproblematic relationship with its now seriously decrepit alpha male. Old Man Fenshawe doted upon Charlie, always had. His other son, Frank, had produced no offspring, or if he had he’d kept remarkably quiet about them. And Will had never managed any other tangible tokens of his lovemaking, as far as he knew. As for Alasdair’s second wife, Lindsey, she was childless. So Charlie it was, Charlie all the way. The golden boy. Though his unique status as grandchild could not entirely explain the old man’s uninhibited fondness for him. Charlie appeared to represent his one opportunity for unconditional love. Will hadn’t and Lindsey most certainly didn’t, not any more anyway, while his relationship with Frank appeared to centre more around accountancy and taxes than anything relating to the filial bond.

Charlie sat on the wooden seat by the window and played.

Was in the summer, one early fall
Just looking for my little all in all
Well she is gone and I don’t worry
Lord, I’m sitting on top of the world.

He had a gig that night. Whenever he came up he contacted The Plough. He knew the landlord there. It was only thirty pounds but he liked to play. He always played blues and ragtime. He wasn’t sure anyone in The Plough understood the difference. Didn’t matter. He ran through his songs.

Charlie had blown every penny of his share of the family trust when it came to him on this guitar.

Then he put his guitar in his case. That precious Martin. Already over sixty years old. They didn’t make them like that any more: they couldn’t make them like that any more. They’d tried and failed. So much for progress. Charlie had blown every penny of his share of the family trust when it came to him on this guitar. They had all done everything in their power to stop him. Forty thousand pounds on one guitar: the boy was clearly demented. Only one of them had waved him on. Grandad.

‘Why would that make such a difference, Charlie?’ he had asked.

‘It’s not a machine. A guitar like that is alive in your hands. It leads you in directions you’d never dream of going if you weren’t playing it. It’s playing the music as much as you are.’

‘I think Charlie should spend his money on the guitar,’ he had said, and the rest had fallen silent as his eye landed on them one by one. The matter had been settled. Good old grandad. He could have kissed him. He could still frighten the rest of them out of their wits, but he’d never frightened Charlie, even when he was tiny. He hoped the cantankerous old man would live for ever.

Tiny earrings, incised with the good eye, so as to keep at bay the evil one, whose malignant stare is everywhere a soul might travel.

Charlie walked slowly up the long slope to the main house with the key to the cottage jingling in his pocket. The door was as usual open. He wandered into the hall. It was like a room in a museum. Assembled glass cases were filled with trinkets from centuries of crafting in ivory. Charlie walked around them and smiled. Chessmen and swordhandles made from walrus teeth. Next to them, laid on green velvet in a wooden display, was an intricate nineteenth-century bracelet from Owo in Nigeria, with a king on a horse in a golden headdress and a witch-doctor entering a trance. Alongside that was a human face, actual size, which had once belonged to the king of ancient Benin. Iron strips had graced the forehead, scarification, but these had long ago fallen out, leaving only slots grown black from the grime they’d accrued, an agelong witness of murder and theft. Tiny earrings, incised with the good eye, so as to keep at bay the evil one, whose malignant stare is everywhere a soul might travel. All around us always, its powers in and out of everyone. Got my mojo working. Hairpins from the Mangbetu and Azande craftsmen of Zaire. An ivory necklace which imitated leopard’s teeth, a mimesis of terror and charm. A single human face on the centre tooth might have represented an ancestor, perhaps one who had fallen to the leopard’s rapacity.

By the end of the nineteenth century Fenshawe Ivory had been producing combs and mirrors, cigarette holders, decorative pipes, elaborate bookbindings, bridges and boards for musical instruments. All in great quantities. Its goods filled London windows and the pages of glossy catalogues. By the nineteen-twenties its biggest selling line was billiard balls. All these goods were gathered together in the mighty display case Charlie was staring at now. Behind them were black and white photographs of the factory and the ancestral owners. One of them looked remarkably like grandad.

Knife handles, combs, ornate mirrors, diary cases, cigarette holders, shaving gear — pretty much Fenshawe Ivory’s line-up by the end.

The international ivory trade had been banned outright in 1989. This had been for the sake of the elephants slaughtered for their tusks, even though some claimed it would still be better to have the killing out in the open, rather than carried on anyway, illegal and unregulated, with even more brutality. Charlie didn’t reckon the piles of ivory goods down the Portobello Road on a Saturday afternoon had diminished much in size, and if you raised these items to the light (oddly warm to the touch, ivory) it was hard to believe it had all been made and collected before 1947 — the present legal requirement. Very hard. No, some of this ivory had been roaming the flatlands long after that date. Trundling along one of those pachyderm tracks as late as last year, maybe. The stallholders didn’t seem to mind much and neither did the punters. Good prices, when all’s said and done. Knife handles, combs, ornate mirrors, diary cases, cigarette holders, shaving gear — pretty much Fenshawe Ivory’s line-up by the end. The usual provender from such African venues. The goods get produced in the traditional way, to the usual format. And as the elephant crashes down in its foam of blood, it can’t provide much comfort to reflect that such cullings are now illegal. Emblems of memory, elephants. And pain doesn’t recognise legality any more than extinction does: neither has the time.

But long before the ban, Fenshawe Ivory had been sold, merged into a multinational retail outfit. And with the money provided by the acquisition Alasdair Fenshawe had decided to live in cultured ease at Ivory Mount in North Shropshire. Many of the surrounding lands had been sold off over the last thirty years, but Will’s brother Frank was still heavily involved on behalf of the family in land management and agricultural produce. Nobody ever had much idea what Frank was actually doing all day. Fourteen cottages around the edge of the estate were rented for holiday lets throughout the summer. This was one of the few visible sources of income. Shepherd’s Cottage was one of these. But Charlie now had it for a week. He came free of charge three times a year, at his grandfather’s insistence, and to Frank’s evident annoyance.

‘Come more often,’ his grandfather said. ‘Come and live here if you like.’ He meant it too.

She was precisely the same age as his father, but didn’t seem anywhere near as battered.

Lindsey, the old man’s much younger American wife, his second wife, Will’s stepmother, came into the hall. Charlie was always startled by how young and beautiful she looked. She was precisely the same age as his father, but didn’t seem anywhere near as battered. Presumably because she wasn’t.

‘Charlie, you’re here.’ She came across and kissed him. A butterfly brush with dry lips on both of his high cheek-bones. ‘Your hair is even longer and shinier than last time. There are women around these parts who’d kill to get their hands on that hair, Charlie.’

‘So introduce me.’ She left her hand on his shoulder and treated him to the full smile. It was effective. He could see what the old man had seen in her. Her own dark hair swung naturally down above the red trouser suit. ‘Where’s grandad?’

‘In the bath as usual.’

Alasdair Fenshawe preferred the large bathroom to any other location in the house. It was his bathroom. No one else would have dreamt of using it, even in an emergency. He had turned it into a receiving room plus hot and cold running water. The trouble he suffered with his back, one of a cornucopia of complaints but by far the most disabling, was only ever resolved when he lay in warm water. Neither armchair nor bed nor the upright biped position provided relief; only the bath. So there he would sometimes remain for much of the day, in a covering of white froth, for decency’s sake. And the family had simply grown used to going up and talking to him in situ. Which is what Charlie now did.

It was on the third floor. Charlie tapped on the door.

‘Come.’ The voice with its familiar fluting. He feigned blindness occasionally, but he always seemed to see well enough whenever Charlie arrived.

‘Charlie, my favourite grandson. My only grandson, come to think of it. Unless my feckless boys have been scattering seeds and not letting on. How are you?’

‘Fine, grandad. Do you want a coffee? I’ll bring one up.’

‘They don’t let me have coffee any more. Lindsey will no doubt point you to some quite disgusting herbal tea I’m now obliged to drink. Not, for the love of God, that eldeberry muck. Mint. Then come straight back. The only person in this house I ever have a decent conversation with. Forget my various wives and sons. Bring me Charlie. I’ve been saying that all week.’

Charlie smiled as he walked downstairs. He thought of his guitar down in Shepherd’s Cottage.

Charlie went over that afternoon to The Plough to set up the equipment. He didn’t need much, as an acoustic guitarist and singer, but the PA system, unsubtle to begin with, had its lack of subtlety grossly amplified by the local boomers who played there. Charlie tried to tune it back towards a margin of delicacy. He didn’t get very far.

The mild asymmetry of her features made her more intriguing.

As he came out he saw a girl leaving the Post Office. He couldn’t help but stare as she walked towards him. Tattooed in red above her shoulder-blade: RAW SEX. A tongue extruded itself from red lips with the blubbery waywardness of a beached whale. The indelible pointilliste had been inept, a classroom scrawler endowed with an electric needle. The girl was nineteen, maybe twenty. She wore a pair of shoddy denim shorts, whose frayed ends might have begun in fashion but had ended in a vagabondage of loose threads. He found himself looking down at her mottled thighs and the cheap plastic shoes she wore. Then back to the tattoo. Who was it for, a current boyfriend? How long would he be current, how long would the services her tongue provided be required? And if it was a general advertisement to any inquisitive males, how long would it take her to realise that the advertised service would probably provide revulsion by the morning? She turned and he saw her face; there beneath the unevenly-cut dyed blonde hair was a smile both fresh and inviting. She wasn’t necessarily beautiful, or not predictably beautiful anyway. Got up expensively enough, tanned in Antibes, coiffured in Mayfair, her muscle-tone massaged in Chelsea gyms, she could well have passed muster as a princess — which tunnel would she have been heading for in that case? Her slight wedge of a nose notwithstanding, she’d have been snapped and flashed at by the paparazzi. A good body, very good the more he looked. And he was looking. All she needed was some decent make-up and clothes and she could have been stunning. She was oddly attractive, there was no doubt about it. The mild asymmetry of her features made her more intriguing. They smiled at each other and both held the smile.

Beside her a boy, no more than eight or nine, his face such a rage of freckles that some had joined together in a thick beige fudge. He clutched his sister’s hand as she continued to smile so easily at Charlie. The red tongue lolling on her shoulder now appeared to be in her cheek as she continued past him. He wondered if her own children would have freckles like that boy. Such a frenzied crowd of them. Raw sex. Charlie felt himself stirring. He’d just have to hope for the best after the gig tonight. Pretty unlikely in these parts, that was for sure.

Once he saw the crowd that night he decided on ragtime not blues. The occasion needed whimsy.

He took the blues, wrapped it in coloured bandages, fitted it up with rainbow crutches of noticeably different lengths, and then made it jig into the drug store with glee.

Ragtime: a Heath-Robinson contraption that dances over the wind. Its weird ungainly flattened thirds and fifths, tin cans tied to the ankles of its riffs, should in justice slow it up and make the local children laugh from midden roofs. But not a bit of it. A man encumbered with the household’s crockery turns out to be a world-class juggler. You’re about to give way to mirth in the middle of his moonlight flit when you stop and watch as three white cups fly out towards the stars and then come down, despatched and unbroken, into their three relevant pockets, even retaining the surface tension of three liquid contents as they drop. A cushion lands on a head, and glasses — Waterford Crystal, no less — descend one by one in formation to settle upon it. Nothing is broken, not even your heart any more. This is a universe ruled by a God who has recently signed the Surrealist Manifesto. Blind Blake made whole street-corners grin, even the buildings. He took the blues, wrapped it in coloured bandages, fitted it up with rainbow crutches of noticeably different lengths, and then made it jig into the drug store with glee. St Vitus’ Dance, but rubato. Ragtime is a funeral procession that turns into a resurrection ball. Grünewald gets started on the mural, but Stanley Spencer slips in and takes over while you’re out at the shops. The miscreants stumble bleary-eyed out of their opened graves and go to it. Their eyes, said Yeats, speaking of ancient Chinese sages, their ancient glittering eyes are gay. Well Charlie reckoned somebody was playing ragtime up that mountain. Reckoned that up there amidst the fissured lapis lazuli, Li Po had been inviting Blind Blake to tea. And there’d be whisky in the chai.

He played the rags, the standard ones from Scott Joplin, lots of half-forgotten pieces by Blind Blake, some midway pieces like Hesitation Blues. He enjoyed himself. Only at the interval did he notice her. She looked different now. She’d been to the beautician’s. She was a princess after all. The street-wise version. Raw Sex.

After all, the instrument is held against the heart, often pressed hard against it.

Every instrument has a voice. For a guitarist this voice speaks directly to the heart. After all, the instrument is held against the heart, often pressed hard against it. Wood vibrates to flesh, as fingers make the strings vibrate over the sound-hole. The fingers dance, strings oscillate, soundwaves move through air, and maybe another heart in the room is touched, pressed against gently, that being after all the aim of music. Charlie’s guitar had a voice already deepened with sixty years of song and hard travelling, long before it ever came into his hands. Its bass strings had sounded the bottomless void of the blues, and mellower regions too, where melody mingled with wine, a medley of between-the-sheet sounds, ageless refrains of sorrow and longing and seduction. The treble strings had been bent and hammered a million times. Thousands of flat-picks had strummed its chords and then disappeared into the interstices time prepares for all such tiny implements. His guitar could laugh as well as cry. He played it every day, and every day it spoke a slightly different language, voiced itself with a fractionally altered tongue. It shifted its tone with the seasons, altered its temper with the mercury’s rise and fall. Charlie had not yet met any woman he couldn’t live without; but he couldn’t live without this guitar.

Everything that happened in the world, or everything that ended up inside Charlie’s head anyway, was translated sooner or later through the semi-tones and chords of this machine.

The vintage Martin that had cost all his coming-of-age bequest. Everything that happened in the world, or everything that ended up inside Charlie’s head anyway, was translated sooner or later through the semi-tones and chords of this machine. Its rosewood had darkened since its making; the Adirondack spruce became honey-coloured under its varnish; when sunlight lay across it, it was amber. The varnish had splintered and frosted. Fingerpicking nails had variously scratched and striated the flat-top surface. Every mark on it, so it seemed to Charlie, had become a part of its identity. To restore it would have been an erasure. Those dead trees had learnt to sing: wasn’t that a kind of resurrection? To end up as song, like Orpheus after his dismemberment. Disciples of the singing voice, pitched in close harmony, keeping their own time, and so disowning oblivion’s, while taking their own sweet time about it. He couldn’t imagine being unfaithful to that guitar of his. When he occasionally picked up someone else’s instrument at one of his sundry gigs, he felt as though he’d been misled into futility, tempted down a dark back-alley of adulterous débris. He didn’t much like handing it over for foreign fingers to play either — it seemed vaguely improper. He always hovered about impatiently until he could take it back. His Martin; it was his, after all, so irreplaceable in his life. He picked it up now, settled it gently on his knee, pressed his left fingers firmly onto the fingerboard in the shape of the chord of A major and began to coax hermetic notes out with his other hand.

If I had wings of Noah’s dove
I’d fly up-river to the one I love
It’s fare thee well, my pretty darling
Fare thee well.

By the time he’d finished playing the song a full moon was resting on the hill’s shoulder through the window behind him.

‘It’s beautiful,’ she said. She had come back to Shepherd’s Cottage with him after the gig.

All the sadness in her life was concentrated in her hands; they could so easily become claws.

Jessica’s hands were tiny and old, far older than the rest of her. The skin already shrivelled, as though those hands had been left in cold water for the whole of her childhood. This girl with Raw Sex tattooed on her shoulder, this girl with breasts whose nipples didn’t yet seem to have entirely reddened, which seemed to be growing in Charlie’s hands even as he caressed them, had the hands of an ageing nun. The tiny hairs were grey, and stood when he brushed them against the grain with his fingers, firs on a miniature hillside in one of Lilliput’s forests. A bristle so fine it was mist, the pelt of a snowy caterpillar gently moving. He took one of the hands and kissed it gently. All the sadness in her life was concentrated in her hands; they could so easily become claws. The nails small and chewed.

‘Bleach,’ she said. ‘They go like that.’ She looked down at her hand as though she wanted it to disappear. He kissed along her arm until he came to the tattoo. By then his fingers were sliding underneath her skirt. And her small hands were all around him as they both slipped down on to the bed.

—This is the fourth installment of White Ivory.
See previously
chapters 1 & 2
chapters 3 & 4
chapters 5 & 6

ALAN WALL was born in Bradford, studied English at Oxford, and lives in North Wales. He has published six novels and three collections of poetry, including Doctor PlaceboJacob, a book written in verse and prose, was shortlisted for the Hawthornden Prize. His work has been translated into ten languages. He has published essays and reviews in many different periodicals including the Guardian, Spectator, The Times, Jewish Quarterly, Leonardo, PN Review, London Magazine, The Reader and Agenda. He was Royal Literary Fund Fellow in Writing at Warwick University and Liverpool John Moores and is currently Professor of Writing and Literature at the University of Chester and a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review. His book Endtimes was published by Shearsman in 2013, and Badmouth, a novel, was published by Harbour Books in 2014. A collection of his essays was issued by Odd VolumesThe Fortnightly Review’s publishing imprint, also in 2014. A second collection, of his Fortnightly reflections on Walter Benjamin, followed in 2018, and a third collection, Midnight of the Sublime, has just been published. An archive of Alan Wall’s Fortnightly work is here.

Image credits.

Twin ivory tusks (My name is boy); Excerpt from stamp with a drawing of Tatlin’s Tower; Bronze state of the historian Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881) in Chelsea, London. The statue by Edgar Boehm was unveiled in 1882 (BasPhoto); Old illustration of ivory traders in southern Sudan. Created by Bayard, published on Le Tour du Monde, Paris, 1864 (Marzolino); acoustic guitar on a white background (art is me); hot and cold taps (Michael_Dodd).

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